In recent years, the terms “green” and “sustainable” have increasingly been used in association with commercial buildings. Whether in reference to a “green project,” “green initiatives,” “sustainable building construction,” or something else, interest in creating more environmentally friendly buildings is taking off. Most of the time green and sustainable are used interchangeably, but the terms do have slightly different meanings.
What exactly is the difference between green and sustainable buildings? And, as a building owner or facilities manager, which one should you be striving for? As a company that works with businesses daily to help them minimize their impact on the planet, here’s our take on it.
Wondering what your business can do to become more environmentally friendly? Tell us about your building and we’ll help you get started.
What’s the difference between green and sustainable building?
Here’s how we view the two terms specifically as they relate to buildings:
Sustainability is a broad concept that refers to a building’s overall ability to provide a comfortable, healthy, and productive environment over the long term without negatively impacting the environment. Sustainable buildings aren’t just about the environment, but take into account all three pillars of sustainability: planet, people, and profit. How can a building be built and used with consideration for the future of our people, the planet, and the business itself? (To learn more about how sustainability can be profitable for a business overall, read this article.)
To truly be a sustainable building, this ideology must be “baked” in at every stage of a building’s life cycle. For example:
- Planning—Are you building on previously undisturbed land?
- Design—Sustainable architecture considers, for example, window placement for optimal natural ventilation.
- Construction—Are the materials used safe for the environment and occupants? Does the construction process conserve natural resources?
- Operation and maintenance—Is energy and water being used efficiently? Are cleaning products safe for occupants?
- Demolition—Will solid waste and disposed materials be handled in an environmentally safe manner?
Columbus, New Mexico, Port Of Entry: An Example Of Sustainable Design
New Mexico’s U.S. port of entry, located in Columbus, New Mexico, has earned design awards for sustainability. The building has been called “healthy and dignified… thoughtful and durable,” referring to various elements of the design that are both respectful of people and mindful of environmental impact. Completed in 2019, this structure was built using low-maintenance, durable materials and utilizes natural light, among other things.
Green, on the other hand, is a concept that is solely focused on the environment, and refers to the individual practices and processes that make up the incremental steps toward environmental sustainability. For example, “green initiatives” such as switching to renewable energy sources or reducing your carbon footprint might be implemented in an effort to become more sustainable. LEED and WELL certifications are both green building standards that outline steps buildings can take to become more environmentally friendly.What’s the difference between green and sustainable buildings? Green is a concept that is solely focused on the environment, while sustainable buildings take into account all three pillars of sustainability: planet, people, and profit. Click To Tweet
Green “Cool Roofs” In Dallas
Since 2013, all new buildings constructed in Dallas, Texas, are required to have a “cool” roof—one that reflects (rather than absorbs) heat. This green initiative could cause temperatures to drop inside buildings by about three degrees, which will help cut cooling costs and reduce building emissions.
What should building owners be striving for?
Most buildings have been around for decades, and were built before green and sustainable architecture, design, and other similar aspects became a major point of concern. But that doesn’t mean facilities managers and building owners can’t take action to change their buildings for the better.
Most buildings present plenty of opportunities to go green and take steps toward sustainability. For starters:
- Reduce your energy waste by monitoring CO2 levels (to better regulate ventilation), monitoring your building’s water demand, and switching to LED lighting.
- Improve the health of your building by doing air quality monitoring regularly.
- Reduce your environmental impact by incorporating solar and other renewable energy technologies into your energy system.
There’s huge potential for progress when it comes to lessening buildings’ environmental impact—facility managers and building owners can actively seek out those opportunities to prolong the life and health of their buildings, their occupants, and the planet.
Need help figuring out what steps you can take to become more sustainable?
An increasing number of businesses are leveraging technology—specifically the Internet of Things (IoT)—to move closer toward green and sustainable design and operations.
Monitoring and measuring various aspects of your building operations using IoT sensors gives you a vast array of data about your facility; that information not only gives you a basis for choosing the right green projects to work on (the areas where your building most needs to improve) but also gives you a way to measure your performance as you start to implement changes.
The team at Iota can help you get started. We serve as an IoT partner for companies like yours, working with you to set sustainability goals as well as manage your data gathering, analysis, and reporting processes. If you’d like to tell us more about your facility and talk about how we can help, get in touch—we’d love to partner with you!