Reducing Impact on the Environment and Human Health

Simply put, the green building movement strives to reduce the impact of buildings on the environment and human health. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, "green, or sustainable, building is the practice of creating and using healthier and more resource-efficient models of construction, renovation, operation, maintenance, and demolition."

Green building includes strategies for new and existing buildings, commercial and residential buildings, and for neighborhood development. It includes the energy efficiency of the building shell and of the heating and cooling system. Other strategies focus on appropriate material choices (i.e., recycled content and regional materials), sustainable building sites, water management, efficient lighting systems, and native landscapes. Indoor environmental quality and building occupant lifestyle are also key elements. Green building strategies extend into the operation and maintenance of buildings, manufacturing processes, demolition, renovations, and the use of alternative or "green" power, like solar and wind.

Many local and state governments have adopted policies and regulations requiring new and existing building projects to adhere to green building standards and/or energy conservation and green construction building codes.

The following organizations provide further information and resources on green building:

The following local organizations are working on sustainability issues, environmental concerns, and green building for the region:

Download the Sustainability, Renewable Energy & Energy Efficiency Resources list for additional resournces.

Buildings Use Energy

Buildings, including homes, are the largest user of energy in the United States, consuming 40 percent of total energy, 68 percent of electricity, 38 percent of carbon dioxide emissions, and even 12 percent of total water consumption (source: EPA). Green buildings attempt to reduce this consumption through a variety of strategies and in the process reduce their impact on the environment and human health.    

Benefits of Green Building

The benefits of building green extend beyond energy savings. Building owners should consider these benefits when planning a building project:

Environmental Benefits

  • Reduces carbon, or greenhouse gas, emissions, or "carbon footprint"
  • Conserves natural resources
  • Improves air, water, and land quality
  • Protects ecosystems
  • Promotes biodiversity

Human Benefits

  • Improves indoor quality of air and water
  • Improves occupant comfort and safety
  • Improves mental and physical health of occupants
  • Encourages occupants to adopt greener lifestyles overall
  • Beautifies or "greens" indoor and outdoor spaces
  • Supports sustainability of the planet for future generations

Economic Benefits

  • Increases energy savings
  • Reduces cost and effort to operate and maintain buildings over their lifecycle
  • Improves occupant productivity and learning
  • Increases demand for green collar jobs
  • Encourages investment in development of new technologies
  • Increases building value
  • Enhances economic development in a community



Cost of Building Green

Many building owners are concerned about the cost and feasibility of green building projects. Multiple studies have proven that green building need not cost any more than traditional building, and, in fact, can cost significantly less, especially if the owner takes into account the reduced maintenance cost and energy savings over the life of the building. Even if a green building has an initially higher investment cost, the return on investment in lower maintenance costs and energy savings quickly make up the difference. This does not take into account the improved productivity, comfort and health of green building occupants.

For more information, the U.S. Green Building Council has a dedicated online research library, including publications and links to additional resources.

As building owners learn about and adopt green building strategies, building professionals gain experience and accreditation, and local governments require buildings to adhere to green building standards and codes, green building will become more widely available, used and accepted. 

Green Building Rating Systems, Codes, and Certifications

In recent years a number of organizations have established green building standards and rating systems.  These are third-party, voluntary certifications for green buildings--homes, commercial buildings, schools, manufacturing plants, neighborhoods, and more.

Building codes have also been developed in recent years for energy conservation and green construction. They work closely with the voluntary rating systems and are being adopted by state and local governments, including Illinois, to set minimum green building standards for all buildings.

Training and credentials have been developed not only for those professionals who build and retrofit homes and businesses, but also for those who must operate and maintain green buildings.

While this site does not specifically endorse one set of standards, system or credential over another, it does feature those which have national and international recognition and are acknowledged by local, state, and federal governments.

Better Built Members have been actively training in sustainable construction and green building technology, some achieving certifications and accreditations. Look for green building professionals in the Member Directory.

The LEED® Rating System

Established by the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC), the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Green Building Rating System is a third-party, voluntary certification program and an internationally recognized benchmark for the design, construction and operation of high performance green buildings. According to the USGBC:

"LEED provides building owners and operators with a framework for identifying and implementing practical and measurable green building design, construction, operations and maintenance solutions.

LEED promotes sustainable building and development practices through a suite of rating systems that recognize projects that implement strategies for better environmental and health performance. The LEED rating systems are developed through an open, consensus-based process led by LEED committees, diverse groups of volunteers representing a cross-section of the building and construction industry.

LEED is flexible enough to apply to all building types--commercial as well as residential. It works throughout the building lifecycle--design and construction, operations and maintenance, tenant fit-out, and significant retrofit. And LEED for Neighborhood Development extends the benefits of LEED beyond the building footprint into the neighborhood it serves."

The LEED rating system awards points or credits for strategies implemented in the following areas: sustainable sites, water efficiency, energy and atmosphere, materials and resources, indoor environmental quality, and innovation and design. The system awards bonus points for strategies that address local environmental issues.

Building owners, including homeowners, may be interested in pursuing LEED certification of their projects. The Green Building Certification Institute (GBCI), working in partnership with the USGBC, guides building owners through the LEED certification process. Depending on the number of points or credits earned for green building strategies, a project may be awarded one of several certification levels. Certification applications are reviewed and awards are made by GBCI. Interested building owners should contact GBCI or a LEED Accredited Professional for assistance.

LEED Accredited Professionals help building owners select, oversee, and implement green building strategies for a project. They also help owners apply for LEED certification. LEED Accredited Professionals often work with local governments and organizations on neighborhood development and sustainability planning.

In order to achieve and maintain LEED credentials, an individual must engage in rigorous training, exams and ongoing learning. Credentials are available for several green building specialties.  

Visit GBCI for LEED credentialing requirements.

Visit USGBC for LEED publications, training courses, and education providers.

Look for green building professionals in the Better Built Member Directory.

Building Performance Institute, Inc. (BPI)

Building Performance Institute (BPI) is a non-profit standards development and credentialing organization for residential energy efficiency retrofit work. Through its affiliates, BPI provides training, individual certification, company accreditation, and quality assurance for home energy efficiency projects.

BPI certified contractors and energy professionals strive to make homes safe, comfortable and energy efficient. They do this by conducting an initial energy audit, making appropriate repairs, and then by checking the work to ensure quality and improved energy efficiency.

Individuals interested in BPI certification may choose from several specialty areas. BPI professionals engage in rigorous training, exams and ongoing training to maintain their certifications.

Visit BPI for more information.

International Green Construction and Energy Conservation Codes

The International Code Council® (ICC®) is a membership association that develops building codes and standards for residential and commercial construction with a focus on fire prevention and safety. The ICC recently developed the International Energy Conservation Code® (IECC®) and is in the final stages of developing the International Green Construction Code (IgCC).

According to the ICC, the IECC model energy building code "contains minimum energy efficiency provisions for residential and commercial buildings, offering both prescriptive- and performance-based approaches. The code also contains building envelope requirements for thermal performance and air leakage."

The IgCC will "establish baseline regulations for new and existing buildings related to energy conservation, water efficiency, building owner responsibilities, site impacts, building waste, and materials and other considerations."

Versus a voluntary green building rating system like LEED, these codes, when adopted as law by state and local governments, set minimum green building and energy conservation standards for which all buildings must comply. 

Individuals interested in learning more about green building and energy conservations codes and/or becoming a building code inspector should visit the ICC.

Building Operator Certification (BOC®)

BOC provides individuals who must maintain and operate buildings with competency-based training and certification. BOC professionals focus on making their buildings safe, comfortable, energy efficient, and environmentally friendly.

Visit BOC for more information and local training and certification sites.

Building Performance

High-performance buildings are a priority in green building rating systems and green building codes. Buildings that perform at peak efficiency reduce carbon emissions, ensure occupants are safe and comfortable, and generate energy savings over the life of the building. This includes all types of buildings from homes and schools to offices and manufacturing facilities.

Commissioning and Retro-Commissioning

Commissioning has become an increasingly popular and important piece of new commercial construction projects, especially green building projects. Commissioning is an intensive process whereby commissioning professionals ensure a building's systems perform in accordance with the original design and the owner's operational needs. Commissioning professionals, or "agents," document the process from the design phase through a year or more after construction is completed. They also make sure building staff are prepared to operate and maintain the building systems.

Retro-commissioning applies a similar process to existing buildings. The goal is to improve an existing building's operations and maintenance to enhance overall building performance.

Commissioning professionals can be found at architectural and engineering firms or may have their own consulting business.

The Energy Audit

Most green building professionals agree one of the first and most steps towards achieving higher efficiency in existing buildings--homes and businesses--is conducting a comprehensive energy audit. This includes an inspection of the building's shell, heating and cooling system, doors and windows, lighting and combustion appliances/equipment. 

Energy professionals or "auditors" use specialized equipment, including blower doors and thermal cameras, to identify energy efficiency and safety issues in a building. They usually provide a detailed report with their findings and recommendations for repairs. The goal is to help building owners make their buildings safe, comfortable and energy efficient.

Building owners interested in an energy audit should look for certified energy professionals (i.e., BPILEEDRESNET).

Look for green building professionals in the Member Directory.

Incentive and Rebate Programs

Homeowners and business owners in Illinois can take advantage of incentive and rebate programs for green building and/or energy efficiency projects.

One of the best places to begin looking for incentive and rebate programs available in Illinois is the Database of State Incentives for Renewables and Efficiency (DSIRE).

Ameren Act On Energy®

Illinois residents may access numerous rebates and incentives for energy-saving projects and products, including for their homes and businesses.

Visit Act On Energy for more information.

Home Performance with ENERGY STAR®

Improving the efficiency of your home is one way to be a part of the energy solution. Home Performance with ENERGY STAR is designed to help you make your home safe, comfortable, durable and energy efficient. 

Visit Illinois Home Performance for more information.

IL DCEO Bureau of Energy and Recycling

The Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity (IL DCEO), Bureau of Energy and Recycling coordinates numerous programs available to residents, businesses, and organizations in Illinois.

 For more information visit IL DCEO.

Illinois Home Weatherization Assistance Program

The Illinois Home Weatherization Assistance Program (IHWAP) helps reduce energy costs for low income households by making their homes more energy efficient.

For more information go to IL DCEO website, click on "Business Assistance" and then "Energy Assistance" or visit the Peoria community action agency (PCCEO) for local details.

Other Incentive and Rebate Programs

Green Collar Jobs & Training

Across the country new initiatives are underway to create and promote green collar jobs. Green collar jobs may simply be existing jobs with a new focus on energy efficiency, sustainability or green technology. They may also be new jobs in new areas of green technology. Still other green collar jobs will be created based on technology we do not yet know about. 

Better Built Members' collars are turning green as well. They have been actively training in areas of sustainable construction and green technology, many achieving professional accreditation or certification.

Search the Member Directory for green building professionals.

Information Resources for Green Collar Jobs

Several resources describe green collar jobs and post positions:

Training Resources for Green Collar Jobs

Preparing for a green collar job in construction generally begins with core training in apprenticeship and/or college for a building trades or construction management career. Many apprenticeship programs and colleges now even offer green building courses as part of this core training.

Existing construction workers can upgrade their skills and engage in green building training through apprenticeship programs, colleges or other local training providers.

Some training programs have received local, state, and/or federal grant funds to help individuals and businesses cover all or a portion of training. 

The following is a list of area providers for green building training and certification: