Often, when the term "Green Building" comes up, images of aesthetically-challenged structures that lack warmth, comfort and light come to mind. However, there is no such thing as "green architecture;" design expression utilizing sustainable building elements is as limitless as traditional architecture.
Also, there are no rules to building green; it does not have to be "all or nothing." You can integrate as many sustainable elements as you desire into your design to contribute to a healthier environment and a more durable, high-quality, energy efficient space for you and your family.
What exactly does it mean to "build green"?
Green Building (or sustainable building) means considering the environment and impacts to it when designing and building a structure. There are many elements to building green, including architectural design that maximizes natural light and ventilation, installing energy efficient fixtures and equipment, and selecting recycled and/or non-toxic construction materials. In general, homes constructed using green building practices are energy efficient, resource conserving, have better indoor air and light quality, and utilize construction materials wisely.
Do sustainable building features/practices cost more than traditional ones?
Some green design features can cost more, however this is generally in the short term. Once maintenance and operation costs (increased durability, energy savings, etc) are factored in, green homes often cost less over time. There are low-cost green building features and strategies and you can incorporate them into your design while maintaining a tight budget.
Planning ahead is key.
Being informed and aware of green building options is a key component of the project design phase. The decisions made in design have impacts for the life of the project. It is important to develop a clear idea of your project's vision, goals, and priorities and how you can integrate sustainable features into the design.
Where to start?
The Town of Portola Valley's Green Building Ordinance went into effect July 1, 2010 and requires all projects subject to ASCC review to complete the Build It Green Checklist, meeting a minimum point threshold based on the scale of the project, and that the project be professionally certified (see our Green Building Ordinance FAQs). Smaller addition/remodel projects not requiring ASCC review must include the completed checklist with the building permit application, however, it need not be professionally certified. Please visit Build It Green's website and review the Build It Green New Residence Guidelines and Build It Green Addition/Remodel Guidelines booklets and the Build It Green New Residence Checklist and Build It Green Addition/Remodel Checklist. The Guidelines booklets offer detailed, well-organized and easy to understand information on green building strategies and how to integrate them into your project design. Sustainable features involving building siting, wood framing, exterior treatments, plumbing and electricity, and non/less toxic materials among others are clearly addressed by category so that you can quickly identify sustainable elements for each aspect of your design. The Green Checklists are designed as a compact summary of the various green options you have at each stage of project design. Another great place to start is at San Mateo County's www.recycleworks.org which is an incredibly comprehensive site for sustainable building (with many links including green building material suppliers), recycling, workshops, green building events, and more.