A Definition of Sustainable Design and Green Building
Sustainable design incorporates green building. Sustainable design takes a holistic approach to development integral to environmental stewardship and the conservation of natural resources, while green building concerns itself with energy efficiency and the environmental considerations of the built environment. Both herald a fundamental change in how and why we build.
So, What Makes a Building "Green"?
Compared to conventional construction, green building relies, to varying degrees, on environmentally sensitive materials and a construction process that delivers a structure designed to be healthy and energy efficient. A green-building design can incorporate sun, wind, water filtration and airflow patterns and can be built with renewable materials, recycled and recyclable materials or materials salvaged from deconstruction sites, and construction techniques that reduce the amount of waste on-site. A green building can qualify a developer for incentives, rebates and certifications that reduce costs and attract investment. However, while a green building is designed primarily to maintain healthy indoor temperatures and air quality and is outfitted with technically advanced appliances and systems that conserve energy, it typically continues to operate on a grid powered by fossil fuels.
Then ... what is Sustainable Design?
Sustainable design goes beyond energy efficiency. According to the World Commission on Environment and Development, sustainable development provides for the current generation to meet present-day needs without sacrificing the ability of future generations to meet their needs. Fossil fuel is a nonrenewable and environmentally degrading energy source. The practice of sustainable design can erase, or even reverse, the negative environmental impacts of development on a region, because it includes green building within a larger organic ecosystem of resource supply, storage, reclamation of waste, restoration and renewal, vibrant community development and economic growth, without reliance on fossil fuels. Such a building, community or region designed to operate as a living organism, recapturing and recycling its waste to create new sources of energy, is sustainable.
The Role of RDAs
Because redevelopment agencies focus their efforts in urban areas, they will be challenged by AB 32, the landmark California Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006, to commit to land-use and urban-design plans and strategies intended to significantly reduce their region's carbon footprint. By integrating support for aggressive green-building standards with funding and technical support for transit-oriented development, preservation and infill, adaptive reuse, ecological restoration and affordable housing as the gateway to environmentally and economically equitable urban regeneration, redevelopment agencies have a vital role to play in approaching sustainability in the State of California and staying the advance of global warming.