Encourage Green Building Techniques and Policies

What is Green Building?

Green building focuses on increasing the efficiency of resource use - energy, water, and materials - while reducing building impacts on human health and the environment during the building's lifecycle, through better siting, design, construction, operation, maintenance, and removal.

Green building techniques incorporate a wide spectrum of solutions and best-practices. Though green building is interpreted in many different ways, a common opinion is that buildings should be designed and operated 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 environmental degradation

A common misconception is that energy efficient buildings are also green buildings. While energy efficiency is an integral part of a sustainable building, energy efficiency alone does not qualify a building as green. See Encourage Energy Efficiency within Existing and Reused Structures for more information.

Why should housing policies support green building practices?

The related concepts of sustainable development and sustainability are integral to green building.

Effective green building can lead to 1) reduced operating costs by increasing productivity and using less energy and water, 2) improved public and occupant health due to improved indoor air quality, and 3) reduced environmental impacts by, for example, lessening storm water runoff and the heat island effect.

Practitioners of green building often seek to achieve not only ecological but aesthetic harmony between a structure and its surrounding natural and built environment, although the appearance and style of sustainable buildings is not necessarily distinguishable from their less sustainable counterparts.

What are the cost benefits of building green?

Sustainable design, also called "green" or "high-performance building", provides economic, human and community benefits as well as reduced environmental impacts.

  • Economic benefits - Green buildings may be easier to finance because they are designed to be durable, flexible, and healthy. In addition, the lifetime costs are lower. Energy efficient and water conserving strategies yield operational savings over the lifetime of the building.
  • Human benefits - Daylighting, improved air quality, greater thermal control, and other indoor environmental quality strategies typically improve occupant satisfaction. Greater satisfaction often leads to increased productivity and morale, decreased turnover, and reduced absenteeism. Potential risk and liability may be reduced as well. Integrated design strategies reduce the risk of sick building syndrome and minimize callbacks.
  • Community benefits - Green buildings often result in less wind/water erosion and sedimentation of waterways during construction. Sustainably designed sites permanently reduce stormwater runoff and watershed pollution. Furthermore, resource-efficient buildings place less demand on the community infrastructure for potable water, sewage conveyance, and power generation.

Nonetheless, concerns about the potentially higher initial costs of green buildings have overshadowed the acceptance of sustainable building strategies. Now, however, several new studies demonstrate that green buildings are not substantially more expensive to build, and the lifetime benefits of these buildings are significant.

Reports and analysis of cost implications of green buildings are available through the Minnesota Pollution Control website.

In addition, the state has begun tracking the costs and benefits of sustainable building. Namely the economic, human, community, and environmental benefits as part of the Buildings, Benchmarks, and Beyond (B3) pilot studies. These studies are conducted as a part of the Minnesota Sustainable Building Guidelines.

Promoting both the reuse of materials and buildings provides new opportunities for quality housing that is both energy efficient and sustainable. Several programs and projects in Minnesota have provided new housing opportunities by reusing existing commercial and industrial buildings and reusing materials in the construction of new housing.

Green Building Resources – Standards and Financing

Several organizations and programs exist whose mission is to promote and provide educational resources on green building practices, technology, and energy efficiency. There are multiple local and national standards and certification programs available to guide policymakers on green building with varying criteria for the construction or rehabilitation of homes. Also project financing supportive of residential green building are becoming available to provide more options for green building to include affordable housing. Click here for a list of green building resources available in Minnesota and nationally.

Related Case Studies

Maple Grove

Crossings at Valley View

Crossings at Valley View, located in Bloomington, Minnesota, is new construction composed of 50 multifamily rental units, all of which will be restricted to households with incomes at or below 50 percent of the area median income...

Building a Green Home

Create a healthier home and a more sustainable lifestyle...