Frequently Asked Questions
We've compiled a list of the green building-related questions we receive most frequently below by category, with more coming soon:
You'll also find a helpful guide to green building terminology in our Glossary, plus links to Hot Tools & Topics at right.
What is green building?
Green building is the idea of creating a built environment --buildings, landscapes, communities and infrastructure--that connects the highest positive regard for our quality of life with the least ecological consequences to our environment. Sustainable design attempts to balance economic, social, and environmental factors. Sustainable design principles affect all phases of project development, from design, construction, operations and maintenance, and demolition and disposal. More
How do I start building green?
The best place to start really depends on the type of project you have in mind, whether it's home remodel or the design or a brand new highrise. You'll likely find inspiration looking at the successful green projects featured in our case studies and by browsing our website.
But it seems more expensive to build green. Will I really see a return on my investment?
Using integrated design and careful planning, green building can be cost-competitive with conventional construction, even on a first-cost basis. Some high-efficiency, healthy, and/or ecologically superior products do cost more up front, but pay back over time in terms of reduced replacement frequency due to superior construction detailing or materials durability, lower operating costs due to more efficient use of energy or water or by making use of resources harvested on site, less need for modification due to flexible design, and other factors. Other paybacks are garnered due to creating spaces that are healthier and more conducive to producivity. These returns are external to the building balance sheet, but can be some of the most compelling reasons to build green. For details on payback, see the Why Build Green? section of this site.
Why is the City committed to green building?
The design, construction and maintenance of buildings all have environmental impacts that can be minimized. Green building supports the core values of the City as expressed in Seattle's Comprehensive Plan:
1. Economic Opportunity and Security
2. Environmental Stewardship
3. Community benefits
4. Social Equity
Why does the City have a green building policy?
The purpose of a Citywide policy on sustainable building is to demonstrate the City’s commitment to environmental, economic, and social stewardship, to yield cost savings to the City taxpayers through reduced operating costs, to provide healthy work environments for staff and visitors, and to contribute to the City’s goals of protecting, conserving, and enhancing the region’s environmental resources. Additionally, the City helps to set a community standard of sustainable building.
What is the City’s Green Building Policy?
The policy calls for new City-funded projects and renovations with over 5,000 sq. ft. of occupied space to achieve a Silver Rating using the U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED Rating System. This policy applies to projects that the City develops and owns.
How did the City create its green building policy?
On February 22, 2000, the Seattle City Council unanimously approved the Sustainable (green) Building Policy, which is part of the City’s Environmental Management Program (EMP). The Office of Environmental Management guides City governmental operations toward sustainability by coordinating implementation of Seattle’s Environmental Management Program and the Mayor’s Environmental Strategy. The mission of the EMP is to foster the City’s compliance with environmental laws, to assist departments to reduce environmental impacts from operations, and to improve environmental performance. Areas of City operations that most impact the environment have been identified, from landscape management to use of chemicals to fleet fuel use. Policies to improve the City’s environmental performance in each of those areas have been developed for inclusion in the EMP.
What is LEED?
The U.S. Green Building Council developed the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) rating system to achieve market transformation. LEED is a self-certifying system designed for rating new and existing development. Different levels of green building certification are awarded based on the total credits earned in each of several categories: site, energy, material resources, indoor environmental quality and water.
Why does the City of Seattle use LEED?
Use of a national standard helps to establish minimum performance standards, creates a common dialogue for discussion, and allows Seattle to see how far along it is with its building program related to other jurisdictions that are using LEED. In addition, technical rulings, training, networking and marketing support are provided by the U.S. Green Building Council.
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