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Building Green

Most people spend about 90 percent of their time indoors, which leads us to a very serious problem—poor air quality. More than 30 percent of buildings in the United States have poor indoor air quality. Lancaster and other south-central Pennsylvania cities have poor air quality because of geography. They are situated between major cities in a valley. One solution to this problem is the eco-friendly initiative called green building. Green building is an environmentally safe way for people to use recycled, reclaimed, sustainable and natural materials to produce beautiful, lasting products and spaces in their homes. This website will highlight the following areas pertaining to this eco-friendly initiative in Lancaster County:

Thankfully, within broader American society and within the education community, environmental values are becoming recognized as critical to our future. Global warming has become a household word. People want to make a difference--don’t you? 

There are many different ways of being a part of the building green initiative. Participation could be as easy as using an earth-friendly and family-friendly approach to enlarging and updating a room in your house, or being a part of the process of creating a more sustainable, environmentally safe community building. By being a part of this green initiative, you will be leaving your very own green footprints on the environment (Why Build Green, 2008).

Green Buildings

Green buildings are designed and operated to enhance the well-being of their occupants and support a healthy natural environment. Natural building focuses mainly on the use of natural materials that are available locally. Buildings that use sustainable measures to be more environmentally friendly have been known as "buildings that breathe" (Motavalli, 2007).

Green buildings are designed to meet specific objectives, such as improving employee productivity; occupant health; using water, energy and other resources more efficiently; and reducing the overall impact on the environment that we live in. Despite the free fall in housing prices nationwide, green homes are still red hot. Going green has become a pronounced growing initiative in the construction field.  

Green building is essential to sustainable development, but it’s not enough. Green designs also need to be located in a green manner, located close to public transportation and convenient destinations. Green building includes using sun and site to the building’s advantage for natural heating, cooling and daylighting; landscaping; building durable structures; reducing and recycling construction and demolition waste; using healthy products and building practices; and using energy-efficient and water-saving appliances and fixtures.

Types of Green Building

Green buildings come in all different shapes and sizes on a very large spectrum of possibilities. For instance, something as small as a bench made out of recycled materials is just as green as a large industrial building that has qualified for certification from the United States Green Building Council under its LEED Green Building Rating System.

Construction Design of Green Building

  • Kitchen
  • Decks and porches
  • Basement
  • Renovations
  • Bath

Design Examples of Green Building

  • Custom furniture
  • Architectural details: railings, doors, stairs
  • Countertops
  • Built-ins

Carpentry and Masonry Examples of Green Building

  • Concrete countertops
  • Built-ins
  • Doors, railings, stairs, millwork
  • Stone walls
  • Stone-pointing

There are also many different ways to make a positive influence on the environment by creating a greener atmosphere in your home, such as:

    1. Lighting: use low-voltage lights to keep energy use down
    2. Steel beams: made from recycled metal
    3. Ceiling fan: high-efficiency fan moves large volumes of air
    4. Heating: use a high-efficiency multizone system
    5. Lumber: harvested locally, found in the local neighborhood
    6. Floor and ceiling: held up by planks to reduce materials
    7. Natural light: maximized to reduce need for voltage lights
    8. Recycled: house renovated rather than newly constructed

Use less materials and recycle more in your home, per these examples:

  • Concrete counter: created out of granite leftovers
  • Steel counter: locally produced from by recycled metal
  • Low-flow faucet: wastes less water
  • Skylight: natural daylight cuts electricity use
  • Lighting: energy-saving fixtures and fluorescent bulbs (Chandlee, 2008)

Back to Lancaster

Right in our very own community, Lancaster is home to two very important buildings: Stayer Hall is an education building at Millersville University of Pennsylvania, and Armstrong Headquarters is in Lancaster city.

Stayer Hall was created as Millersville University’s first green building. In 2007, the teachers' program was moved into the new and improved “renovated and expanded building on the site of Landes Hall” (Millersville’s First…, 2008). Stayer Hall has sought certification from the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) green building rating system; this building is considered a Silver LEED.  A section of Landes was renovated, primarily for faculty offices, while the rest was torn down to create new classrooms for student and faculty interaction. 

This building is approximately 60,000 square feet of space designed for Pennsylvania’s future teachers. This building was created based on the fact that energy conservation also makes smart economic sense, especially considering that in the many years to come, this building will serve a vast number of students and faculty members. Stayer Hall also includes many sustainable materials that help the basis of this green initiative; these materials include (Millersville’s First…, 2008):

  • Ventilation and air conditioning systems
  • Energy Star compliant roof
  • Larger windows
  • Sun shades
  • Cabinets, counters, and window sills made out of MDF         
  • Recycled materials
  • Benches made out of MDF and recycled wood

The Armstrong Headquarters received a Platinum Certification from the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) green building rating system. This building, built in 1998, is only the sixth existing building to achieve the highest certification offered. In a PR Newswire article, CEO and Armstrong Chairman Michael D. Lockhart said, “Armstrong is committed to environmental sustainability. Modifying our headquarters building to enable it to be Platinum Certified is a concrete manifestation of that commitment. The Armstrong team that conceived and executed this project demonstrated that we can significantly reduce our impact on the environment by changing the way buildings are designed, built and used.” (PR Newswire, 2007)

Green Association of Central Pennsylvania

In 1997, designers and construction professionals created the Green Association of Central Pennsylvania to provide a more sustainable environment for our state. Through education, the Green Association of Central Pennsylvania's mission is to achieve a built environment with green building practices (, 2008). Among the many case studies that have been part of the green building initiative created by the Green Association of Central Pennsylvania are:

  • Clearview Elementary School (Hanover, PA)
  • Lower Windsor Township Municipal Building (Wrightsville, PA)
  • Olewine Nature Center at Wildwood (Harrisburg, PA)
  • Pennsylvania DEP South Central Regional Office Building  (Harrisburg, PA)
  • Southern York County Library (Shrewsbury, PA)
  • St. Stephen’s Episcopal K-8 School (Harrisburg, PA)
  • The Londonderry School (Harrisburg, PA)

Clearview Elementary School (Hanover, PA)
Clearview Elementary School received a Gold Certification from the United States Green Building Council’s LEED rating system. This building won first place at the 2003 NESEA Green Building Awards. The materials and resources used on this building that designated it as a Gold Rating include:

  • More than 75% of building materials contain high recycled content.
  • More than 40% of building materials are manufactured locally.
  • More than 75% of waste was diverted from land disposal from the Construction Waste Management Plant.
  • Fly Ash blended cement was displaced over 40% of Portland cement (, 2008).

Lower Windsor Township Municipal Building (Wrightsville, PA)
This building received a LEED Silver rating by the United States Green Building Council, and was completed in the summer of 2004. This municipal building accommodates the township’s administrative offices, Senior Center, police station, gymnasium and social hall. The Lower Windsor Township Municipal Building is known as the first “green” municipal building in Pennsylvania. Some of the materials and resources used include:

  • More than 60% of the materials were manufactured locally.
  • More than 32% of the building materials were harvested or extracted locally.
  • Recycled content made up more than 10% of the materials used (, 2008).     

Olewine Nature Center at Wildwood (Harrisburg, PA)
This nature center is much different than many other green buildings because it was designed to be constructed on the south end of Wildwood Lake, which is valued as a very exceptional wetlands area. Olewine Nature Center at Wildwood was constructed in 2000, and used sustainable features to reduce energy use, which included the use of recycled materials, minimizing site disturbance and the use of reused and natural materials. Some of the materials and resources they used include:

  • Recycled newspaper as wall insulation
  • FSC-certified structured lumber
  • Agricultural byproduct
  • Concrete blocks comprising 18% recycled fly ash
  • Reused and recycled materials made up the majority of the building (, 2008).

Pennsylvania DEP South Central Regional Office Building (Harrisburg, PA)
The Pennsylvania DEP South Central Regional Office Building received a LEED Bronze rating from the United States Building Council. Created in 1998, this building received the award-winning privilege of being the first green building in Pennsylvania. The focus of this project was to help focused, experienced private developers and the state agency to work together to create a state-of-the-art design, landmark green building. Some of the resources and materials used include:

  • Recycled carpeting
  • Recycled steel
  • Wood that was made up of agricultural fiber substitutes (, 2008)

Southern York County Library (Shrewsbury, PA)
The Southern York County Library, completed in November 2004, received a LEED certified rating by the United States Building Council. This building is run by a volunteer membership, showcases green design and includes community gardening efforts. Some of the resources and materials used include:

  • Recycled soda bottles make up the carpeting.
  • Recycled steel was used for the bookshelves.
  • Around 70% of the materials used were manufactured locally (, 2008).

St. Stephen’s Episcopal K-8 School (Harrisburg, PA)
The St. Stephen’s Episcopal K-8 School, created in 2004, received a LEED certified rating from the United States Building Council.  This green building was constructed much differently from the previous buildings; it was created on an urban downtown site, which did not require any type of building demolition. The original building was being used as a garage, which resulted in very little materials being discarded. There was not much construction needed on this building, but that does not mean that it is not as much of a green building as all of the other LEED rated buildings (, 2008).

The Londonderry School (Harrisburg, PA)
The Londonderry School was also created in 2004 and also received a LEED certified rating from the United States Building Council. This green building occupies 14 acres of land that are also being used to preserve and protect the natural habitat and the watershed while educating others about caring about the environment. The Londonderry School met all the requirements set by LEED.  Most schools are designed at a cost of $130 per square foot, but the Londonderry School was created at a cost of $100 per square foot. This green building was made purposely to provide spaces for multiple uses, which decreased its construction cost. Some of the resources and materials used to create this building include:

  • The hallways and floors were not created with any extra materials typically used in construction (most are clear-sealed without drywall).
  • Rapidly renewable and/or fast growth materials
  • Majority of the building comprises recycled materials.

All of these green buildings were created with sustainable and natural materials to produce beautiful, lasting products in our local communities. If we all work together and create more eco-friendly, sustainable buildings, we will be able to leave our own green footprints on the environment (, 2008).

LEED Green Buildings

The United States Green Building Council (USGBC) created a rating system known as Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED). This rating system is a program that helps encourage the global adoption of green building and development practices. LEED is a third-party certification program and the nationally accepted benchmark for the design of high-performance green buildings. A green building project must be registered with the USGBC and has to meet at least seven prerequisites in the following five categories. The LEED rating system awards up to 69 points in five different categories:

  • Water efficiency
  • Sustainable site
  • Energy atmosphere
  • Indoor and outdoor air quality
  • More sustainable materials and resources

There are also four different certification levels that each building must fall into:

  • Certification: 26 Points
  • Gold: 39 Points
  • Silver: 33 Points
  • Platinum: 52 Points (Nasis & Tola, 2003).

Many different people use the LEED program when building an environmentally safe construct, such as architects, construction managers, engineers, lenders and government officials, along with landscape architects. 

Many colleges and independent schools have applied for LEED certification. Education buildings are not the only upcoming constructions that are going green; companies and large businesses have decided to work with the United States Green Building Council in creating more sustainable buildings for communities in up to 41 countries around the world. LEED provides an eco-friendly approach that ensures the following (USGBC, 2008):

  • Sustainable and healthy site development
  • Energy efficiency
  • Water savings  
  • Indoor atmosphere quality

Green Building Carpentry

Creating an environmentally safe and family-friendly environment in your home could be the perfect project for you! The experience of producing a more sustainable atmosphere in your home will help lead your way toward making a positive influence on the earth. Consider these recommendations for making your home eco-friendly:

  • Products manufactured from rapidly renewing forests, such as bamboo, cork and eucalyptus are among the most beautiful and most sustainable types of flooring.
  • Long-lasting countertops made of stone and concrete tend to require less maintenance for cleaning; some concrete counters could also contain recycled materials.
  • Windows made out of recycled glass, along with doors made out of rapidly renewing wood, can help the home feel much more cozy.
  • Faucets, plumbing and fixtures can be mandated by the EPA to minimize the flow rate.
  • Paints containing volatile organic compounds (VOC) diminish air quality, while low- or even no-VOC paints help create a healthier atmosphere in the home (ToolBase Services, 2008).

Reasons for Creating Green Buildings

There are many reasons for building green, but the main one is that sustainable construction practices create a healthier and safer environment for a community.

Benefits of Green Building

The benefits of building green include:

  • Economic benefits
  • Health and productivity benefits
  • Community benefits
  • Environmental benefits
  • Social benefits

Community Benefits

As a community, people can work together to build a more sustainable environment for their families. There are different types of community buildings that can become green, such as the town hall, schools and community centers. Among the benefits are:

  • Municipal services reduced
  • Encouragement of community spirit, including companies coming together to help contractors in the surrounding community (Building Green, 2008)
  • Support of Lancaster farms: community joining with farmers to create a healthier atmosphere and positive growth
  • Reduced erosion and stormwater run-off (Nowlin, 2008)
  • Less automobile use, due in part to use of local and sustainable materials (Building Green, 2008)  

When communities come together and join in the use of more sustainable products, awareness is the key to change! Parents will be showing their children the new and better way live by using more environmentally friendly products. 

Health and Productivity Benefits

One of the most compelling and beneficial aspects to green building is developing a healthy environment in our homes and workplaces. There are many health and productivity benefits, such as:

  • Enhanced comfort
  • Improved health, including psychological benefits and improvements in chronic illnesses
  • Improved worker/homeowner productivity
  • Improved learning
  • Increased recovery from illness

All of these health benefits make green building a priority for those who want to create a more family-friendly and eco-friendly environment. Learning is the key to success, and awareness is the key to change, therefore it is crucial that people continue to learn the positive influences of this green building initiative (Building Green, 2008).

Economic Benefits

The growing recognition of sustainable practices, green products and high performance technologies in building design and construction includes tangible economic and public health benefits. The main economic benefits include:

  • Reduced operating costs
  • Improved employee/homeowner satisfaction
  • Enhanced asset value and profits
  • Reduced infrastructure costs: some companies reduce the costs of materials to help the green initiative. 
  • Reduced material use: material use should be at a minimum; disposal of construction waste has become a large incentive in many communities. 
  • Financial incentives: the LEED rating system is a government-funded program; some states offer tax credits and other financial benefits (Building Green, 2008).

Environmental Benefits

Environmental benefits are some of the most driving components of building green.  Consider:

  • Global warming reduced: Global warming refers to the increase in the average temperature of the Earth’s surface. Green buildings use less energy and so generate less carbon dioxide through operation. Since carbon dioxide is considered a key contributor to global warming, green building will therefore help reduce the increase in the Earth's average temperature.
  • Toxic emissions reduced: Different types of plastics used for constructing buildings emit dangerous toxins into the air. Green building uses sustainable products that are recycled and reclaimed, therefore reducing the toxic emissions into the air.
  • Saving biodiversity: Biodiversity is crucial to any type of environment. There is nothing more beautiful than seeing animals and other living organisms inhabit your backyard.  By using regular construction materials and practices we are killing the biodiversity that we love! It is time that we give back to biodiversity by using sustainable green building practices; we will help save the many different types of species living all around us!
  • Reduced energy consumption: Transportation is usually minimized during green building initiatives because contracting companies work together to help decrease the amount transportation while using sustainable materials on construction sites (Building Green, 2008).

Social Benefits

The social and community benefits of green building tend to go hand-in-hand:

  • Environmental awareness
  • Sustainable economies
  • Support of local companies

Awareness is the key to change. If many different societies and communities can come together and use this green building initiative, we could all benefit from using recycled, reclaimed and sustainable materials to create our environment. Builders must work hard to teach consumers why the expenses of the green building initiative can be worthwhile, and how many green innovations can be done for very little money. Also, if teachers add lessons about building green to their curriculum, children will have a larger perception on this green initiative (Whelan, 2007). Being a part of a green building project can be a learning experience for anyone (Moore, 2008).

Green building expands into the greater community and also into the economy. Green building can lead to the support of local companies and efforts toward creating a healthier environment. The building green initiative produces a positive public image for local communities in Lancaster. When local companies are involved in creating a more natural environment, more community members will want to help support their cause. With more support from local communities, the expansion of the green building initiative will continue (Building Green, 2008).

Environmental Impact

Many communities are using the green building initiatives to enhance the environment around them. For example, you and your family could enjoy some of these common environmental benefits:

  • Overall environmental sustainability
  • Preserving local watersheds
  • Preserving ecosystems
  • Preserving natural habitats
  • Protect air and water quality
  • Conserve natural resources

Industrial Impact

Along with the environmental impact, the green building initiative also has an industrial impact on our society. As previously mentioned, many people can be involved in green buildings, such as architects, contractors, engineers, lenders and government officials. They can all benefit from the industrial impact of green building:           

  • Use of local resources
  • Reduce greenhouse gas emissions
  • Support of local companies
  • Support of Lancaster farms
  • Municipal services reduced
  • Reduced automobile use
  • Reduced economic expenditures

Green building includes using both sun and site to the building’s advantage for natural heating, cooling and daylighting; landscaping; building durable structures; reducing and recycling construction and demolition waste; using healthy products and building practices; and using energy-efficient and water-saving appliances and fixtures.

Conclusion: Leaving Green Footprints

In conclusion, the building green initiative benefits everyone and every environment involved. Your next step is to become a part of this eco-friendly initiative of green building. Green building is an environmentally safe initiative that helps provide opportunities for people to use recycled, reclaimed, sustainable and natural materials to produce beautiful, lasting products and spaces in your home!

 Content by Amanda Erb

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