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From Environmental Protection Agency Link: http://www.epa.gov/greenbuilding/pubs/faqs.htm#1

What is "green building"?

Green building - also known as sustainable or high performance building - is the practice of:

1. Increasing the efficiency with which buildings and their sites use and harvest energy, water, and materials; and

2. Protecting and restoring human health and the environment, throughout the building life-cycle: siting, design, construction, operation, maintenance, renovation and deconstruction.

What makes a building "green"?

A green building is a structure that is environmentally responsible and resource-efficient throughout its life-cycle. These objectives expand and complement the classical building design concerns of economy, utility, durability, and comfort. Green buildings are designed to reduce the overall impact of the built environment on human health and the natural environment by:

Efficiently using energy, water, and other resources
Protecting occupant health and improving employee productivity
Reducing waste, pollution and environment degradation

For example, green buildings may incorporate sustainable materials in their construction (e.g., reused, recycled-content, or made from renewable resources); create healthy indoor environments with minimal pollutants (e.g., reduced product emissions); and/or feature landscaping that reduces water usage (e.g., by using native plants that survive without extra watering).

What are the benefits of green building?

Buildings have an enormous impact on the environment, human health, and the economy. The successful adoption of green building strategies can maximize both the economic and environmental performance of buildings. Research continues to identify and clarify all of these benefits and costs of green building, and of how to achieve the greatest benefits at the lowest costs.

How is green building related to smart growth and sustainable development?

Smart growth is development that serves the economy, the community, and the environment by supporting healthy communities while creating economic development and jobs. Sustainability, or sustainable development, is the ability to achieve continuing economic prosperity while protecting the natural systems of the planet and providing a high quality of life for its people.

Green building fits nicely with these concepts, as it promotes building practices that conserve energy and water resources, preserve open spaces through brownfield development, and are accessible to public transportation.

 How do buildings affect natural resources?

Buildings and development have significant environmental impacts on our natural resources, including: According to surveys conducted in 2002, 107.3 million acres of the 1.983 billion acres of total land area in the U.S. is developed, which represents an increase of 24 percent in developed land over the past 10 years. In terms of energy, buildings accounted for 39.4 percent of total U.S. energy consumption and 67.9 percent of total U.S. electricity consumption in 2002. Building occupants use 12.2 percent of the total water consumed in the U.S. per day. Buildings, and the transportation infrastructure that serves them, replace natural surfaces with impermeable materials, creating runoff that washes pollutants and sediments into surface waters. Urban runoff constitutes a major threat to water resources, as it has been identified as the fourth leading source of impairment in rivers, third in lakes, and second on estuaries.