Frequently Asked Questions

Sustainable, reclamation, recycling, and environmental stewardship are new terms that we hear daily. Environmental awareness can transform the way buildings and communities are designed, built and operated, enabling an environmentally and socially responsible, healthy, and prosperous environment that improves the quality of life. Our Frequently Asked Questions section provides you with answers. Click on each question to see the relevant answer.

Environmental Questions

The energy used to heat and power our buildings leads to the consumption of large amounts of energy, mainly from burning fossil fuels - oil, natural gas and coal - which generate significant amounts of carbon dioxide (CO2), the most widespread greenhouse gas. Buildings in the U.S. contribute 38.1 percent of the nation's total carbon dioxide emissions.

Reducing the energy use and greenhouse gas emissions produced by buildings is therefore fundamental to the effort to slow the pace of global climate change. Buildings may be associated with the release of greenhouse gases in other ways, for example, construction and demolition debris that degrades in landfills may generate methane, and the extraction and manufacturing of building materials may also generate greenhouse gas emissions.
Buildings and development have significant environmental impacts on our natural resources. The following statistics are from surveys and studies conducted by the EPA and other federal agencies:
  • According to surveys conducted in 2002, 107.3 million acres of the 1.983 billion acres of total land area in the U.S. is developed, which represents an increase of 24 percent in developed land over the past 10 years.
  • In terms of energy, buildings accounted for 39.4 percent of total U.S. energy consumption and 67.9 percent of total U.S. electricity consumption in 2002.
  • Building occupants use 12.2 percent of the total water consumed in the U.S. per day.
  • Buildings, and the transportation infrastructure that serves them, replace natural surfaces with impermeable materials, creating runoff that washes pollutants and sediments into surface waters. Urban runoff constitutes a major threat to water resources, as it has been identified as the fourth leading source of impairment in rivers, third in lakes, and second on estuaries.

Financial Questions

Perhaps surprisingly, good green buildings often cost only a few percentage points or no more to build than conventional designs. Integrated design processes that identify the most efficient, holistic approaches to building green can reduce these initial costs. For example, in some cases, when buildings are carefully designed to be energy efficient, heating/ventilation/air conditioning (HVAC) equipment can be downsized for significant savings. There are also many green products and materials that cost the same or even less than conventional ones.
There are some federal tax credits for specific energy efficiency projects in buildings. More and more state, county and city governments are beginning to introduce and pass legislation establishing green building tax benefits.

Check with your local and states governments to see what is available in your area.
Well-designed, constructed, operated and maintained green buildings can have many benefits, including durability; reduced costs for energy, water, operations and maintenance; improved occupant health and productivity; and the potential for greater occupant satisfaction than standard developments.

A green building may cost more up front, but can save money over the life of the building through lower operating costs. These savings may be more apparent through life-cycle assessment (LCA).

Cost savings are most likely to be fully realized when incorporated at the project's conceptual design phase with the assistance of an integrated team of building professionals. The integrated systems approach aims to design the building as one system rather than a collection of potentially disconnected systems.

General Questions

Smart growth is development that serves the economy, the community, and the environment by supporting healthy communities while creating economic development and jobs. Sustainability, or sustainable development, is the ability to achieve continuing economic prosperity while protecting the natural systems of the planet and providing a high quality of life for its people.
Green building fits nicely with these concepts, as it promotes building practices that conserve energy and water resources, and are accessible to public transportation.
Buildings have an enormous impact on the environment, human health, and the economy. The successful adoption of green building strategies can maximize both the economic and environmental performance of buildings. Research continues to identify and clarify all of these benefits and costs of green building, and of how to achieve the greatest benefits at the lowest costs.
Any type of building has the potential to become a green or sustainable building, however every building type has different design and efficiency needs depending on its particular function. New buildings may be designed, built and operated to be green buildings. Existing building can also become green through remodeling, retrofitting and improved operations.
Green building – also known as sustainable or high performance building – is the practice of increasing the efficiency with which buildings and their sites use and harvest energy, water, and materials, as well as protecting and restoring human health and the environment, throughout the building life-cycle.
A green building is a structure that is environmentally responsible and resource-efficient throughout its life-cycle. These objectives expand and complement the classical building design concerns of economy, utility, durability, and comfort.

Green buildings are designed to reduce the overall impact of the built environment on human health and the natural environment by:
  • Efficiently using energy, water, and other resources
  • Protecting occupant health and improving employee productivity
  • Reducing waste, pollution and environment degradation

For example, green buildings may incorporate sustainable materials in their construction (e.g., reused, recycled-content, or made from renewable resources), and/or create healthy indoor environments with minimal pollutants (e.g., reduced product emissions).

LEED® Questions

Only buildings (not floors) can be LEED® certified, but flooring can contribute to earning LEED® credits.

The USGBC® (United States Green Building Council) developed the LEED® (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) rating system to provide a national standard for green building design. The system is based on achieving a certain number of points, which are allocated for design choices defined within the standard. The points are accrued within specific credits. Flooring products and installation materials can contribute to earning points in two of the five LEED® categories (Materials and Resources and Indoor Environmental Quality), and in the bonus category Innovation and Design Process. Note: No single flooring product can, by itself, obtain a LEED® credit. Products can, in-aggregate, contribute to attaining credits.
LEED-NC® (New Construction and Major Renovations) and LEED-CI® (Commercial Interiors).

LEED-NC® and LEED-CI® are two programs where flooring can play a role in earning LEED® points.

LEED-NC® has performance criteria that apply to commercial and institutional buildings that are either new or undergoing major renovations. LEED-CI® is a program designed to address the specifics of tenant spaces primarily in office and institutional buildings. Materials and Resource credits are mainly based on the cost of the material and the relative percentages that those materials contribute to the overall budget of the project.

LEED-NC® programs will typically have budgets that range from $120 to $400/sf. Flooring materials typically average between $2.00 to $8.00/sf. On an entire building floor covering is only a fraction of the costs associated with the materials. Therefore, differences of minor percents when calculating recycled content do not necessarily have significant impacts on LEED-NC® calculations.

LEED-CI® programs typically have budgets that range from $30 to $150/sf. Flooring materials typically average between $2.00 to $8.00/sf. On a commercial interior project, floor covering may be a major component of the costs associated with the materials. Therefore, it is very important to review the impacts varying recycled content percentages and their overall impact on LEED-NC® calculations.