What is green building?
The term "green building" refers to a way of designing and constructing buildings to increase performance and enhance the health and experience for people who work, live and play in these structures. A green building:
- Saves water and energy.
- Generates low carbon emissions.
- Uses renewable energy.
- Is space-efficient in size and design.
- Offers a healthier and safer built environment for occupants.
- Is responsive to local climate conditions.
- Uses locally-sourced products and services (within a 500 mile radius).
- Processes waste.
- Captures water.
- Uses minimal materials.
- Reuses existing structures
- Incorporates low-toxicity, healthy or recycled-content materials.
- Lasts a long time and is simple to maintain.
- Leaves behind minimal construction waste.
- Does not negatively impact the site.
Green building is also about exploration and experimentation. It’s gaining popularity with each passing year, growing from stand-alone green buildings, to ecodistricts to entire cities.
Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs) and Space Efficient Dwellings
These are recognized by the City of Portland as providing an affordable, low-impact housing solution. City Council has directed the bureaus of Environmental Services, Parks and Recreation, Transportation and Water to waive system development charges (SDCs) through June 30, 2016, resulting in potential savings of $7,000 - $12,000 in building permit fees. Space-efficient dwellings and ADU’s can provide rental income, allow for household flexibility over time, minimize impact on city infrastructure, are affordable to operate and maintain and are constructed using fewer materials. ADUs are allowed in all 25 Metro cities.
Aging-In-Place (A-I-P) and Universal Design (UD)
By 2050 the population of seniors 65 and older in the United States is expected to increase to 20 percent from 13 percent today. This population will also be more culturally diverse. If you are designing your retirement home, adapting your current space, or have a disabled family member, consider including accessible A-I-P design or UD for safety, accessibility, low-maintenance and durability as a family’s needs change.
"Universal design is the design of products and environments to be usable by all people, to the greatest extent possible, without the need for adaptation or specialized design." -Ron Mace
UD is broader than accessible, or barrier-free, design and typically applies to new construction. The seven principles of UD include:
- Equitable use.
- Flexibility in use.
- Simple and intuitive use.
- Perceptible information.
- Tolerance for error.
- Low physical effort.
- Size and space for approach and use.
This is the art and science of studying and modeling nature, mimicking these designs and processes and then finding applications to solve human problems. Examples include studying mussel glue to create a non-toxic wood binder, imitating the rotation of a sunflower for solar panel tracking, the invention of Velcro mimicking plant burrs and using water whorls to design an efficient boat propeller. Janine Benyus’ first book Biomimicry: Innovation Inspired by Nature, published in 1997, set the stage for the conversation followed by the founding of the Biomimicry Institute. This applied design can only increase as the built environment stretches toward living buildings and regenerative design.
Bird-friendly Building Design
Window collisions are a top source of bird mortality. Birds are also attracted to artificial light, which can lead to collisions with buildings or death by exhaustion.
In cities such as San Francisco, New York, Toronto, and Chicago, voluntary and some mandatory bird-friendly building guidelines have been established. Some cities have also established “lights out” programs to reduce bird strikes. Joining these efforts, the City of Portland, in partnership with the Audubon Society of Portland, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and American Bird Conservancy, has published the new Resource Guide for Bird-Friendly Building Design – First Edition (July 2012).
This colorful report presents various building facade, window glass, and lighting treatments that can reduce bird collisions, featuring examples from Portland, other U.S cities and around the globe. A number of these approaches can also improve energy efficiency. The guide also provides information about the new pilot LEED credit for bird-friendly design (Pilot Credit 55: Bird Collision Deterrence).
Construction Waste and Recycling
Graywater (also Gray water, Greywater and Grey water)
In Oregon, graywater includes drain-water from utility, bath and kitchen sinks (not the garbage disposal), showers/tubs and clothes washers (excluding water that has been in contact with soiled diapers). Drain-water from dishwashers and toilets (black water) is not included. Interior use of graywater (toilet flushing) has been legal in Oregon since 2008.
Exterior use became legal in Oregon in 2011, with Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) permit applications beginning in spring 2012. There are three permit tiers. Most residential systems will fall under Tier I – less than 300 gallons/day with a physical filtering process and sub-surface irrigation only. The next two tiers are for larger gray water volumes, above surface irrigation and include chemical and disinfectant processes. Fees are significantly higher. Local jurisdiction plumbing permits are required. This DEQ PDF has more answers.
Green Building Certifications and Programs
Earth Advantage (new and existing residential and commercial) The regional Earth Advantage certifications cover: site, energy, water, materials and indoor air quality, and community development. Professional certifications include Sustainable Homes Professional, Green Appraiser, Energy Performance Score (EPS) Auditor and Sustainable Real Estate Professional.
Energy Performance Score (EPS) (new and existing residential). Not a “certification,” this is a home energy rating system similar to the miles-per-gallon (MPG) rating for automobiles. Co-developed by Earth Advantage Institute and Energy Trust of Oregon, the EPS provides an easy way to estimate actual home energy consumption, related carbon emissions, and utility costs. It also shows homeowners where they rank in energy use on a regional and national scale.
Green Globes (new and existing commercial)
National third-party certification that is an environmental design and management rating system. It includes an online assessment protocol and guidance for green building design, operation and management.
Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) (New residential, new and existing commercial, new developments)
Voluntary, third party rating system that include points related to site, energy, water, materials and indoor air quality. Projects can earn recognition at Certified, Silver, Gold and Platinum levels. LEED 2009 is soon to be updated with LEED 2012. LEED also accredits professionals with their Accredited Professional (AP) and Green Associate programs.
Living Building Challenge (LBC) (new residential and commercial)
A challenge developed and implemented by the Cascadia Region Green Building Council, part of the International Living Future Institute. To meet the Challenge, buildings are required to process waste, generate energy, source materials locally and capture water.
Northwest ENERGY STAR (new residential)
A federal certification focusing on a new home's energy efficiency.
Oregon’s Reach Code The Reach Code is a set of statewide optional construction standards for energy efficiency that exceed the requirements of the state's mandatory codes. Builders have an optional path for high performance construction and jurisdictions can be assured the innovative construction methods are sound. The Reach Code covers a variety of topics including: mechanical systems, lighting designs, overall building design (both residential and commercial), plumbing practices and products. There are residential and commercial versions.
Passive House (PHIUS+) (new and existing residential)
A certification from the Passive House Institute US (PHIUS) ensuring a super-insulated, virtually air-tight building primarily heated by passive solar gain and by internal gains from people and electrical equipment.
WaterSense (new residential)
An EPA labeling program, similar to ENERGY STAR, this label shows that your home conserves 20 percent more water, indoors and outdoors, than a typical home. The label is also used on plumbing products.
Community and habitat
Energy and weatherization
Clean Energy Works Oregon
State of Oregon tax credits – Residential, Business and Home Builder.
Federal tax credits – Residential, Commercial and Home Builder.
Energy Trust of Oregon cash incentives – Residential, Business, Industry and Non-profit.
Income-eligible county weatherization programs – Multnomah, Clackamas and Washington.
ENERGIZE Clackamas County
Umpqua Bank GreenStreet Lending Program
Oregon Interfaith Power and Light assists congregations to become green.
Solar Now! A one-stop shop for technical assistance and access to incentives.
Solarize Portland A local coalition-driven solar bulk-purchasing program for neighborhood residents.
Bonneville Environmental Foundation Solar 4 R Schools assists schools with acquiring solar systems to reduce energy needs and to educate students.
Rainwater Harvesting and Stormwater Management
On these sites you’ll find information on stormwater features, grants and rebate programs, as well as technical assistance.
City of Portland