Sustainable building is generally defined as a method of constructing buildings in an environmentally-friendly way. The materials used in such a structure often come from renewable resources. In addition, sustainable building methods frequently employ strategies for making the most efficient use of energy and water.

While a precise definition might be difficult to pin down, here are four examples of what could easily be considered sustainable building:

Gish Apartments in San Jose, California

This 35-unit complex was California’s first multifamily housing development to earn the U.S. Green Building Council’s Gold Certification under LEED for Homes.

Among the sustainable features in these homes is a rooftop photovoltaic system that provides 30 percent of the electricity for the building’s common areas. In addition, the developers used locally-produced materials and environmentally preferable products whenever possible, according to a report on the U.S. Green Building Council website. The report goes on to say that more than 90 percent of the construction waste was diverted from the landfill.

Lastly, the complex uses 36 percent less indoor water use compared to a conventional home.

Nationals Park in Washington, D.C.

The home of Major League Baseball’s Washington Nationals pushes sustainability in lots of ways. It is so friendly to alternative transportation that it provides not only a bicycle parking but, on game days, bicycle valet service.

The stadium itself has low-flow faucets and dual-flush toilets which were estimated to save 3.6 million gallons of water a year. Using air-cooled chillers rather than water-cooled chillers is expected to help save an additional 6 million gallons of water, according to a report on the U.S. Green Building Council’s website.

The ballpark is expected to use 15 percent less energy, by cost, than a comparable stadium, the report went on to say. In fact, the developers anticipate saving $440,000 over the next 25 years thanks to the energy efficient field lighting.  Additional energy savings will come through the LED lighting in the scoreboard, the heat-recovery ventilation in the locker room and the additional insulation.

The construction of the stadium was done in a sustainable way as well. More than 80 percent of the construction waste was diverted from landfills, according to the U.S. Green Building Council.

Rosa Parks Elementary School in Portland, Oregon

Students here can get an up-close lesson in alternative energy by monitoring the real-time electricity production of the school’s 1.1-kilowatt demonstration photovoltaic system.

It’s just one of the many sustainability features built into the facility. Even before the school opened, it incorporated green building into the construction process: approximately 97 percent of the construction waste was diverted from landfills.

Other sustainable features include:

  • Extra insulation 
  • Extensive skylights and operable windows for daylighting
  • Daylight sensors
  • An efficient condensing gas boiler
According to a sustainable building report on the U.S. Green Building Council website, the school has also implemented a green cleaning program and pest management plan.

Alley24 East in Seattle, Washington

This $42 million office building was 90 percent preleased before it even opened its doors in February 2006.

According to a May 2009 Cushman & Wakefield report, “High Performance Green Building: What’s it Worth,” the building’s developer, Vulcan Inc., which was founded by Microsoft co-founder Paul G. Allen, sought to develop the property with the goal of integrating green practices while attracting quality tenants in an emerging Seattle neighborhood.

The building employs several sustainable practices. The developers used construction waste management practices that diverted 75 percent of construction and demolition debris from landfills and incinerators.

The Cushman & Wakefield report also noted that low-flow toilets, sinks and urinals were installed in the building, helping the property use 30 percent less water than a comparable non-green building. In addition, the indoor air quality was helped by the developer providing good air ventilation and using low-emitting paints, coatings and carpeting.

See also:

Eco-friendly building products

Sustainable building materials

Green building materials