green design, sometimes referred to as sustainable design or ecological design, is a process by which products are created to be more sustainable, and last longer. The goal is to makes changes during the design and manufacturing phases so that the end products are as environmentally benign as possible. This, in turn, will reduce the ecological footprint of those using such items. In terms of green design in building construction and land use planning, there is significant potential to reduce the amount of carbon emitted in the development process and in day-to-day operations. Those implementing green design often follow a systems approach and readily utilize several sustainable design principles. The national Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification program awards architects and builders for using green design methods. On a broader scale, land use planning techniques can be followed to design environmentally sustainable communities. Finally, there are some technologies and polices that advance the goal of green design.
The systems thinking approach to product development and certain green design principles are usually incorporated into the design and manufacturing phases when creating environmentally sustainable products. The systems thinking approach, also referred to as the life cycle approach, considers the environmental impacts of the materials and procedures used to create the product, the effects of the product while in use, and then the impacts of the product as it is disposed of and decomposed.
This method promotes the use of recycled materials and nontoxic substances in production. The product should then be environmentally benign while in use and easily broken down to recyclable and innocuous components at the end of its use.
There are a variety of green design principles that can be incorporated into the planning and implementation stages of production. First, the materials used to create the product should be given careful consideration. Materials that can be easily recycled at the end of the products' life cycle are desirable. Also, components that are nontoxic should be selected. Finally, to ensure that products or buildings are sustainable, renewable materials should be utilized. In the end, material selection must be balanced with cost. While using entirely sustainable materials is environmentally sound, this practice may cause the product to be prohibitively expensive. Successful manufacturers are able to find creative ways to employ sustainable materials without significantly increasing the price of the product.
Next, the reliability should be considered when creating green designs. Products that are durable and can withstand daily use are more advantageous than those that may need to be replaced in the short term. The longevity of a product is not only useful from a green design perspective, but also it makes the best economic sense. A third principal often considered in green design is energy use. This principle is two-dimensional. First, materials should be selected that do not require a lot of energy to make. Transportation of raw materials must be taken into account. Next, the product itself should not require much electricity to function. There are several programs available to have energy efficient products labeled so that consumers can easily identify them. An example of the is the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection Agency's ENERGY STAR labeling and marketing campaign for appliances.
Finally, green design focuses on creating items with shared uses. These consist of items that can be used my many individuals over the lifespan of the product. For instance, silverware has more shared use potential than plastic ware. The shared use principle may also encourage the same user to utilize the product for many different tasks, such as vacuum that is also able to wet-wash hardwood floors. In general, using a system approach and following certain principles when engaging in product design will lead to less energy and resource consumption.
The U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) oversees a nationally accepted green design program for commercial and residential buildings. This program is referred to as the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification program. A systems approach is used and performance must be achieved in five categories: sustainable site development, water savings, energy efficiency, materials selection, and indoor environmental quality. Buildings are rated in each of these five areas and must achieve a specific number of points for different certfications. The lowest level of certification is when a building is simply considered LEED Certified. The next level is bronze certfication, then silver certification, followed gold certification, and finally the highest level is plat-nium certification. In 2007, only 14 states had buildings that were platnium certified.
On a larger scale, green design methodology can be used during land-use planning. Sometimes called sustainable development, land-use planning integrates urban planning, housing development, and transportation theory with environmental understanding. This may include using energy efficient lighting for buildings and street lamps or creating neighborhoods in which all amenities are easily walkable. Wildlife corridors and green spaces are usually left intact to protect native and migratory species.
Finally, green technologies are becoming more available in all communities. Wind turbines and photovoltaic cells are more common on peoples' properties and allow individuals to live off-grid or to net-meter excess energy. Many home textiles such as carpets and furniture coverings emit less volatile organic compounds (VOCs) than before. Water-saving fixtures like faucets, toilets, and showerheads are becoming the standard. The installation of these products, however, may be more expensive than conventional products. This development is slowly changing as the market turns toward homes that value human and ecosystem health.
SEE ALSO: Green Buildings; Green Cities; Green Homes; Impacts of Global Warming.
BIBLIOGRAPHY. Bjorn Berg, Ecology of Building Materials (Architectural Press, 2001); Peter Buchanan, Ten Shades of
Green: Architecture and the Natural World (W.W. Norton, 2005); Paul Hawken, A.B. Lovins, and L.H. Lovins, Natural Capitalism: Creating the Next Industrial Revolution (Little, Brown and Company, 1999); David Gissen, Big and Green: Toward Sustainable Architecture in the 21st Century (Princeton Architectural Press, 2003); Chris Hendrickson, et al., Introduction to Green Design (Carnegie Mellon University Press, 2001); Stephen R. Kellert, Building for Life: Designing and Understanding the Human-Nature Connection (Island Press, 2005); U.S. Green Building Council, www.usgbc.org (cited November 2007); James Steele, Ecological Architecture: A Critical History (Thames & Hudson, 2005); Daniel E. Williams, Sustainable Design: Ecology, Architecture, and Planning (Wiley, 2007); James Wines, Green Architecture (Taschen, 2000).
Ellen J. Crivella Vermont Law School
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