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Common misconceptions about green building

/ 12:06 AM September 13, 2014

(First of two parts)

Green building is a buzz word because of compelling reasons. Green buildings are easier to light, cool and maintain. They need less energy and therefore cause much less pollution. Does every builder and building and homeowner know what really makes a building green?

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The concept of green architecture or green building is quite known and generally accepted by many people as beneficial. The printed media, television and the Internet have also contributed to making the public aware of this concept. Developers claim that their housing units or condos are green, whether their claims are true or not. Businesses are also promoting their initiatives to develop green commercial and housing projects.

I have tried, however, to compile some of the most common misconceptions about green buildings which may be familiar to some of you.

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1 Green buildings are expensive. They do not necessarily cost more than traditionally built ones. Green buildings use up less materials and are built better so they have higher value and will not need constant replacement of costly materials. Some may be built at higher cost but it is comparatively small compared to the overall cost of the project.

Factors that affect building cost are the level of green materials and technology that you want to incorporate in the building. Other factors may be the sustainable practices and methods that your builder will adopt. It also makes a difference if the project is for renovation or all new construction. For renovation jobs, it is generally more expensive to add green features than for a new construction. On the average, any higher costs, like installing solar panels, have a three to five years payback period. Thereupon, a windfall of energy cost savings will accrue to the owner.

2 Green building is all about landscaping. While this may not be entirely wrong, landscaping is only a part of the whole green building concept.  Integrating landscaping in site development provides shading for homes and buildings to help reduce energy. Plants inside homes and offices can help reduce carbon dioxide, thus improving indoor air quality.

Large open green spaces help reduce urban heat island effect caused by too much concrete surfaces. This misconception is probably common due to the constant advertisement of realtors and developers showing a lot of green space, thus giving the impression that green building is all about landscaping.

3 To be truly green, buildings need solar energy. There are basically two ways to approach the design of green buildings. The first is through passive design which simply means making the building energy-efficient and thermally comfortable without the use of mechanical or electrical systems. The second way, after incorporating passive means, is through active design which means the addition of electrical and mechanical systems to complete the building.

Many people are so captivated by the idea of getting energy from solar panels that if a building does not have this feature it is not green. Following this argument, then, the most inefficiently designed building can be made ‘green’ simply by installing solar panels. The right approach is passive design first, then active design next.

4 The green concept is not for old buildings and homes. On the contrary, old buildings and homes would benefit from the green building concept.  By maintaining or preserving old structures, a large amount of embodied energy can be saved. Embodied energy means the energy required for the extraction, production or manufacture, transport, construction and disposal of building materials.

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Old buildings, retrofitted or renovated help the environment by minimizing the need for producing new building materials that require expensive energy to produce. It also means fewer materials disposed in landfills.

For comments or inquiries, email [email protected]

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