Green Language: A Glossary of Green Building Words

Confused about green-building jargon? Here’s a quick guide to some commonly used lingo.

| July/August 2006

Appropriate technologies: Technologies that satisfy basic human needs while minimizing environmental impact. Appropriate technologies help communities be more self-sufficient by using small-scale systems that people can manage directly on a local level. Examples include locally created and decentralized (off-the-grid) renewable energy and farmer’s markets that sell regional, sustainably grown food.

Building science: The study of how a building’s systems function together under various environmental conditions in an attempt to achieve an ideal balance of comfort, health and safety. Assesses heating and cooling systems, energy efficiency, ventilation and humidity control.

Embodied energy: Combined energy required to extract, manufacture, assemble, finish, transport and install building materials.

Green building: Construction, using any of various methods, that promotes resource conservation (materials, energy, water). It also reduces environmental impact and minimizes waste in order to create a healthy environment and keep operation and maintenance costs low. The entire lifecycle of the building and its components is considered.

Indoor air quality: A measure of whether ventilation, temperature and humidity are sufficiently diluting pollutants inside a structure. Common indoor air-quality problems include mold spores; outgasing of noxious chemicals by paints, finishes, adhesives, furniture and building materials; radon gas; and humidity levels that are too high or too low.

LEED: Abbreviation for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, a four-level rating system established by the U.S. Green Building Council. Buildings are rated in each of five categories:
sustainable sites, water efficiency, energy and atmosphere, materials and resources, and indoor environmental quality.

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