What is green building? Sustainable Construction Trends in New York

With climate change and ecological catastrophe concerns on the rise, many construction developers and contractors are asking, what is green building?

The simple definition of green building is a resource-efficient and environmentally responsible practice during building design, construction, operation, and maintenance.

This article will present a brief introduction to green building in New York.

New York City’s Climate Mobilization Act

Source: nyhabitat.com

According to official New York City statistics, buildings generate 66 percent of the city’s greenhouse emissions. With the objective of achieving carbon neutrality by 2050, the New York City Council approved Local Law 97, which is part of the city’s Climate Mobilization Act and the Mayor’s Green New Deal.

Local Law 97 sets emission limits on buildings over 25,000 square feet, a set of two or more buildings in the same tax lot that jointly surpass 50,000 square feet, and any set of buildings owned by a single condo association and are managed by the same board that exceeds 50,000 square feet. These large buildings must be retrofitted to reduce their emissions by 40% by 2030 and achieve net zero emissions by 2050. New buildings will have to be constructed using green building principles to achieve the same results.

The investment in sustainable buildings will benefit the environment and the citizens of New York. For every dollar cities invest in green buildings, communities can receive up to five dollars in economic returns, such as health improvements that reduce healthcare costs and job creation, according to the Urban Planning Institute.

What Makes a Building Green?

Reducing the impact of the building’s construction, operation, and maintenance on the environment is the main purpose of sustainable building. However, the question remains: What constitutes a green building? Here are the ten main green building principles:

Reduction of the environmental impact of clearing the land for construction
The first green building concept to consider in any construction project is the land on which it will occur. Clearing forests and obstructing waterways are some of the ways construction projects can alter the environment. Repoprousing land for a new building is the most environmentally friendly practice. Instead of clearing new land, renovating or demolishing an old building to construct a new one is more environmentally friendly.

Resource-efficient construction techniques

Source: linkedin.com

A well-planned construction project should always be resource-effective. However, the most important resources for a sustainable project are not money but energy and materials. Sustainable construction practices involve the use of prefabricated parts that can reduce the use of water during construction as well as waiting times. Furthermore, using technology like Building Information Modeling (BIM) helps architects, engineers, and developers design an efficient construction workflow and practices.

Maximize sunlight to keep it illuminated during the day

One of the green building basics is a design that maximizes sunlight use and can reduce the amount of energy used for electric lighting in a building by up to 75%. The design must consider the direction in which the building faces the sun all day.

Use of sunlight, wind, and materials to warm up or cool down the building

Sunlight is not only a source of light but also of heat. According to researchers at the University of Chicago’s Pritzker School of Molecular Engineering, 30 percent of global energy is consumed by buildings, which emit 10 percent of global greenhouse gasses. The building’s heating and cooling systems use about half of this energy.

A building design can maximize the use of wind and solar radiation to heat or cool the building down. However, one of the most important factors to save energy in the operation of a building is the use of materials that can keep the interior insulated from the exterior. In the case of New York, materials that can absorb and radiate heat to keep the building warm.

Sustainable energy sources

The easiest way to generate electricity in a building is by incorporating solar panels. However, innovative designs have also incorporated wind turbines to produce electricity.

Reduce water use during the operation and maintenance

Source: linkedin.com

Design and construction materials are used to reduce water use during the operation and maintenance of the building. Rainwater and humidity harvesting designs can help meet a sustainable building’s water requirements. The harvested water can be used for toilets and watering plants.

Insulation of heating and cooling systems

Sometimes, the most straightforward solutions have a high impact. Insulating pipes, air ducts, and condensate or water tanks can significantly reduce a building’s energy consumption.

Sustainable materials

The extraction and transportation of some materials are more carbon-intensive than others. For example, steel needs to be extracted from mines, transported, purified, molded, and transported again. All these activities are carbon-intensive and affect the environment. A sustainable building design will make everything possible to use reusable materials such as wood and recycled steel and sustainable materials such as polymer concrete and low-VOC paints.

Easy access to public transportation

The environmental impact of a building is not over after considering the building itself. The amount of energy the people who occupy the building need to get to it and do their daily routines is also considered. An environmentally friendly building needs to have access and encourage the use of public transportation to reduce the use and dependency of its occupants on cars.

Resilience to extreme weather conditions

Sadly, climate change is already impacting our lives. Sustainable buildings must be equipped to withstand extreme weather events like floods, hurricanes, high-velocity winds, and changing temperatures. Repairing a building’s damage is also a carbon-intensive activity.

Understanding Green Building Standards

Source: ugreen.io

LEED is the world’s most used sustainable building rating system (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design). Its standards establish a framework for efficient green buildings that also bring social and organizational benefits.

The second most important certification system for sustainable buildings is BREEAM. Over two million constructions are registered and certified by BREEAM. This certification system provides a scientifically backed framework that helps developers and owners make smart, sustainable decisions.

Environmental and Social Justice

There is no environmental justice without social justice. Most activists who work tirelessly to promote ecological protections, carbon emissions reductions, and sustainable urban planning also work for social justice issues like worker’s rights. There is a clear intersection between environmental issues and social justice.

A sustainable building that mitigates its carbon emissions but fails to keep people safe is an oxymoron. If workers are not kept safe or a worker dies during building construction, that building can’t be called sustainable. That is especially true since most construction site accidents that lead to a worker’s death could have been avoided by following OSHA’s construction standards.

The most common accidents in the construction industry are also a hazard during a sustainable building’s construction. Most deaths in construction sites are due to workers falling from an altitude over 8 feet. Many of these involve the improper use of scaffolding and ladders. According to the NY Scaffolding Law, employers are responsible and liable for workers’ safety.

Workers who suffered an accident at any type of construction site in NY, including sustainable buildings, increase their possibility of getting the justice and compensation they deserve by hiring an experienced legal team. Successful personal injury and worker’s compensation lawyers can help injured workers concentrate on their physical well-being and rehabilitation while their legal teams negotiate or litigate to get the highest possible compensation from insurance companies, building owners, contractors, and employers.

Legal Firms like Gorayeb and Associates work on a contingency fee basis, meaning they never charge their client out of pocket; they only get paid a percentage of the money they win for their client.

Conclusion: Green Building Explained

What is green building? It involves designing, building, operating, and maintaining a building, optimizing resources, and reducing environmental impact. New York City has established that its largest buildings must be carbon neutral by 2050. Therefore, retrofitting old buildings to be sustainable and designing new ones using green building principles has become essential to the construction industry in NY.