Sustainable architecture

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Learn about sustainable architecture and why it matters for small business.

Green building is the practice of increasing the efficiency with which buildings and their sites use energy, water and materials to minimize environmental impacts.

By 2015, the amount spent on green building is going to more than double:

$71 billion (currently) —— $163 billion (2015).

In the United States, buildings account for:

39 percent of energy use

68 percent of electricity consumption

30 percent of landfill waste

38 percent of CO2 emissions

12 percent of water consumption

The cost of green

On average, each $4 per square foot green building investment can save $58 per square foot over 20 years.

Say “green design,” and what comes to mind?

Interior space optimized with smart design.

High-performance windows facing the sun.

South-facing, full length windows.

Tightly sealed construction.

Roofs sloped at 40 to 55 degrees for energy absorption.

Solar water heating.

High levels of insulation.

Buy recycled

Examples of construction materials that can be readily found with recycled content include:

  • Plastic lumber
  • Drywall
  • Kitchen countertops
  • Steel
  • Glass tiles
  • Landscaping materials
  • Insulation
  • Carpet and carpet padding

Fast facts

Concrete, metals, glass, brick and plastics can all be produced with some form of the previously used material, and this process of production lowers the energy requirement and emissions by up to 90 percent in most cases.

In an average year, the world uses nearly three tons of concrete for every man, woman and child. The only material that we use more than concrete is water.

Over 65 percent of the steel produced in the U.S. is recycled into new steel every year. One ton of recycled steel saves 2,500 pounds of iron ore, 1,400 pounds of coal, and 120 pounds of limestone.

The amount of wood and paper we throw away each year is enough to heat 50 million homes for 20 years.

Why build green?



  • Emissions reduction
  • Water conservation
  • Storm water management
  • Temperature moderation
  • Waste reduction


  • Energy and water savings
  • Lower utility demand
  • Reduced building costs
  • Increased property values
  • Decreased infrastructure strain
  • Tax benefits


  • Improved health and productivity
  • Improved quality of life
  • Green bragging rights
  • Better sustainable conscience

Why does the average buyer build green?

Environmental – 12 percent

Economic – 17 percent

Social/Health – 42 percent

Look For LEED

Many structures can contain green building materials and attributes but may not technically qualify as green. LEED (Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design) is the nationally accepted rating system for commercial and institutional green buildings. The program helps establish a standard measurement for green building.

Certified green buildings can…

Attract tenants

Increase rental/resale value

Provide a more productive space

Still not convinced about the benefits of green building? Read WHY BUILD GREEN? Payback is a lot quicker than most people think>>

This article originally appeared on Line//Shape//Space, a blog from Autodesk dedicated to helping designers, drafters, and animators succeed in their small businesses.

Photo by Skitterphoto from Pexels