Pollution Prevention and Residential Construction- Background and Overview
Residential Construction: Background and Overview
The 2002 construction statistics
from the U.S. Census Bureau indicates that residential construction represents
approximately 49% of the value of building construction in America, or over
$336 billion. In the United States, there are:
- nearly 80 million residential
buildings (Source: http://www.sustainable.doe.gov/buildings/gbintro.shtml),
- an average of almost
1,600,000 residential units built each year; approximately 78% contain single
residences and the remaining units containing multiple residences. Source:
National Association of Home Builders, Units Completed 2002
Home construction and long-term
operation require a tremendous amount of resources. With the average square
footage of homes doubling from the 1940s and 1950s to 1999, more resources are
used to build and operate them.
- Building construction
and operation is accountable for one-third of all energy use in the United
States. Source: U.S.
Department of Energy
- Construction oftens
degrade water quality in streams, wetlands, and groundwater near construction
- Plumbing and appliances
contribute to large amounts of water use within the home. One study indicates
that between the years 1900 and 2000, residents increased per person water
consumption from 5 gallons a day to 62 gallons a day. Source: Pennsylvania
Department of Environmental Protection
- As estimated in 1996,
43% (58 million tons per year) of construction and demolition (C&D) debris
is generated from residential construction, renovation and demolition. This
material often ends up in landfills where it occupies space and may potentially
cause additional adverse environmental effects. Source: U.S.
EPA, Office of Solid Waste
- Building construction,
operation, and maintenance contribute significantly to air pollution, which
contributes to acid rain, climate change, health problems, and other impacts
resulting from degraded air quality.
- A growing body of scientific
evidence indicates that indoor air can be more seriously polluted than the
outdoor air in even the largest and most industrialized cities.
People feel the pressures of limited land, air, and water, pollution, liability
and health insurance costs, energy shortages and costs, waste management tensions,
and habitat loss. Pollution Prevention (P2) strives to use all resources in
the most efficient manner possible and to eliminate waste and pollution before
it is produced. During the past several years, the residential construction
industry has recognized a need to incorporate P2 practices into daily activities
and has begun to achieve these changes through "green building", "resource-efficient
construction", or "sustainable design" techniques.
strive to reduce adverse affects of traditional building techniques through
sustainable building practices. Sustainability, as defined by the United Nations
Environmental Programme Document, is meeting the needs of people today without
destroying the resources that will be needed by people in the future. (Source:
Sustainably built homes
- conserve natural resources
- minimize waste products
- conserve energy
- create a healthy environment
for the occupant
These goals are met by
an 'integrated' or 'whole system' approach where all aspects of construction
are considered together. This approach involves:
- Suitable site selection
to reduce commuting and maintain environmental quality.
- Homes designed to enhance
the community and use green products and renewable energy.
Benefits To Builders
Builders can have a major role in community development by providing homebuyers
opportunities to be more active in protecting the environment and preserving
resources. Pollution prevention can help reduce accidents and exposure to harmful
substances, both to employees and to homeowners. Builders benefit from green
building practices through:
- Reduced Disposal Costs
- Enhanced Health and
Safety for Workers
- Reduced Materials or
- Reduced Liability
- Improved Market Appeal
- Enhanced Community Leadership
Benefits To Consumers
Buying a home is one of the largest investments an individual or family will
make. They recognize that long-term maintenance and operation of their home
can be a financial drain. They also want their home to be a reflection of their
lifestyle and desires. Consumers benefit from green building practices through:
- Reduced Utility and
- Occupant Satisfaction
- Reduced Health Impacts
- Enhanced Durability
(environmental conservation and protection)
- Strong Resale Value
- Enhanced Community
- Increased Global Security
(less reliance on imports)
Trends in Green Building
Gallup poll surveys show that a majority of citizens embrace environmental protection,
even if it risks economic growth. Individuals and communities are looking for
ways to actively take part in the protection of resources and habitats. They
are finding that their homes provide an avenue to demonstrate efficient resource
use and environmental protection. According to direct surveys and market research,
89% of homebuyers are willing to pay extra for "green" features that
improve quality, durability and the health of the house. Source: http://www.housingzone.com/topics/pb/green/survey/builder.asp.
Consumer preferences and
changing demographics are already driving changes in the way new homes are built.
According to the Meyers Group, the largest residential real estate information
research company in the U.S., the "old way" of development is being
pushed aside by "new strategies" as shown in the following table.
Communities: "Old Way" To New Strategies
||Niche markets for
life stage and lifestyle
||Master planned communities
single purpose ....
||Soft programming and
|Golf course as sole
and individualism ....
||Creation of community
|Low tech homes ....
|Public sector Vs.
|Find more land ("sprawl")
The Meyers Group, http://www.meyersgroup.com/homebuilding/homebuilding.asp
new strategies embrace green building practices and correlate to smaller, more
comfortable homes that provide savings in utility bills and maintenance costs.
The building industry is focusing on ways to build homes that preserve environmental
quality, enhance communities, and conserve resources. A whole system approach
to home building promotes the development of partnerships as many interests,
(i.e. planning, architecture, construction, affordability, health, realty, codes
and standards, energy, water protection, wildlife, transportation, waste and
utility infrastructures), are combined into one home. These varying interest
groups are finding that homes can be built in an affordable manner and still
maintain environmental integrity. Examples of resource-efficient home construction
are found throughout the nation and are becoming more common.
Home builders associations
offer technical assistance and information for resource-efficient design and
construction. Mortgage and real estate brokers see it is important to develop
tools and skills to work with homeowners interested in "green homes".
These groups educate customers about the benefits of resource-efficient homes.
Local, state, and federal entities are also interested in developing better
communities and protecting resources. Partnerships between government agencies,
and trade and consumer groups are effective ways to encourage, certify, and
recognize green building efforts.
competitive and continue to expand and produce profits in the future,
the building industry knows it must address the environmental and economic
consequences of its actions. That recognition is leading to changes in
the way the building industry and building owners approach the design,
construction, and operation of structures. With the leadership of diverse
groups in the public and private sectors, the building industry is moving
towards a new value in its work: that of environmental performance."
A. Gottfried, "Forward" Sustainable Building Technical Manual
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