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Environmental Sense

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Energy efficiency

Buildings account for 35 percent of U.S. energy use and over 60 percent of electricity demand. Green homes consistently use a third less energy, making energy efficiency the cornerstone of high performance building projects. The savings to owners and residents matter even more on the budgets of affordable housing, particularly since gas and electricity prices are only rising.

An efficient home that keeps residents cool in the summer and warm in the winter begins with smart design. The sun can provide free heat and light, and trees shade buildings in the warm months. Add a building envelope that insulates well, and heating and cooling systems will not have to work as hard. Builders can even save money by reducing the size of equipment while making residents more comfortable. Bills will be lower, as will demand for electricity from polluting power plants. The building does more with less and that does its part to cut global warming emissions. Go to the Energy Efficiency page.

Clean air and water

You can best address on-site environmental issues by helping developers conserve water, manage stormwater runoff, and eliminate air pollutants and toxins. Switching to water-efficient building systems and appliances can cut use, and bills, by at least 20 percent. Site improvements to control sewer overflows during storms will have an even greater effect on water quality in our area, particularly the Anacostia and Potomac Rivers and Rock Creek. Replacing pavement with landscaped areas keeps stormwater on site and adds beauty and shade. Making the built environmental function like a forest also cleans the air and gives kids a place to play and explore. Go to the Water Savings and Zero Net Impact pages.

The Washington, D.C. metropolitan area is struggling to meet air quality standards. Help keep asthma at bay by minimizing indoor air pollution and ground level ozone. Encourage the use of healthy materials that keep dust and allergens out and that do not release VOCs. These are now widely available at competitive prices. Combined with a high performance building envelope and good ventilation, they boost residents' health. And when governments prioritize mixed-use and transit-oriented development, people can leave their polluting cars behind and enjoy a more active lifestyle. Go to the Healthier Homes and Zero Net Impact pages.

Natural resource conservation

Building materials run up a hidden bill of habitat and biodiversity loss, contain the "embodied energy" used to harvest and transport them around the globe, and contribute to pollution through manufacturing, distribution, and waste disposal. You can address each of these impacts with policies that push builders to adopt cost effective measures that will reduce trash headed to the landfill and create entry-level jobs. Choosing salvaged and recycled-content materials opens up a world of high-quality options. Purchasing from local manufacturers cuts transportation costs. Materials-efficient design and building techniques save money and labor. Reuse and recycling of construction debris can reduce waste by 70 percent or more. Markets for all of these products and services are growing fast, and can bring jobs to the region if governments and builders embrace them. Go to the Zero Net Impact page.

Green neighborhoods

Affordable green neighborhoods are the fundamental building block of vibrant, healthy cities: cities that reduce our impact on the environment, generate new engines for economic growth, and maximize our quality of life, especially for those most economically challenged. Efforts to build with the environment can be part of larger community-wide plans. When we embrace sustainable infrastructure designs, preserve natural features, and extend easy access to key amenities like transit and retail, our neighborhoods and cities will be more than places to live; they will become places to grow. Go to the Leveraging Natural Capital page.

In this Section:

Energy efficiency

Of all the benefits of building green, energy efficiency holds the greatest payoff. Lower energy use reduces air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions, while residents watch utility bills drop. A...

Healthier homes

Making affordable housing--the place where individuals and families will spend an average of at least eight hours each day--healthy should be your top priority. Green building gives you the tools...

Water savings

By improving water use efficiency and reducing stormwater runoff, we can help clean up D.C.'s polluted rivers and take pressure off our stressed public water system, while significantly reducing residents'...

Zero Net Impact

Building green always comes back to the issue of reducing our impact on the environment and on our health. Today's most widely adopted green building standards cut energy and water...

Leveraging Natural Capital

Green neighborhoods offer a blueprint for development that works with natural systems to create value for the resident, the builder, and the community. Green building takes advantage of nature's efficiencies:...