Green Building and Sustainable Living

Do you want to substantially reduce your environmental impact and improve the value and comfort of your home?

Through green building, people can reduce energy and water use, save resources, and ultimately improve indoor air quality in their homes and businesses. Green building incorporates a “whole home approach”, as every aspect of the building will be considered, including:

• Site design (e.g. efficient use of space and natural landscaping)
• Water and energy-use (e.g. improvements to energy and water efficiency)
• Indoor environmental quality (e.g. use of non-toxic products and good ventilation)
• Materials, resources, and waste (e.g. using renewable materials and recycling construction waste when appropriate).

There are many resources available to help with your green building project. Contra Costa County created a list of green building materials manufacturers so that you can find sustainable products to support your green remodel or new construction. Another great local green building resource is Build it Green. Build it Green is a non-profit that provides information on everything relating to green building—from green product and certified professionals directories to information on utility rebates and incentives. Build it Green has also established the GreenPoint Rated program, which certifies that your home remodel was built to sound environmental standards.

To ensure green building standards are met, there are certain product certifications to look for, including:

ENERGY STAR certification helps to reduce greenhouse gas emissions through energy efficiency. The ENERGY STAR label can be earned through third-party certification for products, homes, commercial buildings, and power plants.
• WaterSense certification ensures that products with the WaterSense label are more water efficient and will ultimately save money.
• Forest Stewardship Council certification ensures that wood products are from forests that are managed sustainably.
• Green Seal certification is a non-profit created program that is helping people and businesses identify products and services that are healthier and less toxic for people and the environment.

LEED certification is a building certification system often used for commercial or other businesses. It is a well-known green building certification system, which has different thresholds for each type of project. Though many LEED certified buildings are commercial or other businesses, there are certification options for residences as well. LEED certification has four different levels (Certified, Silver, Gold, and Platinum), which are dependent on the number of points your project receives. To find out more about the certification process, check the US Green Building Council’s LEED certification page: http://www.usgbc.org/certification

Here’s a look at some successful LEED certified green building projects in Contra Costa County:

Atria Valley View Senior Living Center, which is located in Walnut Creek, took on green renovation projects to improve the environmental quality for residents and to help reduce the environmental impacts of the building. Atria Valley View has incorporated innovative designs into the building and it has water efficient landscaping, low-emitting products, among other sustainable aspects. In 2012, Atria Valley View reached Silver LEED certification for the new construction.

Villa Sobrante, a 2013 Contra Costa Green Building award winner, is a residential remodel located in El Sobrante. The residence incorporated sustainability into every aspect of the design including increased energy efficiency, rainwater catchment systems, and the use of non-toxic materials and renewable resources.

If you would like to nominate an architect, builder, or owner of a green building in Contra Costa County for our Green Building Awards, please visit:  http://www.sustainablecoco.org/greenbuildingawards

Next year maybe you will be among our nominations or a winner at the Contra Costa Green Building Awards!

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