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Benton County's Guide to Green: Terms & Definitions

The terms below will allow you to become more versed on the phraseology of green building and sustainable design.

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Air Pollution - Airborne contaminants or pollutants that adversely affect the environment or human health. (

Alternative Energy - Alternative energy refers to energy sources which are not based on the burning of fossil fuels or the splitting of atoms. The renewed interest in this field of study comes from the undesirable effects of pollution (as witnessed today) both from burning fossil fuels and from nuclear waste byproducts. Fortunately there are many means of harnessing energy which have less damaging impacts on our environment. Some possible alternatives include: solar, wind power, geothermal, tides, and geothermal energy. (

Biodegradable - A material or substance which, when left exposed to nature, will decompose without harmful effects to the environment. (

Biofuel - Fuel such as methane produced from renewable biological resources such as plant biomass and treated municipal and industrial waste. (

Biomass – Plant materials and animal waste used as a source of fuel (

Brownfield - The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) designation for existing facilities or sites that have been abandoned or underused because of real or perceived environmental contamination. The EPA sponsors an initiative to help mitigate these health risks and return the facility or land to renewed use. (

Building Envelope - The entire perimeter of a building enclosed by its roof, walls and foundation. Properly designed, the envelope can minimize temperature gain or loss and moisture infiltration.  (

Building Integrated Photovoltaics (BIPV) - Solar panels that have been integrated into the design of the building or structure. (

Building-Related Illness (BRI) - Serious and diagnosable health conditions, usually of the respiratory system, that can be attributed to specific air quality problems within a building. (

Clean Renewable Energy Bonds (CREBs) – Created as part of the Energy Policy Act of 2005, CREBs are “tax credit bonds” in which interest is paid for by the Federal Government in the form of tax credit. (

Construction Waste Management Plan (CWMP) - A plan that diverts construction debris from landfills through conscientious plans to recycle, salvage and reuse. For best results, this type of plan should also eliminate packaging of materials when possible and be carefully monitored or audited by the contractor.  (

Energy Efficient - Products and systems that use less energy to perform as well or better than standard products. While some have higher up-front costs, energy-efficient products cost less to operate over their lifetime.  (

“Energy Star¨ Rating - The label given by the EPA and the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) to appliances and products that exceed federal energy efficiency standards. This label helps consumers identify products that will save energy and money. ENERGY STAR¨ -labeled appliances often exceed the efficiency levels of other new products. (

Environmentally Friendly - A term that refers to the degree to which a product may harm the environment, including the biosphere, soil, water and air. (

Environmentally Preferable Purchasing - The federal government requires the purchase of products or services that have the least negative effect on the environment and human health in consideration of the acquisition of raw materials, manufacturing methods, packaging, distribution, recyclability, operation, maintenance and final disposal.  (

Flush Out - To help ensure the indoor air quality, mechanical systems are operated for a minimum of two weeks using 100 percent outside air at the end of construction and prior to building occupancy.  (

Geothermal – Utilizing the heat of earth’s interior. (

Green Architecture - Green Architecture is a term used to describe economical, energy-saving, environmentally-friendly, sustainable development. These resources explore the relationship between architecture and ecology, and show how you can use concepts of green design in your own home.

Green Building - is the practice of increasing the efficiency with which buildings use resources — energy, water, and materials — while reducing building impacts on human health and the environment, through better siting, design, construction, operation, maintenance, and removal — the complete building life cycle. Effective green building can lead to: 1) reduced operating costs by increasing productivity and using less energy and water 2) improved public and occupant health due to improved indoor air quality, and 3) reduced environmental impacts by, for example, lessening storm water runoff and the heat island effect (metropolitan area which is significantly warmer than its surroundings).  Practitioners of green building often seek to achieve not only ecological but aesthetic harmony between a structure and its surrounding natural and built environment, although the appearance and style of sustainable buildings is not necessarily distinguishable from their less sustainable counterparts. (

Green Business - Green businesses operate in ways that solve, rather than cause, both environmental and social problems. These businesses adopt principles, policies, and practices that improve the quality of life for their customers, their employees, communities, and the environment. (

GreenGuardª - Established performance-based standards to define goods such as building materials, interior furnishings, furniture, cleaning and maintenance products, electronic equipment and personal care products with low chemical and particle emissions for use indoors. The standards establish certification procedures including test methods, allowable emissions levels, product sample collection and handling, testing type and frequency, and program application processes and acceptance. (

Hazardous Waste - Byproducts of society with physical, chemical or infectious characteristics that pose hazards to the environment and human health when improperly handled. (

High Performance Green Building - These buildings include design features that conserve water and energy; use space, materials and resources efficiently; minimize construction waste; and create healthy indoor environments. (

Hydroelectricity - Comes from the damming of rivers and utilizing the potential energy stored in the water. As the water stored behind a dam is released at high pressure, its kinetic energy is transferred onto turbine blades and used to generate electricity. This system has enormous costs up front, but has relatively low maintenance costs and provides power quite cheaply. In the United States approximately 180,000 MW of hydroelectric power potential is available, and about a third of that is currently being harnessed. (

Inorganics – Being, or composed of matter other than plant or animal. (

LEEDª - The Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Building Rating System sets industry standards for green building design. (

LEED Certification - Different LEED versions have varied scoring systems based on a set of required "prerequisites" and a variety of "credits" in the six major categories listed above. In LEED v2.2 for new construction and major renovations for commercial buildings there are 69 possible points and buildings can qualify for four levels of certification:

  • Certified - 26-32 points
  • Silver - 33-38 points
  • Gold - 39-51 points
  • Platinum - 52-69 points

LEED certification is obtained after submitting an application documenting compliance with the requirements of the rating system as well as paying registration and certification fees. Certification is granted solely by the Green Building Council responsible for issuing the LEED system used on the project.
Recently the application process for new construction certification has been streamlined electronically, via a set of active PDFs that automates the process of filing the documentation.

Life-Cycle Assessment - The comprehensive examination of a product's environmental and economic effects throughout its lifetime, including raw material extraction, transportation, manufacturing, use and disposal. (

Life-Cycle Cost - The amortized annual cost of a product that includes first costs, but also extends to include installation, operating, maintenance and disposal costs over the product's lifetime. (

Natural Building – Green building on a smaller scale.  It tends to focus on the use of natural materials that are available locally.  (

Non-Renewable - A finite resource. (

Post-Consumer - A material or finished product that served its intended use as a consumer item. It may be recycled and incorporated into building materials and identified as containing post-consumer recycled content or recovered material. (

Post-Industrial or Pre-Consumer - This refers to waste produced during the manufacturing process of virgin material and rerouted from one step in the process to the next. This does not refer to recycled material. (

Production Tax Credit – Business tax credit of 1.5 cents/kWh for projects installed by January 1, 2008 for ten years (

Rapidly Renewable - Materials that are not depleted when used, but are typically harvested from fast growing sources and do not require unnecessary chemical support. Examples include bamboo, flax, wheat, wool and certain types of wood. (

Recyclability - The ability of a product or material to be recovered or otherwise diverted from the solid waste stream for the purpose of recycling. (

Recycled/Recovered Materials - Waste materials and by-products that have been recovered or diverted from solid waste but do not include those materials and by-products generated from and commonly reused within an original manufacturing process. (

Refuse Derived Fuel – Fuel produced by shredding municipal solid waste (MSW) or steam pressure treating in an autoclave.  RDF consists largely of organic components of municipal waste such as plastics and biodegradable waste. (

Renewable Energy - Energy harvested from sources that are not depleted when used, typically causing very low environmental impact. Examples include solar energy, hydroelectric power and wind power. (

Remanufacturing - A recycling concept by which an existing product can have its useful life extended through a secondary manufacturing or refurbishing process such as remanufactured systems furniture. (

Slay – Residue created by the manufacturing and refining process of fossil fuels. (

Solar Energy - Is one the most resourceful sources of energy for the future. One of the reasons for this is that the total energy we receive each year from the sun is around 35,000 times the total energy used by man. However, about 1/3 of this energy is either absorbed by the outer atmosphere or reflected back into space. (

Sustainability – Characteristic of a process or state that can be maintained at a certain level. indefinitely(

Sustainable Design – Art of designing physical objects and the built environment to comply with the economic, environmental, and social principles. (

Sustainable Development – Meeting today’s needs of development without compromising future generations’ ability to develop. (

Switchgrass – Warm season grass and is one of the dominant species of the central North American tall grass prairie.  Switchgrass can be found in remnant prairies, along roadsides, pastures and as an ornamental plant in gardens. (

Tire Derived Fuel – Burning tires for the use of energy. (

Wind Power - Is another alternative energy source that could be used without producing by-products that are harmful to nature. Like solar power, harnessing the wind is highly dependent upon weather and location. The average wind velocity of Earth is around 9 m/sec. And the power that could be produced when a wind mill is facing the wind of 10 mi/hr. is around 50 watts. (