Green construction policies help to reduce the harmful impact of construction on the environment. In this guide, we’ll look at how green construction policies are drafted, become regulations and enforced. It’s critical that architects, construction firms and property owners understand how green construction policies will impact their interests.
Everyone that breathes air, drinks water and eats food should be ecstatic that green construction policies are becoming more popular. I’m assuming you fall into this category. And the most common objection – this is too expensive – is being wiped away, thanks to cost savings from clean energy and long-term reductions in energy consumption.
Green buildings do more than just save the environment. They save the bottom-line.
How are green construction practices developed?
Think tanks, governmental agencies and non-profits work together to discover new opportunities to reduce the impact of construction on the environment. The most famous organization involved in drafting and enforcing environmental policy is the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in the United States.
There are thousands of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) dedicated to helping both discover and enforce green construction practices. Internationally, these organizations are ranked by the Initiative on Climate Change Policy and Governance (ICCG).
Hundreds of research hours are invested in learning about new construction practices that might help reduce our impact on mother nature. Labs and field research teams from the world’s leading universities use public grants to fund this research. Their findings are published in green building journals, as well as academic publications and thesis papers.
What are some examples of green construction regulations?
I think we all wish that green construction practices were just part of every construction project by default. But, regulations are designed to enforce environmentally friendly standards across the board. There’s a high bar for ideas to become regulations – irresponsible passing of green regulations could lead to public backlash and harm efforts to pass common-sense, eco-friendly measures.
The process for a green construction concept to become a law is a long process. It depends on the local, state and federal regulatory agencies with jurisdiction. Federal laws supersede local and state regulations. State regulations supersede local codes.
International Code Council’s 2012 International Green Construction Code (IgCC)
The International Green Construction Code is an agreement that the United States entered in 2012. It is designed to be incorporated with existing state and local building codes. It impacts every phase of construction, from design to permitting and final site inspection. In addition to the mandatory aspects of the Code, there are also suggestions for voluntary procedures to further reduce environmental impact of construction.
With enforcement ensured by the EPA, it is one of the most stringent forms of green construction policy adopted in the United States. Key provisions include:
- Empowering and encouraging local agencies to stringently limit construction within flood plains.
- Regulations to enforce appropriate maintenance of water, heating, cooling and energy infrastructure within buildings.
- Introduce smart meters to buildings, allowing for better regulation of energy consumption.
- Prohibition of smoking in buildings.
- Mandate inspection of facilities prior to occupancy to ensure compliance.
- Define permissible land use based on environmental factors.
- Set acceptable limits on noise production, both during construction and operation of new facilities.
- Regulate how excess construction materials and site waste must be disposed of.
All of these measures are designed to improve the environmental sustainability of existing structures, as well as shape future development. The focus of this legislation is on multi-family residences with more than three stories, and commercial facilities.
Violation of federal environmental requirements during construction can result in a fine of up to $27,500 per day. There may also be a criminal penalty up to $250,000 and a possible jail sentence of 15 years. Construction firms do not want to be on the wrong side of federal regulators.
To help everyone remain compliant, the Veterans Administration has published the Federal Environmental Requirements for Construction. The VA recognizes that many veterans leave the military and enter the construction industry, oftentimes as an entrepreneur. The last thing they want is former service members to go into the private sector and find themselves afoul of environmental regulations with hefty fines.
Green Construction Practices Voluntarily Adopted Due to Economic Benefits
Government regulations are not the only way to force building owners, architects and construction firms to operate in an environmentally friendly way. The wallet is the most powerful incentive for everyone to operate in a more sustainable fashion.
Solar Power Offers Powerful Case Study for Economic Incentives Improving Climate
An example of this is solar panel development and installation. The federal and state governments of the United States have invested nearly $5 billion in solar technology grants. This public investment spurred private companies to enter the space and begin developing more economically viable applications.
Today, more than 1 million homes in the United States get part of their daily energy needs from solar power. This is a massive increase from just a decade ago, where solar was so expensive that only experimental organizations and large corporations could harness it.
The real lesson from solar comes in the way that local, state and federal agencies worked together to help make clean power economically viable. We’re seeing the same sort of cooperation in improving accessibility of natural gas and electrical charging stations. The same revolution that changes how we power our homes is dramatically impacting the way we travel.
Elon Musk has become a central figure in the battle for a cleaner power grid and transportation system. He’s made electric cars that look like they’re traveling 100mph standing still – and can actually best most gasoline powered cars for acceleration and range.
The increasing cost of power from dirty fuels is only pouring gasoline on the fire (couldn’t help myself).
In conclusion, we’re seeing a massive evolution in the ways that governments, citizens and industry interact to implement green construction practices. In almost every measurable way, we are improving the environment around us by being more mindful of how our urban sprawl impacts mother nature.