Increasingly, the consumer market has been flooded with a slew of earth-friendly appliances, soaps and shampoos, cleaning products, clothing, and even transportation.
Media coverage, scientific studies, and heightened activity of various environmental groups have drawn the public's attention toward global pollution and wasteful practices that have served to decimate ecosystems and create holes in the ozone layer for years.
Earth-friendly alternatives like those above have arisen out of the demand for more environmentally responsible products and manufacturing and disposal processes.
In many cases, that demand has become a standard expectation, as evinced by the sheer number of products on the market that tout biodegradability and organic or recycled origins. This expectation is also becoming evident in the arena of construction and building design.
"Green" building is a means of maintaining and preserving natural resources through responsible, sustainable design in an effort to reduce a building's negative impact on the environment.
Robert Noble, chairman of the U.S. Green Building Council's San Diego Chapter, explains that "a large array of factors go into designing a healthy building." These factors include energy use and efficiency, water efficiency, materials -- many of which contain recycled content, are recyclable themselves, or reclaimed and non-toxic, natural ventilation and light, alternative energy considerations, and window glazing.
The U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) is a nonprofit organization that acts as a regulatory and guideline-setting entity for builders, architects, and others involved in the construction of a green building.
The USGBC's LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification program is becoming the standard in creating energy efficient and environmentally responsible buildings.
The specific goals of sustainable design, according to Noble, include "improvement of overall energy efficiency, site plans and layouts that are 'earth-friendly,' conservation of materials and renewable resources, enhancement of indoor environmental quality, and preservation of water."
The importance of this, he says, is that "green building is fast becoming the standard in the public, private and individual sector. People are not only interested in it and requesting it; they are demanding it. This is the technology of the future...in responsible construction, responsible materials, and responsible energy use."
Many corporations, cities and school systems have embraced green building in recent years. San Diego has adopted LEED standards for new structures over 5,000 feet.
Examples of buildings constructed with LEED standards in mind include the new San Diego Main Library. The new library will replace the older one, which opened in 1954, and will feature many more luxuries than those of the current library, including increased event space, accommodation for more public computers, and in addition, photovoltaic (PV) solar panels that convert solar energy into electricity. The new structure is scheduled for completion in 2007 and was designed by Rob Wellington Quigley, FAIA. The project is managed by Tucker Sadler Noble Castro Architects.
Kyocera Corp., one of the world's leading names in electronics, has also made an environmentally sound foray into San Diego with their pilot program that will demonstrate the utility, range and adaptability of photovoltaic technology. The program, which proposes to create a grove of PV trees, will be located near the San Diego International Airport and will have a grand opening later this year.
"It's all the sun's energy, clean energy, not pollution," says Noble. Solar power installations are being considered for use in more of the counties libraries, fire and sewage pump stations, and even schools. Green building, as an energy, resource and cost-effective alternative to conventional methods of building, may be the catching trend in design and construction. It could soon become the norm as more people, cities and corporations are turned on to environmental issues and the necessity of preserving natural resources, reducing waste, and instituting new methods of energy consumption and generation in all areas of their lives, including the buildings and homes they work, sleep and play in.
According to the USGBC's Web site, buildings in the United States account for 65 percent of energy consumption, 30 percent of greenhouse gas emissions and 30 percent of waste output (136 million tons annually).