When making changes to existing facilities or constructing something new, it is always a good idea to consider sustainable building practices prior to starting the project. There are many environmentally responsible building practices, and we will touch on just a few of them in this section.
One sustainable building practice that serves many functions to promote environmental responsibility is the implementation of a living roof into your project. A living roof is precisely what the name suggests; it is a roof that contains living organisms growing on it! While a living roof is more difficult to apply to an existing structure due to the extra support needed to hold the additional weight of the soil and organisms, it can provide tremendous environmental and economic benefits. According the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, living or green roofs can reduce energy costs by providing insulation to reduce the amount of heating or cooling escaping the building. The vast majority of a building’s energy loss comes through the roof, so the savings can be quite large, while also reducing your overall carbon footprint. One study showed that a green roof can reduce energy costs by $200,000 over its lifetime! Beyond the energy savings, it can also reduce the amount of storm water runoff from your roof. This decreases the amount of harmful urban and agricultural pollutants from entering the groundwater, and improves our local aquatic ecosystems. If you would like to see a living roof in person somewhere in the Palouse, look no further than the Palouse-Clearwater Environmental Institute. We have two directly on our property!
Another way to lessen your impact on the planet when making improvements or constructing a new building is to consider the source of all of the building materials purchased. Environmentally responsible practices should be always prioritized when financially feasible. In order to research sustainable building practices, the U.S. Green Building Council’s website is strongly recommended, and opportunities to participate in the LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification process can be found online.
A life cycle assessment can help avoid a narrow outlook on environmental, social and economic concern by assessing a full range of impacts associated with all cradle-to-grave stages of a process: from extraction of raw materials through materials processing, manufacture, distribution, use, repair and maintenance, and disposal or recycling. There are many ways to reduce your impact during building, and this page should serve as but a springboard for further exploration into the topic.