The construction and operation of building projects have significant direct and indirect impacts on the environment. Buildings use resources such as energy, water and raw materials, while generating waste (occupant, construction and demolition), and emitting potentially harmful atmospheric emissions. Building owners, designers, and builders face a challenge to meet demands for new and renovated facilities that are accessible, secure, healthy, and productive while minimizing their impact on the environment.
The following EPA chart shows the extent of some of these impacts.
Source: EPA, 2004
This challenge calls for an integrated, synergistic approach that considers all phases of the facility life cycle. This approach, often called "sustainable design," supports an increased commitment to environmental stewardship and conservation, and results in an optimal balance of cost, environmental, societal, and human benefits while meeting the intended functions of the facility or infrastructure.
While the definition of sustainable building design is constantly changing, six fundamental principles frequently surface as guiding principles:
Thoughtful site selection
Optimize the use of energy
Optimize the use of Water
Thoughtful selection and use of materials and resources