News Article
April 6, 2010

Edificios Ecológicos 101

Components of a green building 

We all know that the term "green building" does not refer to plants that decorate it , but there is no single definition to explain exactly what makes a building is environmentally friendly. Instead, they should be considered multiple elements, although currently being debated what are the most important. However, there are common elements in virtually all definitions of green building, all related to capacity building to provide a comfortable and productive , while minimizing the environmental impact throughout the life of the building. Usually, the buildings that claim to be organic strive to maximize every unit of energy, water and other resources, so they save money on energy, reduce environmental impact and increase the value and competitiveness. While systems qualifying third green buildings  vary, most tend to focus on five areas of basic interest, as shown in diagram 1 on the right:


Site planning

Much of the environmental impact of a building can be determined before carrying out the excavation and pouring concrete. Sustainability begins long before the first shovel key land begins with site selection and preliminary design. The decision to build a "brownfield" (a site previously developed contaminated by hazardous substances or pollutants) in a dense urban area is an example of sustainable planning. While choosing a site for a project and can present environmental challenges (such as the existence of waste and the possibility to continue polluting) also has many benefits for the environment. The choice of an abandoned industrial area may mean that an alternative area developed not remain natural, thus minimizing urban sprawl. Also, brownfields normally found in densely populated urban communities, where a construction project has the dual benefit of revitalizing the local economy and encouraging occupants to walk, ride bicycles and use public transport available.


Water Management

The availability of fresh water has become an area of increasing interest as economies both developing and developed suffer scarcity and increased competition for this finite resource. The ecological design must incorporate an efficient use of water. Sanitation management, irrigation water and runoff is also important for a focus on sustainability. In some buildings, rain is collected, processed and used for applications that do not require potability. The solutions of this nature can reduce the requirements of fresh water from municipal systems, while avoiding the spread of pollutants through water runoff. Green roofs are another emerging tool to prevent runoff, in addition to adding an urban green space and provide a host of benefits further.



The environmental impacts of fossil fuel extraction and the threat of climate change make energy use is an issue of critical sustainability. Buildings use energy through direct combustion of gas or gasoline, and electricity consumption, which is mainly produced by burning fossil fuels worldwide. But even as the energy needs of buildings increase with the use of computers, servers and other equipment, designers are making great strides to counter this demand by incorporating the intrinsic efficiency projects. The orientation of the building to minimize solar radiation, including windows and high quality insulation and incorporation of sunlight in the design are just some of the many ways to design a building that makes efficient use of energy. In addition, proper selection of HVAC equipment and controls building systems are critical to achieving maximum efficiency in any building.


Pertinent use

Building construction will always require the use of natural resources. But an ecological design can minimize the impact by selecting salvaged, renewable, recycled or available close to the construction site, so that the impact caused throughout the lifetime of building materials is reduced. The diversion of construction waste from waste recycling applications is an important element of sustainable management of materials.


Interior Environmental Quality

Sustainability considers health in the short and long-term building occupants. For this reason, eco-design usually incorporates measures to improve air quality within the building by selecting materials that do not release chemicals or hazardous compounds and the provision of ventilation, temperature, humidity and adequate lighting. Increasingly, it is considered that the healthy internal environment is a key not only to the health of the occupants, but also to their satisfaction and productivity aspect.


Additional Information

Project Profiles . - Case studies of new green building construction from the US Green Building Council EPA Green Building Publications - Publications list With info on brownfields, water management, indoor air quality, energy efficiency, materials recycling / reuse, and more.



1 US Green Building Council