Introduction to sustainable building

Note from Michael: The following article is an excerpt from the free ebook – Sustainable Building 101, which can be requested from the nice folks at

Why Build Sustainably?

Sustainable building is a dying art. It is dying because soon it will be the new standard for how we construct buildings, both commercial and residential. So it behooves those in the design and construction industries to learn and implement these strategies now, before they are mandated.

There are several reasons to build sustainably. Not the least of which are the rising cost of fuel, the depletion of our natural resources, and pollution and global warming.

Here are some more reasons:

1. As was mentioned above, there are several environmental benefits to sustainable building. They include reducing carbon emissions, waste reduction, and renewing and preserving natural resources.

2. Buildings built sustainably have better indoor air quality. The reduced level of allergens and toxins in the indoor environment helps people feel better. Studies have shown this leads to increased productivity and feelings of well-being in work environments.

3. Sustainable materials are comparable in quality to their non-sustainable counterparts. Often they are even more durable and/or have other characteristics that make them more desirable. For example, cork is naturally antimicrobial, making it perfect for kitchen and bathroom flooring.

4. Sustainable buildings are generally more energy efficient than their traditional cousins (up to 40% or more). Better systems design, proper equipment sizing, and a tightly sealed building all contribute to a reduced need for heating and cooling. With energy costs increasing, the amount of savings will only grow over time.

5. Many states and local utilities have programs offering tax credits and rebates for sustainable building components. Oregon has tax credit programs for both commercial and residential buildings. Portland General Electric and NW Natural Gas offer rebates for energy efficient installations and retrofits. Other local utilities have their own programs, so check with them for details. With these incentives, house owners and builders could receive $2,000-3,000 back for building sustainably, and commercial building owners could see $200,000-300,000. (Note that these numbers are estimates only, and depend upon the amount of sustainable measures included in a building, the size of the building, and the building use.) The federal government also offers tax credits for certain equipment installations.

6. The real estate market is slowly beginning to recognize the increased value of sustainable buildings. Several studies have shown that commercial spaces in green buildings receive higher lease rates and have lower vacancies. The industry is currently working on developing the metrics to include sustainability when determining the value of buildings. Listing services exclusively for green buildings are now being developed as well.

With all these benefits, it is amazing that anyone would want to build any differently. But, there is a lot of misinformation out there about what sustainable construction involves and what its costs and benefits really are.

Green Building 101 explores some of the general strategies used in sustainable or “green” building and includes resources at the end of the book for those who want more information. Topics in the ebook cover:

Indoor Air Quality
Construction Procedures

The  free ebook can be requested by visiting