Green buildings are buildings that are environmentally responsible and resource-efficient throughout their life-cycle. They are designed, constructed and operated to reduce the overall impact of the built environment on human health and the natural environment by:
  • Efficiently using energy, water, and other resources
  • Protecting occupant health and improving employee productivity
  • Reducing waste, pollution and environmental degradation
Through the use of the VGBC’s Rating Systems (LOTUS), building projects can identify a specific pathway to ensure that the projects are developed to the highest specification while retaining the lowest environmental impacts.
To improve your understanding of green buildings, the VGBC offers a comprehensive training program. Click here to learn more.


Green building is not a simple development trend; it is an approach to building suited to the demands of its time, whose relevance and importance will only continue to increase. The benefits to green building are manifold, and may be categorized along three fronts: environmental, economic, and social.

Environmental Benefits

  • Emissions Reduction. Pollutants released by fossil fuel fired electricity contribute to global climate change, cause air quality issues such as acid rain and smog, and pose risks to human health. 1 Green building techniques like solar powering, daylighting, and facilitation of public transport increase energy efficiency and reduce harmful emissions.
  • Water Conservation. Recycling rainwater and greywater for purposes like urinal flow and irrigation can preserve potable water and yield significant water savings.
  • Stormwater Management. Stormwater runoff can cause waterway erosion, flooding, and carry pollutants into water sources. Harvesting and redirecting stormwater, building surfaces with permeable materials, and using green roofs can control and utilize overflow.
  • Temperature Moderation. The heat retention properties of tall buildings and urban materials such as concrete and asphalt are the primary causes of urban heat island effect. These conditions may be offset by conscientious building design and site selection, as well as planting trees to accompany new developments.
  • Waste Reduction. Construction and demolition generates a huge portion of solid waste in the United States. Building deconstruction as an alternative to full-scale demolition results in massive decreases of waste production. 2

Economic Benefits

A common impression about green building is that the green premium is too expensive to be considered economically feasible. However, studies have shown that the costs of green buildings are not substantially higher than regular development projects. 3 Higher construction costs can generally be avoided by the inclusion of green design from the outset of the project. 4 Additionally, green buildings provide an assortment of economic advantages.

  • Energy and Water Savings. The resource efficiency provided by green design and technology leads to drastic reductions in operation costs that quickly recoup any additional project costs 5 and continue to offer dramatic long-term savings (see statistics). Money previously directed toward utility costs may be used for other purposes.
  • Increased Property Values. With energy costs on the rise, the low operating costs and easy maintenance of green buildings make for lower vacancy rates and higher property values.6
  • Decreased Infrastructure Strain. Efficient buildings exert less demand on the local power grid and water supply, stretching the capacity of local infrastructure.
  • Improved Employee Attendance. Green design emphasizes increased natural lighting and control of ventilation and temperature-attributes that improve employee health and prevent absences. 7 The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency reports major reductions in health care costs and work losses resulting from commonly recommended improvements to indoor environments (see statistics). 8
  • Increased Employee Productivity. Employee productivity has been positively correlated to indoor environmental conditions, and shows improvements where green principles have been applied (see statistics). 9
  • Sales Improvements. Studies show better sales in stores that utilize natural light. 10 Retailers are increasingly using daylighting in an effort to harvest the associated sales benefits.
  • Development of Local Talent Pool. With increased attention being paid to global climate change and the need for renewable energy sources, the field of building design and construction is moving toward sustainability as a permanent objective. As of July 2007, 23 states and more than 80 cities have legislated green standards for municipal buildings. Building green in Bloomington is an investment in the local economy, helping to foster a local talent pool: designers and builders experienced with green projects able to accommodate the growing market demand for sustainable development.

Social Benefits

  • Improved Health. Poor indoor environmental quality (IEQ) resulting from insufficient air circulation, poor lighting, mold build up, temperature variances, carpeting and furniture materials, pesticides, toxic adhesives and paints, and high concentration of pollutants (typically 10 to 100 times higher than outdoors11) contribute widely to respiratory problems, allergies, nausea, headaches, and skin rashes. Green building emphasizes ventilation and non-toxic, low emitting materials that create healthier and more comfortable living and working environments.
  • Improved Schools. An estimated 40% of schools in the United States are subject to poor environmental conditions that compromise the health and learning of students. 12 The healthier environment and atmosphere in school buildings utilizing green design and construction principles is shown to lead to significant reductions in student absenteeism 13 and improvements in test scores (see statistics). 14
  • Healthier Lifestyles and Recreation. A key element of sustainable design is the preservation of natural environments, which afford a variety of recreation and exercise opportunities. Green buildings also seek to facilitate alternatives to driving, such as bicycling and public transport, which eases local traffic while encouraging personal health and fitness.

1.”Building Momentum: National Trends and Prospects for High-Performance Green Buildings,” Prepared for the U.S. Senate Subcommittee on Environmental and Public Works by the U.S. Green Building Council, November 2002. Available at:

2.The National Association of Homebuilders projects that 20 million tons of debris could be diverted from landfills if only one quarter of the buildings demolished every year were deconstructed. National Association of Home Builders, “Deconstruction: Building Disassembly and Material Salvage,” 1998

3.A study comparing the costs of 33 green buildings across the United States to those of same buildings using conventional design found an average cost increase of just under 2% for the green buildings. Kats, Gregory H. “Green Building Costs and Financial Benefits.” Massachusetts Technology Collaborative. 2003. Available at:

4.The investment of an additional 3% of project costs in the design phase can reduce construction costs by 10%. Syphers, Geof, et al. “Managing the Cost of Green Building,” KEMA, 2003. Available at:

5.Energy and water savings allow an average green premium recovery period of 3-5 years. “Making the Business Case for High Performance Green Building,” U.S. Green Building Council, 2003. Available at

6.Investment in energy efficiency and low-priced power at the USAA Realty Company’s La Paz Office Plaza in Orange County, CA led to an $0.80-per-square-foor-market value improvement, ultimately a $1.5 million increase in value. “Making the Business Case for High Performance Green Buildings,” U.S. Green Building Council, 2003.

7.Lockheed Martin’s green facility in Sunnydale, CA utilizes daylighting and sloped ceilings. Managers reported a 15% drop in employee absenteeism, a savings which made up for the building’s green premium in the first year alone. “Making the Business Case for High Performance Green Buildings” U.S. Green Building Council, 2003.

8.US Environmental Protection Agency, “Energy Cost and IAQ Performance of Ventilation Systems and Controls,” January 2000.

9.Nationally, improvements to indoor environmental conditions are estimated to have generated $20 to $160 billion from workforce productivity gains. Fisk, W.J. “Health and Productivity Gains from Better Indoor Environments and Their Relationship to Building Energy Efficiency,” Annual Review of Energy and the Environment, July-August 2002.

10.A survey of 108 outlet stores operated by the same chain retailer found sales 40% higher in stores using skylights instead of electric lighting (generally fluorescents). “Skylighting and Retail Sales: An Investigation into the Relationship Between Daylighting and Human Performance,” The Heschong Mahone Group, on behalf of the California Board for Energy Efficiency Third Party Program, 1999.

11.US Environmental Protection Agency, “Indoor Air Quality,” January 6, 2003. Available at:

12.”Building Momentum: National Trends and Prospects for High-Performance Green Buildings,” U.S. Green Building Council, November 2002.

13.A study in Washington found a 15% reduction in student absenteeism at green schools. “Washington High Performance School Buildings: Report to Legislature,” Paladino & Company, 2005.

14.A review of 30 green schools across the country concluded that “based on a very substantial data set on productivity and test performance of healthier, more comfortable study and learning environments, a 3-5% improbement in learning ability and test scores in green schools appears reasonable and conservative.” Kats, Gregory H. “Greening America’s Schools Costs and Benefits,” Capital E, 2006. Available at:





Green Building Certification Systems (such as LOTUS, LEED, Green Mark, etc.) are necessary to evaluate if a building is a green building or not.

A Green Building Certification System is a framework for:

  • benchmarking building performance

  • assuring third party verification of environmental credentials

  • encouraging integrated building design and construction

  • meeting legal obligations

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