Green Building Terms

Besides the standard construction terminology there is also a whole range of sustainable or green building terms.

Active Solar: systems that convert solar energy into usable heat, using equipment, such as pumps and fans, to increase the usable heat in a system, cause air-movement for ventilation or cooling, or store heat for future use.
Batt: a length of insulation that is precut to fit certain wall cavity dimensions. Batt is typically sold in a pre-packaged roll.
Blow-In: Method of introducing loose fiberglass, cellulose, or mineral wool to framing cavities or attic space, typically using a machine with an attached hose.
Blower Door: equipment used to test the effectiveness of a home’s insulation and air sealing systems.
Brownfield Sites:previously developed aras that may or may not have some contamination present that needs to be cleaned up before the site can be used again.
Building Envelope: is the separation between the interior and the exterior of a building, typically consisting of walls, floors, and roofs, which protects the indoor environment and allows for climate control.
Building Information Modeling (BIM): is the process of generating and managing building data during its life cycle, typically using three-dimensional, real-time, dynamic building modeling software to increase productivity in building design and construction.
Building-Integrated Photovoltaics (BIPV): refer to solar cells that convert sunlight directly into electricity, which are integral in materials that replace conventional building materials in parts of the building envelope such as the roof, skylights, or facades.
Carbon Footprint: is the total set of GHG (greenhouse gas) emissions caused directly and indirectly by an individual, organization, event or product.
Carbon Neutral: refers to a company, person, or action either not producing any carbon emissions or, if it does, having been offset elsewhere.
Carbon Offsets: are certificates representing the reduction of one metric ton (2205 pounds) of carbon dioxide emissions.
Charrette: a collaborative problem-solving session, typically made up of members of a building design team, such as architect, mechanical and structural engineers, construction manager, etc., which promotes the integrated design or whole building approach.
Commissioning: the systematic process of verifying that all building systems perform interactively according to design intent, that they meet the operational needs of the owners and occupants, and that staff responsible for operation and maintenance are sufficiently trained. The goal of this service is to improve system performance, operation and maintenance, energy efficiency, occupant comfort, and indoor environmental quality.
Cradle to Cradle: refers to the life cycle of products that can be used, recycled, and used again without losing any material quality.
Daylighting: placing windows, or other openings, and reflective surfaces so that, during the day, natural light provides effective internal illumination in buildings.
Deck:the substrate over which roofing is applied. Usually plywood, wood boards, or planks.
Drip Edge:an installed lip that keeps shingles up off the deck at edges, and extends shingles out over eaves and gutters to prevent water from wicking up and under the shingles.
Embodied Energy: the energy consumed by all of the processes associated with the production of a building, from the acquisition of natural resources to product delivery.
Engineered Wood: cladding made from wood strands that are coated with a resin binder and compressed to create a strong board.
Energy Recovery Ventilation (ERV): process of exchanging the energy contained in normally exhausted building or space air and using it to treat the incoming outdoor ventilation air in residential and commercial HVAC systems.
ENERGY STAR:is a joint project of US EPA and US DOE that promotes energy efficiency through a product certification; devices, such as appliances, lighting, and water heaters, carrying the ENERGY STAR logo.
ESCOs– An Energy Service Company, is a business that develops, installs, and arranges financing for projects designed to improve the energy efficiency and maintenance costs for facilities over a fixed time period. ESCOs generally act as project developers for a wide range of tasks and assume the technical and performance risk associated with the project.
ESPCs – An Energy Savings Performance Contract is an agreement between a federal facility and an Energy Services Company (ESCO). The ESCO designs a project to increase the energy efficiency at a facility. The ESCO then purchases and installs the necessary equipment, such as new energy-efficient windows, automated controls, and updated heating, ventilation, and air conditioning equipment. In exchange for not having to pay for the equipment, the federal agency promises to pay the company a share of the savings resulting from the energy efficiency improvements. The ESCO is responsible for maintaining the equipment, as well as measuring the energy consumption and savings.
Exposure: the area on any roofing material tha tis left exposed to the elements.
Eterior Insulation Finish System (EIFS): a building product that provides exterior walls with an insulated finished surface and waterproofing in an integrated compostie material.
Fenestration: refers to any products that fill openings in a building envelope, such as windows, doors, skylights, and curtain walls, that are designed to permit the passage of air, light, vehicles, or people.
Fiber Cement Siding: cladding made from a mixture of Portland cement, cellulose or wood fiber material, sand, and other components.
Flashing: materials used to waterproof a roof around any projections.
Fossil Fuels: are found in three major forms — coal, oil, and natural gas, and are a finite resource that cannot be replenished once extracted and burned; they are nonrenewable.
Geothermal Energy: is generated from heat stored in the earth; requires no fuel; and is virtually emissions-free and renewable.
The Grid: refers to an interconnected network for delivering electricity from suppliers to consumers.
Green Roof: is a roof of a building that is partially or completely covered with vegetation and soil, or a growing medium, which is planted over a waterproofing covering.
Greenwash: describes the practice of disingenuously or erroneously promoting products and policies as environmentally friendly.
Granules: crushed rock that is coated with a ceramic coating and fired, used as a top surface on shingles.
Greenhouse Gases: in the Earth’s atmosphere due to human activity such as fossil fuel burning, increase the risk of global climate change, and include water vapor, carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, halogenated fluorocarbons, ozone, perfluorinated carbons, and hydro fluorocarbons.
Greyfield Sites: sites that have been previously developed but are not contaminated.
High-mass construction: Passive building strategy of constructing buildings of massive, heat-retaining materials (such as masonry or adobe) to moderate diurnal temperature swings, especially in arid climates.
Humidistat: Device for measuring relative humidity.
HVAC: Heating, ventilation and air conditioning (cooling) system.
Ice Dam: Formed when snow melts on a roof and re-freezes at the eave areas. Ice dams force water to "back up" under shingles and cause leakage.
Indoor Air Quality (IAQ): refers to the air quality within and around buildings and structures, especially as it relates to the health and comfort of building occupants.
Indoor Environmental Quality: takes into consideration all impacts of the indoor environment on human health and performance, including indoor air quality, daylighting and views, and visual and thermal comfort.
Joist: Parallel horizontal structural framing members. Typically floor joists and ceiling joists.
Joule: The international unit of energy or work in the meter-kilogram-second (MKS) system. One joule is equal to one watt per second or 0.737 foot-pounds. Named after James Joule.
Laminated Shingles: (also called dimensional shingles or architectural shingles) Asphalt-based shingles made from two separate pieces that are laminated together.
Lap Siding: siding that looks like individual boards, typically 8'-12' long. Each piece of siding is lapped over the piece below it to provide a waterproof covering for the house.
Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED®): is the program of the USGBC, which includes a family of green building rating systems that address various building types, and promote a whole-building approach to sustainability by recognizing performance in five key areas: sustainable site development, water savings, energy efficiency, materials selection, and indoor environmental quality.
Life-Cycle Cost (LCC): A method for assessing the total cost of facility ownership. It takes into account all costs of acquiring, owning, and disposing of a building or building system. The purpose of an LCCA is to estimate the overall costs of project alternatives and to select the design that ensures the facility will provide the lowest overall cost of ownership consistent with its quality and function.
Mixed-use development: A development in one or several buildings that combines several revenue producing uses that are integrated into a comprehensive plan—such as a project with a elements of housing, retail, and office space.
(Net) Zero Energy Building (ZEB): is designed for zero net energy consumption and zero carbon emissions annually.
Passive Solar: technologies use sunlight for useful energy without use of active mechanical systems, converting sunlight into usable heat, cause air-movement for ventilating, or future use.
Portland Cement: found in stucco and fiber cement siding, the most common kind of cement.
R-value: is the unit of thermal resistance used for comparing insulating values of different materials; the higher the R-value of a material, the greater its insulating properties.
Ridge Vent: an opening covered by a rain-proof vent that follows the peak of the roof, typically required by code. Some insulating methods, however, negate the need for a ridge vent. Clear it with your local code official first.
Right-sizing: Calculating loads and equipment requirements accurately using procedures according to the latest editions of ACCA Manuals J and S, ASHRAE 2001 Handbook of Fundamentals, or equivalent.
Rain Garden: is a planted depression designed to allow rainwater runoff to be absorbed into the ground from urban areas like roofs, driveways, or walkways, decreasing the amount of pollution reaching creeks and streams by up to 30%.
Renewable Energy Credits (REC): or Green tags, are bought and sold to offset a percentage of annual electricity use, typically sold in 1 megawatt-hour units.
Renewable Energy: is generated from natural resources, such as sunlight, wind, rain, tides and geothermal heat, which can be naturally replenished.
Shading coefficient (SC): The ratio of solar heat gain through a given window glazing or screen material to that through 1/8 inch clear double strength glass. Expressed as a number between 0 and 1. This term is being replaced by solar heat gain coefficient (SHGC), a more descriptive term. The lower a window’s or screen’s SC, the less solar heat it transmits, and the greater it’s shading ability.
Site assessment: The thorough environmental analysis conducted as a stage in planning to assess a variety of measures from soils, topography, hydrology, environmental amenities such as wetlands, wind direction, solar orientation, animal and plant habitat, connections to community, etc. Geographical Information Systems (GIS) can facilitate this task.
Site development costs: All costs needed to prepare the land for building construction, such as the demolition of existing structures, site preparation, off-site improvements, and on-site improvements.
Soffit Ventilation:Intake ventilation installed under the eaves or at the roof edge.
Solar access: Access to the sun’s rays by, for instance, restricting the location of shade trees or laying out the building so as to maximize the usefulness of solar energy.
Solar collector: Device which uses the sun’s energy to perform some kind of mechanical advantage which would normally be supplied by a non-renewable energy source.
Solar heat gain coefficient: The fraction of solar radiation admitted through a window or screen, both directly transmitted and absorbed, and subsequently released into the living space.
Steep Slope Roofing: refers to slopes steeper than a 4" rise for every 12" of length (expressed at 4:12)
Stud Cavity: The space between the vertical members of a conventionally framed wood or lightweight steel home. Common stud spacings include 16” and 24” on center (of stud).
Tear-Off: removal of existing roofing materials down the roof deck
Triple Bottom Line: refers to social equity, economic prosperity and environmental quality (people, planet, and profit); those who subscribe to the concept seek to benefit many constituencies, not exploit or endanger any one group.
Unfaced/Faced Insulation: Faced insulation (typically a fiberglass batt) includes a vapor retarder on the interior face that restricts movement of moist air into wall cavities.
Urban growth boundary: A boundary which identifies urban and urbanizable lands needed during a specified planning period to be planned and serviced to support urban development densities, and which separates these lands from rural lands.
Valleys: areas where two adjoining sloped roof planes intersect on a roof creating a "V" shaped depression.
Vertical Farming: a theoretical form of agriculture involving large-scale urban farming in skyscrapers.
Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC): refer carbon-based organic compounds used in a wide range of products, such as paint, carpets, furnishings, and cleaning agents; VOCs off-gas, vaporize, and combine with other airborne compounds to form ozone, and can be harmful.
Wind Energy: generated from large propellers (wind mills) that drive turbines, which in turn power generators and create electricity.
Xeriscaping: Creative landscaping design for conserving water that uses drought-resistant or drought-tolerant plants.

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