The 3 E’s of Sustainability
The 3 E-s of Sustainability – Environment, Economy, and Equity – serve as the guiding principles of sustainable building design. Each of the three must be carefully considered and are essential to the success of any sustainable building project.
Green building programs and policies do by definition promote the environment. Green building design strives to reduce the energy consumption of buildings and to make sure the energy that does need to be used is as renewable as possible. Green buildings should also address storm water runoff and reduce the amount of water treatment that would generally be necessary to support a similar conventionally built building. Green buildings introduce less hazardous materials into the built environment that are responsibly sourced and sustainably produced. Green building programs take into account the entire life-cycle of a project in order to better insure that the environment is considered from project conception to deconstruction and should attempt to protect undeveloped land whenever possible.
Additionally, green buildings take into consideration their impact on important, site specific environmental concerns. Green building professionals must assess their impact on local ecosystems and wildlife and help to insure that they are monitored and protected throughout the entire life-cycle of the project. Wetlands, floodplains, and bird migrations are among the many different things that must be analyzed before construction. Green building policies can help to show communities how important these ideas are by making certain sustainable design techniques mandatory through local legislation. These policies are capable of making real and fast market transformations by pushing the industry in the right direction. This can speed up the economy of scale across the industry and inspire the discovery of new technologies.
Green building programs help to support the economy by providing a more efficient solution to traditional building practices. An integrative design process can improve the synergy between disciplines and reduce the resources spent on fixing problems that occur from a separated design process where architects, engineers, consultants, and planners work in parallel and bring results together at the end.
Most obviously, green building projects support the economy by reducing operating costs and sometimes creating a surplus in renewable energies that can often be sold back to the grid at optimal times. Intelligent and comprehensive designs can simply reduce the amount of material used on a project.
Green building policies can create economic incentives for green building programs. This helps to subsidize good ideas that may not economically viable due to market pressure from established companies that benefit from traditional building methods.
Green building programs and policies should help insure that sustainably built buildings are not isolated to any particular region, economic condition, or culture. Green building programs are not designed solely for the rich nor for the poor, and should be accessible to anyone who wants to participate in creating a more sustainable planet. All aspects of society should benefit from green building programs, and social health concerns should be outlined in the initial project goals and considered of the utmost importance. Policy plays a large role in insuring the equity of green building programs by requiring designers and investors to build for a diverse population whether they’d like to or not.