With more companies focusing on environmental sustainability, ‘green’ construction practices are increasingly popular. In fact, according to Stefanie Young, vice president, client solutions at the US Green Building Council (USGBC), sustainability in construction has never been more important.
“Buildings account for nearly 40 per cent of global energy-related CO2”, Young said. Making changes to industry legislation and common construction practices will play a vital role in helping countries, states and communities meet climate-change goals. ‘We can’t make meaningful progress on climate change without the support of the building and construction sector’, Young said.
For Young, environmentally friendly design starts with a focus on user experience. ‘Buildings are ultimately about people’, Young said. ‘We all spend about 90 per cent of our time indoors, and green buildings create spaces that promote health and comfort.’
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The USGBC’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) rating system recognises that human experience is central to the creation of a green building. This includes prioritising things like daylight and views of the outdoors; attention to the acoustic qualities of a space; requirements for comfort-increasing features such as natural ventilation, thermal comfort, air-quality testing and management, and ergonomics.
This focus on user experience extends to the life of the people who use the building when they leave it, giving points for features like walkability, access to public transportation and on-site green space creation.
‘LEED takes a whole-building approach to green building and considers all aspects of a building or space’, Young said. ‘This is crucial because even if you’re focused on reducing energy, you still might have high water consumption or produce a lot of waste.’
The system is holistically organised, giving construction and design teams ‘a roadmap for addressing energy, water, waste, carbon, materials and resources, as well as occupant health and satisfaction’, Young said.