According to the Global Alliance for Buildings and Construction (GlobalABC), global building emissions in 2019 were 9.7 gigatons of carbon dioxide (GtCO2). Which was 39% of global energy-related CO2 emissions. U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) also reported that buildings were responsible for 39% of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions in the United States that year. Preliminary data from GlobalABC suggest that global building emissions increased by 2% in 2021 compared to 2019 levels, making them a significant contributor to climate change. We will further explore Sustainable Construction in this context.
Enhancing Sustainable Construction
Escalated threats of climate change and resource depletion have put the construction and operation of buildings under scrutiny, leading to a critical paradigm shift in the field of architecture and construction. Green buildings and sustainable construction have emerged as a holistic approach to mitigating environmental impacts and enhancing overall sustainability.
While the terms "green" and "environment-friendly" are often used interchangeably, green buildings, environment-friendly buildings, and net zero buildings have distinct meanings despite being related concepts.
The primary goal of green buildings is to strike a balance between human comfort, resource efficiency, and environmental preservation. Such buildings are designed and constructed with the explicit intention of minimising negative environmental impact throughout their lifecycle. This extends beyond energy efficiency or reduction of greenhouse gas emissions and encompasses considerations ranging from site selection and materials sourcing to energy consumption, water usage, indoor air quality, and even the well-being of occupants.
Distinguishing Green Buildings from Environment-Friendly Buildings and Net Zero Buildings
Green buildings are designed and operated to minimise their environmental impact. They use less energy and water, produce less waste, and are made from sustainable materials. Green buildings can also provide benefits like increased comfort, improved indoor air quality and reduced operating costs. Examples include LEED-certified or Energy Star-certified buildings.
Environment-friendly buildings are a broader term that refers to any building that has a positive impact on the environment. This can include green buildings, as well as other buildings designed only to protect or enhance biodiversity, conserve natural resources, or reduce pollution. Such buildings primarily focus on minimising harm to the environment, often through the use of low-impact materials and energy-efficient technologies. These buildings employ sustainable practices but lack the comprehensive approach and ambitious scope adopted in green buildings. They not only aim to reduce negative environmental impacts but also to actively contribute to environmental regeneration by embracing principles of sustainability that encompass resource conservation, biodiversity, energy efficiency and even social equity. Some examples include buildings with green roofs or rainwater harvesting systems and buildings that use recycled materials.
Net Zero Buildings
Net zero buildings are a type of green building that – like green buildings – prioritise environmental sustainability but do so with a specific focus on achieving net-zero energy consumption and producing as much energy as they consume over the course of a year. This means that the building does not generate any net greenhouse gas emissions. Net zero buildings can be achieved through a combination of energy efficiency measures, renewable energy generation, and carbon offsetting. While green buildings strive for resource efficiency and holistic sustainability, net-zero buildings are primarily concerned with energy balance. Buildings that generate their own energy from renewable sources and even buildings that offset their energy consumption with carbon credits are examples of this type.
Green Building as Sustainable Construction
Thus, we see that green buildings represent a pivotal approach to sustainable construction that transcends mere environment-friendly or net-zero strategies. They are characterised by their comprehensive commitment to minimising environmental impact across all phases of the building's lifecycle. While environment-friendly buildings primarily aim to reduce harm to the environment, green buildings actively seek to enhance environmental regeneration and promote holistic sustainability. On the other hand, net-zero buildings focus exclusively on achieving a net-zero energy balance, which does not encompass the broader spectrum of sustainability integration addressed by green buildings.
Benefits of Green Buildings
Reduced environmental impact: Green buildings result in sustainable construction as they use less energy and water, produce less waste, and are made from sustainable materials. This can help to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, conserve natural resources, and protect air and water quality.
Improved indoor air quality through ventilation systems that filter out pollutants and materials that do not emit harmful fumes, leading to improved health and well-being for occupants.
Increased occupant comfort using features such as natural light, good ventilation, and thermal comfort.
Reduced operating costs: Savings on energy and water bills, as well as maintenance and repair costs.
In an era of increasing environmental challenges, green buildings stand as a beacon of innovation, demonstrating that sustainable construction can harmoniously integrate human comfort, resource efficiency, and environmental stewardship.
The demand for green buildings is growing rapidly due to various factors, including the rising cost of energy, the increasing awareness of the environmental impact of buildings, and the growing demand for sustainable living.
Green Building Certification Systems
Several major green building certification systems are in vogue globally to assess and recognise buildings that meet specific sustainability criteria. These certification systems provide valuable frameworks for measuring a building's environmental performance and guiding sustainable building practices, allowing project teams to benchmark their projects against established sustainability criteria. These include criteria related to energy efficiency, water conservation, materials usage, indoor air quality, and more. The following are some of the major green building certification systems in vogue:
Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design - LEED
LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design): LEED is the most widely used green building certification system in the world. It is administered by the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) and covers a wide range of environmental performance criteria, including energy efficiency, water conservation, indoor air quality, and sustainable materials.
LEED offers different rating systems for various building types, such as LEED for Building Design and Construction (BD+C), LEED for Interior Design and Construction (ID+C), and LEED for Operations and Maintenance (O+M). For certification, points are given across various sustainability categories, including energy efficiency, water efficiency, materials and resources, indoor environmental quality, and innovation.
Building Research Establishment Environmental Assessment Method - BREEAM
BREEAM (Building Research Establishment Environmental Assessment Method): BREEAM is a green building certification system developed by the Building Research Establishment in the United Kingdom. It is similar to LEED in that it covers a wide range of environmental performance criteria.
It assesses buildings based on criteria related to energy and water usage, materials selection, site ecology, health and well-being, and management processes. BREEAM has multiple variants for different building types, such as BREEAM New Construction, BREEAM In-Use, and BREEAM Refurbishment and Fit-out.
WELL Building Standard
WELL Building Standard: The WELL Building Standard is a green building certification system that focuses on occupant health and well-being. It is administered by the U.S.-based non-profit organisation, International WELL Building Institute (IWBI). It covers a variety of criteria related to indoor air quality, thermal comfort, acoustics, lighting, and access to nature. WELL certification complements other green building certifications by emphasising the human experience within buildings.
Living Building Challenge
The Living Building Challenge is a green building certification system that is considered to be the most rigorous in the world. It is administered by the U.S.-based non-profit organisation, International Living Future Institute (ILFI). It requires buildings to meet a number of challenging performance criteria, including net zero energy consumption, net zero water consumption, and net zero waste production. Living Building Challenge projects aim to be regenerative, giving more back to the environment than they take.
Deutsche Gesellschaft für Nachhaltiges Bauen - DGNB
DGNB (Deutsche Gesellschaft für Nachhaltiges Bauen - German Sustainable Building Council): The DGNB certification system is administered by the German Sustainable Building Council. It is a holistic system that assesses the sustainability of buildings across a wide range of criteria, including environmental performance, social and economic benefits, and quality of life. It is one of the most widely used green building certification systems in Europe, and it is also gaining popularity in other parts of the world.
Global ESG Benchmark for Real Assets - GRESB
GRESB (Global ESG Benchmark for Real Assets) is administered by GRESB BV, a benefit corporation headquartered in Amsterdam, Netherlands and owned by Summit Partners, a private equity firm registered in the United States with their headquarters in Boston, Massachusetts.
GRESB BV develops and maintains the GRESB Assessments, provides benchmarks and promotes widespread adoption of the GRESB Standards. While not a building certification system per se, GRESB assesses the environmental, social, and governance (ESG) performance of real estate portfolios, including individual buildings, office buildings, retail centres, industrial facilities, and data centres.
ESG Analysis | ESG Factors
The GRESB Assessments cover a wide range of ESG factors, including energy efficiency, water conservation, waste management, social responsibility, and governance. It focuses on sustainability practices in real estate and is widely used by investors to evaluate the sustainability performance of property investments. GRESB is one of the most widely used ESG benchmarking and reporting frameworks for real assets. It is used by over 1,500 real estate funds, property companies, and investors around the world.
In addition to these major green building certification systems, there are also a number of regional and national certification systems. For example, the Green Globes certification system is popular in Canada, the China Green Building Evaluation Standard is popular in China, and the Green Star is the primary green building certification system in Australia.
Green Buildings and the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)
The United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are a collection of 17 goals that aim to create a more sustainable future for all. Green buildings directly align with several SDGs, making them a crucial component of sustainable development. Green buildings can play a significant role in achieving many of the SDGs, including:
SDG 3: Good Health and Well-being
Green buildings prioritise indoor air quality, natural lighting, and thermal comfort, creating healthier living and working environments. These contribute to better physical and mental health, aligning with the goal of ensuring good health and well-being for all.
SDG 6: Clean Water and Sanitation
Through efficient water management systems, including rainwater harvesting and greywater recycling, green buildings reduce water consumption and promote clean water and sanitation.
SDG 7: Affordable and Clean Energy
Green buildings prioritise energy efficiency and often incorporate renewable energy sources such as solar panels and wind turbines. By reducing energy consumption and reliance on fossil fuels, they contribute significantly to achieving universal access to affordable, reliable, sustainable, and modern energy.
SDG 9: Industry, Innovation, and Infrastructure
The adoption of green building technologies and practices fosters innovation in the construction industry, creating opportunities for sustainable economic growth and infrastructure development.
SDG 11: Sustainable Cities and Communities
Green buildings promote sustainable urban development by reducing resource consumption, improving air and water quality, and enhancing overall liveability. They help create cities and communities that are inclusive, safe, resilient, and sustainable.
SDG 12: Responsible Consumption and Production
Green buildings exemplify sustainable consumption and production patterns by using eco-friendly materials, minimising waste during construction, and prolonging the life of the building through efficient design and maintenance. Green buildings can help to reduce the consumption of resources and the production of waste. They can also help to promote the use of recycled and sustainable materials. This aligns with the goal of ensuring sustainable consumption and production patterns.
SDG 13: Climate Action | Impacts of Climate Change
Perhaps the most significant contribution of green buildings is their impact on mitigating climate change. By reducing greenhouse gas emissions and promoting carbon-neutral or carbon-positive designs, they are instrumental in achieving the objectives of climate action by helping to mitigate climate change through reduced GHG emissions and improving energy efficiency.
SDG 15: Life on Land
Green buildings can help to create a more sustainable and liveable world for all by Reducing GHG emissions, conserving resources like water and energy, leading to biodiversity protection and reduced land degradation, and using sustainable materials and construction methods leading to minimised environmental impact.
Correlation of Green Buildings with Project Management
Project management is the application of knowledge, skills, tools, and techniques to project activities to meet the project requirements. Green buildings are complex projects that require meticulous planning, coordination, and execution to ensure sustainability goals are met. Project management can help to ensure that green buildings are completed to the required specifications regarding time and budget.
The successful realisation of green buildings requires effective project management practices that accommodate their unique challenges and objectives. One should recognise that project management for green buildings is a specialised discipline that requires a deep understanding of sustainability principles, interdisciplinary coordination, and a focus on long-term performance. Successful project management in this context ensures that green buildings meet their sustainability goals while staying on budget and on schedule.
Project Management for Green Buildings
Some specific ways that project management can be used to support green building projects include:
Developing a project plan: The project plan should identify the project goals, objectives, scope, schedule, budget, and risks. It should also identify the resources that will be needed to complete the project and the roles and responsibilities of the project team members.
Lifecycle Assessment: Green building project management extends beyond construction to consider the entire lifecycle of the building, including operation and maintenance. Effective project management includes planning for ongoing sustainability practices and monitoring building performance post-construction.
Managing project risks: Green building projects face a number of unique risks, such as the availability of sustainable materials and the availability of qualified green building professionals. Project management can help to identify and mitigate these risks.
Coordinating the project team: Green building projects typically involve a large and diverse team of interdisciplinary teams of architects, engineers, sustainability consultants, and contractors. Project management can help coordinate the activities of the project team and facilitate seamless communication and collaboration among these experts to ensure that sustainability objectives are integrated into every aspect of the project so that everyone is working towards the same goals.
Budget and Resource Management: Sustainability features in green buildings can sometimes require higher upfront costs. Effective project management involves budgeting for sustainable materials and technologies, managing procurement processes, and optimising resource allocation to ensure cost-effectiveness.
Certification and Compliance: Many green building projects seek certification through programs like LEED, BREEAM, etc. Project managers are responsible for navigating the certification process and ensuring compliance with specific sustainability standards.
Stakeholder Engagement: Green building projects often involve multiple stakeholders, including owners, occupants, regulatory bodies, and the community. Project managers must engage with these stakeholders to align expectations and promote sustainability objectives.
Sustainability Goals and Metrics: Project management for green buildings requires setting clear sustainability goals and performance metrics from the outset. These goals might include energy efficiency targets, water conservation measures, or materials sourcing requirements. Project managers must ensure that these goals are understood and adhered to throughout the project lifecycle.
Project Professionals: How to Contribute to Fostering Green Buildings
Project professionals, including project managers, architects, engineers, and construction managers, play a crucial role in fostering green buildings. Their expertise and leadership can drive the adoption of sustainable practices, enhance project efficiency, and ensure that green building goals are met. They can contribute to the development of green buildings in a number of ways, including:
Educating themselves about green building: Project professionals should educate themselves about green building principles and practices. This can help them to identify and implement green building strategies on their projects.
Working with green building professionals: Project professionals should work with green building professionals, such as architects, engineers, and contractors who have experience with green building. This can help to ensure that the project is designed and constructed in a sustainable way.
Using green building materials and technologies: Project professionals should use green building materials and technologies on their projects. This can help to reduce the environmental impact of the project and improve its performance.
Work with the project team to identify and implement green building strategies, such as energy efficiency measures, water conservation measures, and the use of recycled materials.
Advocating for green building: Project professionals can advocate for green building by promoting green building principles and practices to their clients and the general public and educating them about the benefits of green building.
Promote green building best practices to colleagues in the project professionals’ fraternity by sharing knowledge and experiences to promote sustainability.
Participate in industry associations and organisations focused on sustainable construction.
Significance of Commitment to Foster Green Buildings
The leadership and commitment of project professionals can contribute significantly to fostering green buildings. By actively incorporating the following practices into their roles, they can help drive positive environmental, economic, and social impacts in the construction industry and contribute to a more sustainable built environment.
Early Integration of Sustainability Goals: Project managers should work closely with stakeholders to define clear sustainability objectives from the project's inception and collaborate with architects and designers to integrate green building principles into the project's conceptual and schematic design phases.
Selecting Sustainable Materials and Technologies: They should identify and incorporate innovative green building technologies, such as energy-efficient HVAC systems, renewable energy sources, water-saving fixtures and eco-friendly materials with low environmental impact.
Sustainability Assessments and Certifications: They should make the project team familiar with and motivate them to adhere to green building certification standards, such as LEED, BREEAM, or local equivalents. They should ensure due documentation and reporting processes required for certification.
Energy Efficiency and Resource Management: They should implement energy-efficient construction practices, such as proper insulation, efficient lighting, and control systems. Further, they need to promote resource conservation by minimising construction waste and optimising resource usage.
Project Execution and Quality Control: It is essential on their part to enforce sustainability requirements during construction and closely monitor compliance by also conducting quality checks to ensure that green building features are properly installed and functional.
Commissioning and Post-Occupancy Evaluation: Project professionals should oversee the commissioning process to ensure that all building systems are functioning as intended and collaborate with facility managers to monitor and optimise building performance during the occupancy phase
Continuous Learning and Adaptation: Project professionals should stay updated on evolving green building technologies and practices. Within the project team, they should encourage a culture of continuous improvement and adaptation.
Monitoring and Reporting: They should implement systems for monitoring and reporting sustainability metrics, such as energy consumption, water usage, and waste diversion.
By actively incorporating these practices into their roles, project professionals can contribute significantly to fostering green buildings.
Green buildings offer a promising pathway towards a more sustainable future. These can help to reduce environmental impact, improve health and well-being, and create more liveable communities. Project management plays a vital role in ensuring that green buildings are successfully delivered. By applying project management principles and practices, we can ensure that green buildings are constructed to the highest standards of sustainability and performance.
In addition to the project management best practices discussed above, it is also important to foster a culture of collaboration and innovation within the project team. This will help to ensure that everyone is working towards the same goals and that new and innovative solutions are explored to achieve sustainability objectives.
As the world transitions towards a more sustainable future, green buildings will play an increasingly important role. By embracing green building principles and practices, project managers can help to create a better future for all.