Frequently Asked Questions:
1. What is green building?
The term “green building,” refers to a new way of designing and constructing
buildings to increase performance and enchance the experience for people
who work, live and play in these structures.
A Green building:
- Saves energy and waste
- Reduces material use
- Protects the site
- Uses low-impact materials
- Saves water
- Maximizes longevity and durability
- Makes the building healthier
- Recycles existing buildings
The term green building is often used interchangeably with sustainable, high
performance, or healthy building.
2. Why is the City of Portland involved in promoting green building?
Before the Office of Sustainable Development (OSD) created G/Rated, we asked
the public to define the City’s role in green building. The community
responded by outlining the following priorities:
- Provide quality education in green building practices
- Organize events for Portlanders to visit and experience green buildings
- Provide technical assistance to those getting started in green building
- Help green projects with permitting issues
- Help City agencies green their construction projects
- Provide seed grants to promote green building in the City
- Connect people with green building resources, like suppliers and services
Buildings are an important piece of the sustainability puzzle because they
consume a large amount of natural resources. By providing both general and
technical information about green building practices, G/Rated is helping
accelerate the adoption of green building practices as the industry standard,
and beginning to move us down the path to a more sustainable future.
3. How is G/Rated funded?
The G/Rated program is funded through residential and commercial solid waste
fees, grants and contracts. Sponsorships and tuition pay for additional
programs and events, such as the annual Build It Green! Residential
home tour and Information Fair and ReThink: Innovation in Ecological Design
and Construction training program.
4. What services does G/Rated offer?
G/Rated is Portland’s gateway to green building, offering initial consultation
specific to your green building project. We offer green building strategy and
direction on a host of green building issues including permitting, energy and
water efficient systems, healthy indoor air quality, recycling, reuse,
sustainable material choices, and more. Our initial consultation provides
practical ideas, professional recommendations and directions to locally
available products and services.
5. Do buildings affect natural resources?
In addition, the majority of new development in the region is on
“greenfields” – land not previously built on. Such practices threaten
farmlands, fragment the landscape, reduce wildlife and fish habitat,
and alter site hydrology. Meanwhile, the majority of existing abandoned
and degraded sites within the City – lands most suitable for new
development – are much slower to
Yes, a standard wood-frame home requires more than one acre of forest,
and the waste created during construction averages between 3-7 tons.
In 1998, NAHB reported that a 2,085-square foot, single-family house
requires 13,127 board feet of lumber; 6,212 square feet of sheathing;
14 tons of concrete; 2,325 square feet of exterior siding; 3,100
square feet of roofing material; 3,061 square feet of insulation;
6,144 square feet of interior wall material; 120 linear feet of
ducting; 15 windows; 13 kitchen cabinets and 2 other cabinets; 1
kitchen sink; 12 interior doors; 7 closet doors; 2 exterior doors;
1 patio door; 2 garage doors; 1 fireplace; 3 toilets; 2 bathtubs; 1
shower stall; 3 bathroom sinks; 2,085 square feet of flooring
material . . . and 68 gallons of paint and coatings.
6. Do buildings affect global warming?
Yes. The construction and operation of buildings together use one-third
of all energy consumed in the United States. Buildings are a major source
of urban air quality problems and the pollutants cause climate change. For
example, buildings emit sulfur dioxide, nitrous oxide and particulate
emissions, all of
which damage urban air quality. Energy use in Portland buildings produces
40% of carbon dioxide emissions, a primary contributor to global warming.
7. What effect do green buildings have on health and productivity?
Asthma and other health issues related to indoor air quality have
also become major health concerns at home. Respiratory disease
has increased nearly 50% in the last decade. Many building
materials can have an adverse effect on indoor air quality:
paints, laminates, floor finishes, cabinets, particleboard,
and certain structurally engineered building systems emit
fumes (called off gasing) and contain carcinogens found in
some volatile organic compounds. Because most people spend
more than 90% of their time indoors, the environmental quality
of building materials and ventilation are key elements to
creating healthy homes and workplaces.
Numerous studies link how employees perform at work to how the building
itself performs. Eight case studies show worker productivity increases
between 6-15% in structures built to maximize daylighting, natural
ventilation, and indoor air quality through reduced use of toxic
materials (e.g., paints, materials, and laminates low in volatile
Adverse health risks and missed work have direct economic impacts.
Since a typical employer spends almost 70 times more on salaries
than on energy, the productivity advantages of green buildings can
have substantial financial benefits to those who manage the building.
8. What impact does green building have on our economy?
In Portland, there has been significant growth in green building
expertise – including builders, architects, engineers, systems
and materials manufacturers, energy and environmental consultants,
suppliers of reusable building materials, and landscape architects.
Oregon, which currently has the most LEED certified buildings
(a national green building standard) in the United States, is
fast becoming known for its green building expertise and leadership.
By promoting and applying green building practices, the City is
supporting and stimulating further growth to help drive down the
cost of innovative building materials, energy systems, and other
green building components.