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Green practices that seek to reduce impact on the earth include the construction of environmentally-friendly buildings. Made from sustainable products and designed to be energy-efficient, they ideally waste fewer resources and contribute to the health and well-being of workers within the building. Environmentally-friendly design can earn Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design (LEED) certification. A well-designed and executed green building must also be a functional.
Building environmentally-friendly buildings starts with sustainable and low-emission materials. Lumber that is certified by the Forestry Stewardship Council (FSC) Construction has been responsibly harvested. Using building products such as formaldehyde-free particle board and linoleum instead of vinyl flooring reduces emissions that can compromise air quality and cause health problems. Sealants and paints without volatile organic compounds (VOCs) do their part to keep air clean.
Energy consumption by a large office building can be considerable. Resourceful utility planning is important in maintaining environmentally-friendly buildings. Natural lighting and ventilation as well as low-VOC seals on any gaps will save energy spent on heating and cooling. Xeriscape landscaping outside and low-flow toilets inside cut back on water usage. Using fluorescent lighting that offers rebates for energy savings will not only lower utility bills but also put some of the investment back into the building.
In caring for environmentally-friendly buildings, non-toxic cleaners and regular maintenance of carpets contribute to healthy indoor air quality. Plants which remove toxins from their environment do so as well, and they add a restful, natural quality to the décor. For any infestations, facilities managers can contact pest control companies that advertise alternative methods and do not use harmful chemicals that make workers sick.
LEED points accrue due to criteria developed by the US Green Building Council. There must be a certain number attained before LEED certification can be awarded. Construction site pollution prevention, energy performance, and low-emitting products, including lumber, paint, or flooring, are considered. Conforming to these standards is a desirable marketing point for architecture and construction firms as well as manufacturers who produce building components.
In the push for green construction in environmentally-friendly buildings, it sometimes gets forgotten that the building in question must be usable by those who will be working within. For example, the Federal Building at Seventh and Mission Streets in San Francisco, California, in the United States used innovative green design that has impacted its functionality. The building has had numerous problems with climate control and elevators which stop only at odd floors. Poor conditions for workers call the efficacy of its green design into question.