” I never said I was opposed to the LEED program or to green building – I’m not.”
Frank Gehry, Architect
The Pros and Cons of Green Building
Green building (also sometimes referred to as green architecture, sustainable building or green construction) can be defined as building processes that aim to be eco-friendly and resource-efficient. This is true for the whole lifecycle, from the initial planning over construction to the eventual demolition of a building.
Sustainable building has become quite popular over the past decade since people have become more aware of our environmental problems and that we need to solve them somehow.
Even though green construction has many advantages, there are still some problems related to it. In this article, the pros and cons of green building are examined in detail.
Advantages of Green Buildings
- Green buildings are energy-efficient
- Higher fraction of eco-friendly materials
- Water-efficient devices
- Reduction in waste
- More efficient recycling
- Less air pollution
- Reduction in greenhouse gas emissions
- Protection of our natural resources
- Emphasis on renewable energies
- Concept takes the whole life cycle of a building into account
- Daylighting is utilized as best as possible
- Use of renewable plant materials
- Use of recycled metals and other construction materials
- Improvements in indoor air quality
- Use of compost bins
- Rainwater collection
- Overall health improvements
- Higher market value
- Tax advantages and subsidies
- Smart long-term investment
- Compliance with stricter laws and regulations
- Clean conscience
Green buildings are energy-efficient
One important advantage of green buildings is that they can be considered to be quite energy-efficient. While old conventional buildings are usually not insulated at all and lose plenty of heat, eco-friendly buildings can keep plenty of heat inside since they are insulated properly.
This means that in an energy-efficient building, you have to heat less since the heat is kept inside much more efficiently. In turn, also your spending on heating will be significantly lower compared to living in an old conventional building.
Higher fraction of eco-friendly materials
In green construction processes, the fraction of eco-friendly materials is often also much higher compared to regular building. For instance, the materials for green buildings are chosen in line with the sustainability and resource-conservation goal.
This means that a significant fraction of those materials will be recycled and also the woods that are used are generally fast-growing ones like bamboo. Therefore, green construction is pretty focused on making building practices as eco-friendly as possible.
Another upside of green buildings is that water-efficient devices are installed whenever possible. For instance, conventional toilets often use large amounts of water for every flush.
However, a big fraction of this water can be saved by installing water-conserving toilets instead of conventional ones. This is not only true for toilets, but also for many other devices like washing machines, dishwashers and so on.
Thus, by using water-efficient devices, we can greatly reduce our water demand, which will become pretty important in the future since water will become a quite scarce resource due to global warming.
Reduction in waste
Green construction also has the goal to minimize waste. For instance, this could mean that materials that are left from construction processes are not disposed into landfills, but that those materials are rather reused for other purposes instead.
By reusing those materials, we could greatly reduce the waste from construction practices, which would greatly improve our overall ecological footprint.
More efficient recycling
In order to reduce our waste production even further, it is also crucial to improve recycling processes in the construction sector. For instance, this could mean that a higher fraction of materials are reused in case a house will be demolished.
By recycling and reusing a higher fraction of those materials, waste production can be reduced and our natural resources can be used much more efficiently.
Less air pollution
Energy-efficient buildings also imply far less air pollution. For the production of energy, large amounts of fossil fuels are used, which in turn implies significant emissions.
Thus, if the energy demand can be reduced through green building techniques, also the amount of fossil fuels that have to be used on a global scale can be reduced significantly.
Reduction in greenhouse gas emissions
A reduction in the use of fossil fuels through green construction also implies a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions. In turn, global warming can be slowed down to a certain extent and we as humanity can mitigate the adverse environmental effects that are associated with climate change.
Protection of our natural resources
We as humanity still use large amounts of fossil resources that will become depleted sooner or later. Thus, in order to improve sustainability, we should try to save natural resources whenever possible.
In the construction sector, large amounts of natural resources can be saved by green construction processes since a higher fraction of materials can be recycled and a higher fraction of eco-friendly materials are used compared to conventional building practices.
Emphasis on renewable energies
Another benefit of green building is that this kind of construction relies on green energies instead of conventional fossil fuels. For instance, for green buildings, solar panels are often used to generate energy so that the building will not need to use energy that is produced with the help of fossil fuels.
By using renewable alternative energy sources, green construction makes a big contribution to speed up the energy transition process from fossil fuels to green energy sources, which is crucial to mitigate various environmental problems, including global warming and all sorts of pollution.
Concept takes the whole life cycle of a building into account
Green building also takes into account the whole lifecycle of a building when it comes to the evaluation of whether certain measures and features are eco-friendly or not.
For instance, while some materials may be considered to be eco-friendly for the construction process, they might be rather harmful when it comes to the demolition of the building.
Thus, by taking all phases of the lifecycle into account, architects that operate in the green building sector could vastly improve the overall ecological footprint of a building.
Daylighting is utilized as best as possible
Since green buildings often rely on renewable energy sources like solar power, they are already much eco-friendlier compared to conventional buildings in terms of energy. However, green buildings can save even more energy by using daylight as a major lighting source.
This often implies the use of large windows in order to brighten up a room. By doing so, less energy has to be produced since the daylight may be sufficient during the day without using any additional lights.
Use of renewable plant materials
For green construction, it is also crucial to use renewable plant materials as often as possible.
For instance, when it comes to the material that should be used for flooring, bamboo or other sustainable woods are used in green construction in order to ensure to meet the sustainability goal.
Use of recycled metals and other construction materials
Compared to conventional building, a much higher fraction of recycled materials is used for green construction. For example, a significant fraction of metals or stones that are used in green building had been recycled before.
By using those recycled materials, green construction can use as few resources as possible and can significantly improve the efficiency regarding the use of our natural resources.
Improvements in indoor air quality
Since green construction aims to use eco-friendly materials, also the indoor air quality is often much better compared to conventional building styles.
Moreover, a bigger emphasis will be put on the air circulation, which will further improve the overall indoor air quality in homes that have been constructed in a green manner.
Use of compost bins
Green construction often also involves the use of compost bins. The use of those bins is quite helpful to further improve the ecological footprint of residents since organic waste can be decomposed through composting instead of disposing it into landfills.
Thus, overall waste production can be further reduced through the use of composting related to green buildings.
Green buildings often also have facilities installed which can collect and store the rainwater. This water can be used for gardening purposes or for flushing our toilets. Thus, by collecting rainwater, we will have to use less tap water and large amounts of tap water can be preserved over time.
Although this might seem like a rather minor advantage, water will become quite a scarce resource in the future due to global warming and it definitely makes sense to save as much water as possible whenever we can.
Overall health improvements
Since the indoor air quality will be improved, also the risk for pulmonary diseases might decrease by living in green buildings.
Moreover, since plenty of natural and sustainable materials are used for decoration and flooring, this will lead to further health benefits since our body will often react much more positive to natural materials compared to synthetic ones.
Higher market value
Green buildings will likely become even more popular in the future since people become more aware of our environmental problems and that it is time for a change if we want to ensure a livable future for the next generations.
This increasing awareness regarding eco-friendly living may also translate into increasing property prices for houses that have been constructed in a green manner.
Thus, also if you plan to sell your home one day, green construction may also ensure you a higher resale value in the future.
Tax advantages and subsidies
In many countries and regions, there are also plenty of tax benefits associated with green construction. This may include certain one-time payments if you decide to build a house that has sufficient eco-friendly features.
Therefore, you might get part of the building costs back from the government, which may increase your incentive to go for a green home instead of a house that is constructed in a conventional manner.
Smart long-term investment
Even though the construction costs for green buildings are often higher compared to the costs of conventional buildings, green buildings may still save you plenty of money in the long run.
Since you will have to spend less money on heating and water, chances are that the higher initial construction costs will amortize over time.
Thus, if you consider investing in a green home, you should not only take into account the high initial costs, but also the long-term benefits.
Compliance with stricter laws and regulations
In many countries, the regulations and laws regarding eco-friendly construction have become much stricter over time.
Buildings have to meet minimum energy efficiency requirements before the construction of those buildings is granted.
Thus, in order to assure that you meet all those requirements, going for green construction might be a good idea.
Apart from all the other benefits related to green construction, you will likely also have a clean conscience by engaging in this eco-friendly building style since you know you made a big contribution to ensure a livable future for the next generation.
This knowledge will also give you plenty of energy for several tasks of your daily life, which may further improve your overall quality of life.
Disadvantages of Green Construction
- High initial costs
- Green construction is not a magic pill
- Energy supply may depend on weather conditions
- Unclear long-term effects
- Technology problems
- Maintenance may be difficult
- Indoor air temperature may greatly vary over time
- Some people might not like the design of green buildings
- Experienced green construction workers may be rare
- Green construction is not suitable for all locations
- Availability issues of green construction materials
- Funding problems for green buildings
High initial costs
Apart from the various advantages of green construction, there are also some problems with green building. For example, green construction often implies pretty high initial building costs which are usually higher compared to conventional construction practices.
This may discourage people to invest in green construction. However, there are also plenty of savings on energy and water in the long run and people should take all those factors into account when it comes to the decision whether to invest in green buildings or not.
Green construction is not a magic pill
Although green building can improve your ecological footprint, it is no magic pill to solve all our environmental problems. There is still plenty of work required from your side to make your behavior as green as possible.
For instance, if you buy a green home but behave in a quite eco-unfriendly manner, your ecological footprint might actually be worse compared to a person who lives in a conventional home but behaves much eco-friendlier in his or her daily life.
Energy supply may depend on weather conditions
If your green home relies on green alternative energies like solar power, your energy supply might be dependent on outside weather conditions.
For instance, if there is rain for a quite long period of time, chances are that you might run out of energy sooner or later.
Thus, it might be a good idea to have a backup option so that green buildings can use conventional energies as an emergency resource.
Unclear long-term effects
Since green construction is a relatively new technology, the long-term effects of this practice are still relatively unclear.
For instance, we do not know if there are any negative effects 50 years from now related to those green buildings.
This may result in significant levels of insecurity for people who currently decide whether they want to build a green home or not.
Since the technology related to green construction is relatively new and not entirely mature yet, chances are that there might be some technology issues sooner or later. For instance, the energy supply may not work that good or the internet connection might be quite poor.
Thus, there might be plenty of technology issues that might have to be fixed over time, which may translate into significant additional costs and efforts.
Maintenance may be difficult
Since green construction often uses the latest technologies, the maintenance of those devices might be difficult since technology becomes increasingly complex and very few craftsmen keep their knowledge up to date.
Thus, you depending on the area you live in, you might also have a pretty hard time finding a qualified worker in case you need repairs or for other maintenance tasks.
Indoor air temperature may greatly vary over time
In many buildings that can be considered to be green, you might just have limited control over the inside air temperature since it is often controlled from one central spot.
Therefore, you might suffer from too high or too low temperatures and your overall quality of life might decrease due to this insufficient control over the indoor room temperature.
Some people might not like the design of green buildings
Since the design of green buildings is optimized to use the daylight as efficiently as possible, the shape of those green buildings might be rather exotic.
This kind of construction style might not please everyone and many people may even refrain from buying a green flat since they just do not like the design of those green buildings at all.
Therefore, depending on how important the design of a building is for you, you may also want to refrain from investing in green construction projects due to the unusual shapes of those buildings.
Experienced green construction workers may be rare
It may also be rather difficult to find experienced green construction workers. Most of the construction workers out there are quite experienced in the conventional construction of buildings, but lack experience and knowledge when it comes to green buildings.
Thus, it might be quite hard for you to find a company that will construct you a green home and those companies might also have a long waiting list.
Green construction is not suitable for all locations
Green building tries to use as much sunlight as possible in order to produce energy and to use the daylight to further reduce the need of using conventional energy sources.
However, in regions that do not have many sunny days over the course of the year, those green buildings may not be the way to go since the outside conditions may not be suitable for it.
Availability issues of green construction materials
Even though green construction has become quite popular over the past decade, it is still a relatively new building technology and the infrastructure around green construction has not been optimized yet.
Therefore, it might also come to availability issues of green construction materials, especially if you live in a region where green construction is still considered to be rather exotic and the infrastructure for green building is missing.
Funding problems for green buildings
Banks may also be rather skeptic when it comes to the financing of green homes. Many financial institutions still prefer to hand out loans for conventional buildings since they have much more experience and knowledge in the valuation of those conventional homes.
Thus, it might be hard for you to get a loan for green construction projects since banks may put a rather low valuation on your home in their books.
Top 10 Green Building Pros & Cons – Summary List
|Green Building Pros||Green Building Cons|
|Energy-efficiency improvements||High construction costs|
|Water preservation||Technology relatively new and immature|
|Less waste||Hard to find qualified workers|
|Better recycling||Maintenance issues|
|Protection of our natural resources||Technology issues|
|Less particle pollution||Unclear long-term effects and risks|
|Less air pollution||Indoor air temperature may vary|
|Overall health improvements||Financing may be an issue|
|Higher property value||Design of green buildings can be exotic|
|Sustainable construction practice||Lack of availability of green materials|
Green construction has become quite popular over the past years and will likely become even more popular in the future since people become more aware of our environmental problems and want to contribute their part to solve those issues.
However, apart from the advantages related to green construction, there are also some problems related to green buildings.
You should evaluate all the pros and cons analyzed before in order to make a profound decision regarding whether you want to invest in a green home or not.
About the author
My name is Andreas and my mission is to educate people of all ages about our environmental problems and how everyone can make a contribution to mitigate these issues.
As I went to university and got my Master’s degree in Economics, I did plenty of research in the field of Development Economics.
After finishing university, I traveled around the world. From this time on, I wanted to make a contribution to ensure a livable future for the next generations in every part of our beautiful planet.
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