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Green Building 101: What makes a site sustainable?

Published on Written by Posted in LEED

Need a quick refresher on green building basics? This is our "Green Building 101" series that we'll publish throughout the month. We'll visit topics that form the foundation of our understanding of green building today.

What is a sustainable site plan?

A sustainable site plan takes into account the impact of the building on the surrounding environment and it's intended occupants.

In an ideal case, sustainable design projects will start in one of two ways—either the team starts with a site and considers the best functions and uses for that particular location, or the team starts with a function and determines the best location for that land use.

What factors are at play when choosing a site?

When selecting a site, the team must consider many attributes of the overall system:

  • What is the local climate of the project?
  • Has the site been previously developed?
  • Is it connected to local infrastructure and public transportation?
  • What species in the area might use the site as habitat and be affected?
  • What is the nature of the street life in the area, and how can the project contribute to community?
  • Where do people in the area live and work, and how do they get back and forth?

Why is this important for buildings?

The location of a building is as important as how it is built. Its connection and linkage to the local bioregion, watershed, and community will help determine how a project can contribute to a sustainable environment. A sustainable project serves more than the immediate function of the building. It must also meet the needs of the local community, support active street life, promote healthy lifestyles, provide ecosystem services, and create a sense of place.

Site selection and design play important roles in both reducing greenhouse gas emissions and helping projects adapt to the effects of climate change. If people can use public transportation, ride bicycles, or walk to the building, the project helps reduce the carbon emissions associated with commuting. A project that is connected to the community by pedestrian paths and bicycle lanes encourages people to walk or bike instead of drive, not only helping to reduce air pollution, but also promoting physical activity.

Ready to learn more?

Make a beeline for the Core Concepts Guide!

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    Tiffany Coyle made 10 contributions in the last 6 months

Tiffany Coyle

Digital Marketing Specialist U.S. Green Building Council

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