Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Sustainable, Energy Efficient, and Green - What's the difference?

One of our frequently asked questions is the difference between sustainable, green, and energy efficient.

“Energy efficient” may specifically refer to the home’s energy consumption. A home’s energy usage is primarily heating and cooling. Appliances tend to be the second largest draw now that incandescent lighting is giving way to compact fluorescents, LEDs and other lighting options.
Energy efficient homes include one or more systems and/or materials, such as specifying EnergyStar® appliances, using CFL fixtures, instantaneous hot water heaters as well as more broad items such as a tight building envelope, high-quality windows, higher R-values in the walls and roof, and the design of the home maximizing passive solar design strategies, all of which reduce energy consumption from day one.

“Green”, “energy efficient” and “sustainable” all imply some decision to incorporate an effort in the home design and construction process to improve the negative impact construction and a building’s life have on the environment. “Green” and “sustainable” are blanket terms commonly used to address issues ranging from sensitive site design, materials selections from local sources, alternative energy efficient construction types, and alternative energy / heating and cooling options. All of the previously mentioned items, plus many more, address topics such as water usage, energy or power consumption, indoor air quality and rapidly renewable material and construction resources.

I find “sustainable” to be one of the most interesting terms to discuss. In its everyday usage, it most commonly means to design in an ecologically conscious manner. Yet “sustainable design” or “sustainable construction” is only a milestone in the design and construction process for our future - sustainable only means that we cease to damage our environment and that we may continue on our current path without negative effect. The ultimate goal is to restore damages that have been done, to bring a regenerative process into our building efforts.

Bonin Architects & Associates, PLLC