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Concept: Green building


Buildings consume nearly 40% of primary energy production globally. Certified green buildings substantially reduce energy consumption on a per square foot basis and they also focus on indoor environmental quality. However, the co-benefits to health through reductions in energy and concomitant reductions in air pollution have not been examined.We calculated year by year LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification rates in six countries (the United States, China, India, Brazil, Germany, and Turkey) and then used data from the Green Building Information Gateway (GBIG) to estimate energy savings in each country each year. Of the green building rating schemes, LEED accounts for 32% of green-certified floor space and publically reports energy efficiency data. We employed Harvard’s Co-BE Calculator to determine pollutant emissions reductions by country accounting for transient energy mixes and baseline energy use intensities. Co-BE applies the social cost of carbon and the social cost of atmospheric release to translate these reductions into health benefits. Based on modeled energy use, LEED-certified buildings saved $7.5B in energy costs and averted 33MT of CO2, 51 kt of SO2, 38 kt of NOx, and 10 kt of PM2.5 from entering the atmosphere, which amounts to $5.8B (lower limit = $2.3B, upper limit = $9.1B) in climate and health co-benefits from 2000 to 2016 in the six countries investigated. The U.S. health benefits derive from avoiding an estimated 172-405 premature deaths, 171 hospital admissions, 11,000 asthma exacerbations, 54,000 respiratory symptoms, 21,000 lost days of work, and 16,000 lost days of school. Because the climate and health benefits are nearly equivalent to the energy savings for green buildings in the United States, and up to 10 times higher in developing countries, they provide an important and previously unquantified societal value. Future analyses should consider these co-benefits when weighing policy decisions around energy-efficient buildings.

Concepts: Pollution, Air pollution, Energy development, Limit superior and limit inferior, Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, Green building, Sustainable design, Natural building


Adopting a green building rating system (GBRSs) that strongly considers use of renewable energy can have important environmental consequences, particularly in developing countries. In this paper, we studied on-site renewable energy and GBRSs at the system level to explore potential benefits and challenges. While we have focused on GBRSs, the findings can offer additional insight for renewable incentives across sectors. An energy model was built for 25 sites to compute the potential solar and wind power production on-site and available within the building footprint and regional climate. A life-cycle approach and cost analysis were then completed to analyze the environmental and economic impacts. Environmental impacts of renewable energy varied dramatically between sites, in some cases, the environmental benefits were limited despite the significant economic burden of those renewable systems on-site and vice versa. Our recommendation for GBRSs, and broader policies and regulations, is to require buildings with higher environmental impacts to achieve higher levels of energy performance and on-site renewable energy utilization, instead of fixed percentages.

Concepts: Energy, Renewable energy, Wind power, Wind power in Denmark, Wind power in the United States, Green building, Natural building, Wind power in the United Kingdom


There are limited data on air quality parameters, including airborne particulate matter (PM) in residential green buildings, which are increasing in prevalence. Exposure to PM is associated with cardiovascular and pulmonary diseases, and since Americans spend almost 90% of their time indoors, residential exposures may substantially contribute to overall airborne PM exposure. Our objectives were to: (1) measure various PM fractions longitudinally in apartments in multi-family green buildings with natural (Building E) and mechanical (Building L) ventilation; (2) compare indoor and outdoor PM mass concentrations and their ratios (I/O) in these buildings, taking into account the effects of occupant behavior; and (3) evaluate the effect of green building designs and operations on indoor PM. We evaluated effects of ventilation, occupant behaviors, and overall building design on PM mass concentrations and I/O. Median PMTOTAL was higher in Building E (56 µg/m³) than in Building L (37 µg/m³); I/O was higher in Building E (1.3-2.0) than in Building L (0.5-0.8) for all particle size fractions. Our data show that the building design and occupant behaviors that either produce or dilute indoor PM (e.g., ventilation systems, combustion sources, and window operation) are important factors affecting residents' exposure to PM in residential green buildings.

Concepts: Particulate, Air pollution, Building, House, Real estate, Occupancy, Green building, Natural building


The matter of environmental concern prioritization integrated into globally used green building rating systems is a fundamental issue since it determines how the performance of a structure or development is reflected. Certain nationally-developed certification systems are used globally without being subjected to adjustments with respect to local geographical, cultural, economic and social parameters. This may lead to a situation where the results of an evaluation may not reflect the reality of the region and/or the site of construction. The main objective of this paper is to examine and underline the problems regarding the issue of weighting environmental concerns in the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification system, which is a US-originated but globally used assessment tool. The methodology of this study consists of; (i) an analysis of the approach of LEED in the New Construction and Major Renovations scheme in version 3 (LEED NC, v.3) and the Building Design and Construction scheme in version 4 (LEED BD + C, v.4), (ii) case studies in which regional priority credits (RPCs) set by LEED for four countries (Canada, Turkey, China and Egypt) are criticized with respect to countries' own local conditions, and, (iii) an analysis of the approaches of major environmental assessment tools, namely; BREEAM, SBTool, CASBEE and Green Star, in comparison to the approach in LEED, regarding the main issue of this paper. This work shows that, even in its latest version (v.4) LEED still displays some inadequacies and inconsistencies from the aspect of environmental concern prioritization and has not yet managed to incorporate a system which is more sensitive to this issue. This paper further outlines the differences and similarities between the approaches of the aforementioned major environmental assessment tools with respect to the issue of concern and the factors that should be integrated into future versions of LEED.

Concepts: Environmentalism, Conservation movement, Environmental movement, Priority, Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, Green building, Sustainable design, Building engineering


Improved indoor air quality (IAQ) is one of the critical components of green building design. Green building tax credit (e.g., New York State Green Building Tax Credit (GBTC)) and certification programs (e.g., Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design (LEED)) require indoor air quality measures and compliance with allowable maximum concentrations of common indoor air pollutants. It is not yet entirely clear whether compliance with these programs results in improved IAQ and ultimately human health. As a case in point, annual indoor air quality measurements were conducted in a residential green high-rise building for five consecutive years by an industrial hygiene contractor to comply with the building’s GBTC requirements. The implementation of green design measures resulted in better IAQ compared to data in references of conventional homes for some parameters, but could not be confirmed for others. Relative humidity and carbon dioxide were satisfactory according to existing standards. Formaldehyde levels during four out of five years were below the most recent proposed exposure limits found in the literature. To some degree, particulate matter (PM) levels were lower than that in studies from conventional residential buildings. Concentrations of Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) with known permissible exposure limits were below levels known to cause chronic health effects, but their concentrations were inconclusive regarding cancer health effects due to relatively high detection limits. Although measured indoor air parameters met all IAQ maximum allowable concentrations in GBTC and applicable LEED requirements at the time of sampling, we argue that these measurements were not sufficient to assess IAQ comprehensively because more sensitive sampling/analytical methods for PM and VOCs are needed; in addition, there is a need for a formal process to ensure rigor and adequacy of sampling and analysis methods. Also, we suggest that a comprehensive IAQ assessment should include mixed mode thermal comfort models, semi-volatile organic compounds, assessment of new chemicals, and permissible exposure levels of many known indoor VOCs and bioaerosols. Plus, the relationship between energy consumption and IAQ, and tenant education on health effects of indoor pollutants and their sources may need more attention in IAQ investigations in green buildings.

Concepts: Smog, Volatile organic compound, Indoor air quality, Air pollution, Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, Green building, Sustainable design, Natural building


Despite guidance from the United States Green Building Council (USGBC) on the requirements for earning a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) ergonomics credit in the Innovation in Design and Innovation in Operations category, few projects have received the credit. The University of California, Berkeley ergonomics program, Ergonomics@Work, has aligned the ergonomics strategy to those of the USGBC and LEED to achieve the ergonomics credit in several new buildings. This article describes the steps needed to obtain the credit and highlights the opportunities it creates to partner with the project team to promote ergonomics. As a profession it is up to ergonomists to create the road map that incorporates ergonomics into the green building design.

Concepts: United States, California, Design, Project management, Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, Green building, Sustainable design, Natural building


Green building systems have proliferated but health outcomes and associated costs and benefits remain poorly understood.

Concepts: Health, Green building, Natural building


This paper will discuss a recently completed a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design Commercial Interiors (LEED-CI) office renovation project in San Francisco, California. The project had multiple aims: office space, test laboratory for new materials and technologies, and teaching tool for clients and students. The owner, an acoustical consulting firm, decided on LEED-CI certification because of the belief that acoustic comfort could be achieved while simultaneously meeting other LEED requirements (e.g., design, products and materials, construction methods, and operations). Recently, acoustical requirements have been adopted into various LEED rating systems because occupant acoustic comfort in many LEED-certified buildings has been poor. The organization responsible for LEED, the US Green Building Council, is taking steps to more comprehensively adopt acoustical standards throughout their portfolio. By using the LEED Innovation in Design (ID) Pilot Credit Library, projects can attempt to achieve a wider range of potential credits. One of those credits, Pilot Credit 24, addresses acoustic comfort, including sound isolation, speech privacy, background noise, and reverberation time. The project is one of the first to achieve Pilot Credit 24 requirements. This paper will discuss the project design objectives, Pilot Credit 24 requirements, and how the project achieved those requirements.

Concepts: Acoustics, Sound, Construction, Building, Microsoft Office, Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, Green building, Sustainable design


BACKGROUND: Many newly constructed green buildings (GB) are certified using the United States Green Building Council (USGBC) Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) rating system for new construction and major renovation which focuses on architectural and mechanical design to conserve energy, reduce environmental harm, and enhance indoor quality for occupants. This study evaluated the preventive maintenance (PM) worker occupational safety and health (OSH) risks related to the design of GB. METHODS: PM job hazard analyses (JHA) were performed on the tasks required to operate and maintain five GB features selected from 13 LEED certified GB. A 22-item JHA and OSH risk scoring system were developed. RESULTS: Potentially serious OSH hazards included: green roofs made of slippery material without fall protection; energy recovery wheels and storm water harvesting systems in confined spaces; skylights without guard rails; and tight geothermal well mechanical rooms constraining safe preventive practices. CONCLUSIONS: GB can present PM OSH risks and these should be eliminated in the building design phase. Am. J. Ind. Med. © 2013 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.

Concepts: Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, Green building, Sustainable design, Sustainable building, Natural building, Green Building Council, Autonomous building, Building engineering