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Green Building Glossary

Green Building Glossary

Structures use a lot of resources both in their construction and in their continued maintenance. Building green is a way to use resources more effectively. A green building should be one that doesn’t consume as many resources to build, but also uses less energy in its day-to-day operations. Green buildings should also be healthy buildings that improve the lives of the humans who live or work inside of them. They also provide cost savings for the people who own and operate them. Green buildings also have their own vocabulary. Here are the most common phrases everyone should know:

Advanced Framing: This building method uses less wood than traditional methods, which results in fewer resources consumed and an overall decrease in the cost of materials.

Air Infiltration: Air that leaks through accidental cracks and other openings in walls, ceilings, and floors results in the air from outside getting into the building.

Building Envelope: The building’s shell consists of all exterior planes, including floors, roofs, ceilings, walls, and openings like windows.

Daylighting: Designers purposefully admit natural light into the space to make a pleasant environment that also lessens a building’s need to use electric lights.

Energy Modeling: Software produces an analysis of a building that projects the amount of energy a structure will use and can also produce a report about the cost-benefit position of upgrading the space for increased energy efficiency.

Forest Stewardship Council (FSC): The FSC evaluates how sustainable any product made from products harvested in a forest is according to their standards for things like labor conditions, fair trade, and forest management.

Graywater Re-use: Graywater is water that has been used for things like showering or washing clothes. Finding ways to re-use this water reduces a building’s load on the local sewer system and also reduces the demand for freshwater.

Green Roof: Growing plants on a rooftop helps reduce the amount of stormwater runoff a structure displaces, helps prevent heat islands in cities, provides green space for people, can help wildlife find a safe habitat, and helps insulate the building.

Indoor Air Quality (IAQ): People need to breathe healthy air, but some buildings produce bad air. Ventilation and types of building materials used during construction impact the overall quality of the air inside any structure.

Infill: Choosing to develop empty lots in urban environments helps prevent the use of undeveloped tracts of land and also combats the problem of urban sprawl.

Passive-Solar Homes: Houses that are specifically designed through the use of thermal mass and solar features to use the sun’s energy to heat the home.

Radon: Structures with basements in certain parts of the country often have this colorless, radioactive gas trapped inside. At high concentrations, that gas can cause health issues for people using the space.

Rainwater Catchment/Harvest: Rainwater is collected, stored, and used in safe ways (like for watering garden beds) to reduce the building’s demand on local freshwater reserves.

Rapidly Renewable Materials: Materials like bamboo complete the grow/harvest cycle in less than ten years, making it rapidly renewable.

Retrofit: An existing building, or the systems inside, are upgraded or improved so the building runs more efficiently, but keeps the bulk of the building in use and out of landfills.

Salvage: Instead of sending construction materials removed from existing buildings to a landfill, it’s re-used. Typical salvage items include doors, windows, floors, brick, and cabinetry.

Solar Electric Systems: Solar panels convert the energy in sunlight into electricity. Other parts of a system include an inverter and controller. Some systems have storage capabilities; other systems send the electricity back into the overall electrical grid of the local power utility.

Stormwater Management: Controlling stormwater runoff onsite by reducing the overall amount of impervious paved spaces combined with the use of things like rain gardens and protecting wetland space protects local rivers and the overall ecology of the area where the structure is located.

Straw-Bale Construction: An alternative building approach where bales of straw are used instead of more traditional construction supplies that have a bigger environmental footprint.

Structural Insulated Panel (SIP): These premade panels consist of engineered wood paneling with a layer of polystyrene sandwiched between them. The panels are highly efficient in terms of air infiltration and can be used on ceilings, roofs, floors, or walls.

Thermal Mass: Materials like concrete, tile, or brick are used to reduce the fluctuation of temperatures a building experiences by modulating quick changes in temperatures.

Universal Design: All people, no matter what their level of physical ability or age, should be able to use a building or product as it is designed with no or very few modifications.

Ventilation: Green buildings, and any space designed to maximize energy-efficiency must be airtight. However, the regular introduction of fresh air is needed to maintain good air quality.

WaterSense: The Environmental Protection Agency, or EPA, used the idea behind the successful Energy Star program to create the WaterSense program in its basic image. Look for the WaterSense label to see how efficient the product is at conserving water.

Xeriscaping: Choosing drought-tolerant or resistant plants and shrubs so that the garden or yard requires less water.

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