What Makes A Building Green?

Warm-up: Brainstorming Session
     1. Students should be divided into a brainstorming group of two or three.
     2. Provide each group with Reproducible #1-Brainstorming Session and the following websites, to facilitate a discussion on green building.
         The websites to be used are:

  • The Whole Building Design Guide: http://www.wbdg.org/design/sustainable.php
  • Smart Communities Network:http://www.smartcommunities.ncat.org/buildings/gbintro.shtml
  • Natural Resources Defense Council:http://www.nrdc.org/buildinggreen/default.asp
  • City of Seattle:http://www2.ci.seattle.wa.us/implement/default.asp

         The questions that need to be answered are:

  • What are the differences between traditional building and green building?
  • What are the differences between traditional building and green building methodology?
  • Is there a difference in meaning between the terms “green building” design and “sustainable building” design or are they interchangeable?

Activity One: What Makes a Building Green?
     1. Provide each group with Reproducible #2-What Makes a Building Green? (3 pages)

     2. A green building is defined by the City of Oakland’s Public Works Department as: “a ‘Whole-Systems’ approach for designing and constructing buildings that conserve energy, water and material resources and are healthier, safer, and more comfortable.”

     3. Using this definition as a foundation, have student groups list 7 factors that are consistent of a green building.

     4. Groups should compare their lists to the City of Oakland’s Public Works Department list:

  • Using sun and wind to the building’s advantage for natural heating, cooling, and day lighting
  • Landscaping with native plants and using water efficiently
  • Building quality, durable structures
  • Insulating well and ventilating appropriately
  • Incorporating salvaged, recycled, and sustainably harvested materials
  • Using energy-efficient and water-saving appliances and fixtures
  • Reducing and recycling construction waste

     5. Continue the discussion about the principles of green building by having the students visit the Smart Communities Network site and list the principles found there:
         Green Building Principles:

  • Energy efficiency and renewable energy resources
  • Environmental Impact
  • Resource conservation
  • Indoor Air Quality
  • Resource conservation
  • Community Issues

     6. The student groups should discuss the economic benefits of green building. Include in the discussion what factors are not quantifiable. For example: occupant health, comfort, productivity, reducing pollution and landfill waste.

Activity Two: What Makes a Green Building Product?
     1. In student groups, students should read and discuss “Building Materials: What Make a Product Green?” by visiting the site Environmental Building News or printing and distributing a copy of the article.
     The following information was obtained from this site:
         1. Products Made with Salvaged, Recycled, or Agricultural Waste Content
              1a. Salvaged products
              1b. Products with post-consumer recycled content
              1c. Products with pre-consumer recycled content
              1d. Products made with agricultural waste material

          2. Products That Conserve Natural Resources
              2a. Products that reduce material use
              2b. Products with exceptional durability or low maintenance requirements
              2c. Certified wood products
             2d. Rapidly renewable products

         3. Products That Avoid Toxic or Other Emissions
             3a. Natural or minimally processed products
             3b. Alternatives to ozone-depleting substances
             3c. Alternatives to hazardous products
             3d. Products that reduce or eliminate pesticide treatments
             3e. Products that reduce stormwater pollution
             3f. Products that reduce impacts from construction or demolition activities
             3g. Products that reduce pollution or waste from operations

        4. Products That Save Energy or Water
             4a. Building components that reduce heating and cooling loads
             4b. Equipment that conserves energy and manages loads
             4c. Renewable energy and fuel cell equipment
             4d. Fixtures and equipment that conserve water

         5. Products That Contribute to a Safe, Healthy Built Environment
              5a. Products that do not release significant pollutants into the building
              5b. Products that block the introduction, development, or spread of indoor contaminants
              5c. Products that remove indoor pollutants
              5d. Products that warn occupants of health hazards in the building
              5e. Products that improve light quality
              5f. Products that help noise control
              5g. Products that enhance community well-being

     2. Use an internet search engine to locate green building products.

     3. Begin a class discussion regarding the sites located by student groups. Which ones are the best? Why? What products are the best? Why?

Activity Three: Interview
     1. Individual students will conduct an interview with someone who sells green materials, or designs or implements green building plans. This interview can be held in person, by telephone or through a written medium such as email or internet. Questions for the interview should be created by the student and a formal write-up should be handed in for assessment.

Activity Four: Green Building Programs
     1. Using the internet, individual students will research green building community programs. Students will focus on one program and describe it in detail.

Wrap Up: Green Building Construction

     1. Provide students with Handout #3-Guide To Your Green Building and Handout #4-Peer Evaluation of Green Building

     2. Students will work in teams to develop a plan and construct a model of a building using green materials. Students need to be able to discuss with the class:
               • The function of the building
               • Why they chose particular materials in the design of the building
               • What makes a green building
               • The layout of the interior of the building
               • Where the building would be placed in the community
               • What will become of the building materials if the building is upgraded or demolished
               • What will be the impact on the environment if the building is upgraded or demolished

      3. Students will submit a written plan for their building which include blueprints, materials used and answers to the discussion questions found on the handout all in addition to their constructed model.

Extension: Green Building Budget
Students will be given a budget to build a green building. Students will research the cost of materials to determine which materials will be included in the building process, prioritizing materials for inclusion due to budgetary factors.