The Five Main Principles of the Green Point Rating System
Build It Green, the organization responsible for creating the green building system being adopted by local Building Departments across California, considers more than just the energy-efficiency outlook of LEED (the nationwide program of Leadership in Energy Efficient Design) and Energy Star.
Build It Green has established a rating system for new as well as existing homes. As a certified Green Point Rater, David Hirzel can create energy-efficient residential designs incorporating BuidItGreen's latest concepts, and is available to Architects and Designers as a consultant to ensure that their projects can meet the Green Points now being required for new projects from San Jose to San Rafael. The Green Point Rating system quantifies the “greenness” of each residential project according to the following five major principles:
1. Energy Efficiency: If every attic in America were insulated to the standards mandated by the state of California, the United States would no longer need to import foreign oil. That is only one measure of the amount of fossil fuel energy wasted nationwide. But energy efficiency is about more that just conservation, it’s about comfort in our homes whatever the weather might be outside them.
Innovative concepts like Net-Zero Passive Homes in Germany that have no need of a furnace, or properly insulated homes in Sacramento that have an annual heating/cooling cost of $250/year, are quick examples of energy-efficiency that involves no unusual construction practices or expenses. With a photovoltaic array and a solar water-heater on your roof, you can say goodbye to utility bills. And if we can collectively reduce the emissions of greenhouse gases, we may yet save the polar icecaps.
2. Resource Management: Housebuilding used to waste an unconscionable amount of fresh-cut lumber. Now the simple principles of optimum-value framing, combined with engineered-lumber beams, joists, and panels, can save whole forests. An entire new home can be assembled from renewable resource (think bamboo flooring, FSC lumber), reused (from deconstruction rather than demolition), and recycled-content (insulation, decking, carpeting) building materials.
Durable building materials such as stucco exterior walls and concrete-tile roofing, can help extend the life-expectancy of a house from decades to centuries with the right care and maintenance.
3. Indoor Air Quality: Our grandparents relied (though they may not have known it) on the draftiness of their houses through ill-fitting windows and doors, to keep the air inside fresh and pure as the air outside. With today’s energy-efficient consciousness and super tight homes, we have to give more thought to bringing fresh air in and ventilating toxins out of our homes.
Plywood subfloors, old insulation, kitchen cabinets and furniture may be made from pressed-wood products typically made with adhesives that release urea formaldehyde into the home for years after installation. Many paints, floor finishes, adhesives and sealants emit unhealthy volatile organic compounds (VOCs). That "new house smell" is a telltale sign that there are harmful chemicals in the indoor environment. Dust, mold from damp and poorly ventilated bathrooms, carbon monoxide from furnaces, ranges, and water heaters—all can pose special problems that need well thought out, mechanically assisted solutions.
4. Water Conservation: Water comes into our homes cheaply and easily, so we don’t give it a second thought. Yet every gallon that we flush down to toilet, or waste waiting for hot water to arrive at a faucet, has been collected behind dams and transported hundreds of miles, at great expense monetarily and environmentally. There are simple solutions to stem the waste: low-flow aerators and shower heads, 1.6 gallons per flush toilets, simply designed and implemented hot-water supply systems within the house, insulation on hot water pipes, Energy Star dish- and clothes washers. Collectively, these can all save a lot of water that otherwise goes right down the drain, to be expensively treated at our local sewer treatment plants.
Outside, lawns—never a good idea in semi-arid California—suck up thousands of gallons annually, in millions of yards. A better idea is drought-tolerant, native landscaping, or at least low flow, carefully controlled sprinkler systems that do the same job as their antiquated counterparts, with far less water.
5. Communities: There is more to green building than just conservation. These are the homes that we make, and the communities we build, for ourselves and our children. Where we can, let’s make them friendlier, easier to get to and from, with quick access to parks and open space. All it takes is a little planning, with some principles to guide it.