Green Building

Green Building, Sustainable Design

Well, we've all heard about's GREEN, GREEN, GREEN! An over-used term for the architects? A jingoistic sales tool? 

Green Building, What Does It Mean?

Take a look at what some others define as "green" design or building:

U.S. Office of the Federal Environmental Executive: "The practice of 1) increasing the efficiency with which buildings and their sites use energy, water, and materials, and 2) reducing building impacts on human health and the environment, through better siting, design, construction, operation, maintenance, and removal — the complete building life cycle."

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA): "Green building is the practice of creating structures and using processes that are environmentally responsible and resource-efficient throughout a building's life-cycle from siting to design, construction, operation, maintenance, renovation and deconstruction. This practice expands and complements the classical building design concerns of economy, utility, durability, and comfort. Green building is also known as a sustainable or high performance building."

The EPA goes on to list impacts of the built environment:

When it comes to water efficiency and conservation, "green" designs and practices have been in place for over 20 years, if not longer. Typical water use efficiency categories within many of the national green building programs include:

  • Plumbing fixtures and fixture fittings
  • Residential appliances (clothes washers, dishwashers)
  • Water treatment equipment (softeners, filtering and treatment systems)
  • Landscape & landscape irrigation
  • Pools, fountains, and spas
  • Cooling towers
  • Decorative and recreational water features
  • Water reuse & alternate sources of water (graywater, rainwater and stormwater, cooling condensate and cooling tower blowdown, foundation drain water)
  • Specialty processes, appliances and equipment (manufacturing, medical, laboratories, food service, laundries, others)
  • Metering & submetering
  • Once-through process cooling
  • Vegetated green roofs
  • Building water pressure

What about GREENWASHING?  Do you know what it is?  Check this!

Green Guidelines, Standards and Codes


Green building guidelines of various sorts have existed in North America for over 10 years. Today, the prime examples of green guidelines are the products of the USGBC's LEED program.

Guidelines, however, are seldom written in language that can be readily adopted into or referenced by codes and standards. In the case of LEED, this is especially true, since it is a points-based system. Rather, LEED provides options to the designer that allow for 'trade-offs', such as substituting a bicycle storage area for genuine and measurable energy or water use efficiencies. LEED is not developed through a recognized consensus process.

On the other hand, consensus-based standards and codes are the vehicles by which efficiency mandates can be introduced into the new construction process (and in some cases, renovation and reconstruction processes as well).  Standards and codes are usually written in code-adoptable language suited to direct reference in legislation and regulation.


Currently, several national green building standards are available or in process.   All were developed in accordance with the requirements of the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) , which requires a consensus-based process representing the interests of the various stakeholders.  Compliance with these standards is voluntary, except in the very few cases where one or more have been written into local or state regulation.


Codes (local and state) are the vehicles by which green requirements are made mandatory. The two primary model green codes affecting water use and efficiency in the U.S. are: 

The tables available on the 'Reports' page compare the general characteristics and status of the four national standards, two codes and three guidelines.

Specific Water Efficiency Provisions

A detailed 2015 comparison of the key water efficiency elements of the national guidelines, codes, and standards may be viewed in a series of summary tables (12 pages) covering toilets, urinals, faucets, showers, pre-rinse spray valves, dishwashers, clothes washers, graywater, rainwater, irrigation controllers, fountains, water softeners, water-powered pumps, sub-meters, building data management systems, ice makers, food steamers, combination ovens, dipper wells, and other items.   DOWNLOAD THE JUNE 2015 COMPARISON 

The water efficiency provisions of these guidelines, codes, and standards all differ a bit. The lack of uniformity across North America creates difficulties for design professionals and product manufacturers. Read this article on the problems associated with multiple green initiatives that prevail today.


Every good program seems to have its share of exaggerations, false claims, and fakes.  In this case, it is called GREENWASHING.