Contact Name(s): Christopher Landis & Shawn Malarcher
Address: 212 Caroline Depot Road, Brooktondale, NY 14817

To be used for: What is Green Building?

The annual Green Building Open House showcases homes demonstrating green building.

What Is Green Building?

Green building means many different things to different people -- it is a multifaceted concept that lends itself to many interpretations. There's energy efficiency and renewable energy technologies. There are natural building concepts. There are social and community elements. All of these -- and more -- are important, and the full benefits of green building are realized only when all elements of the built environment are looked at holistically.

So, in order to provide as complete an understanding of green building as possible, we offer multiple descriptions from a variety of sources. In addition to our own definition of green building we have gathered information from numerous organizations and compiled their definitions here. Below are brief synopses of several of these definitions. At the end of each you will find a link to the corresponding website where you can learn more about each.

Cornell Cooperative Extension Definition

Green building is a way of viewing the built environment that has at its core a respect for people and the planet all along the process. That means healthy materials put together in a beautiful structure that minimizes waste and environmental impact and maximizes functionality and efficiency. It requires a holistic approach that combines the best of building performance science -- looking critically at how every part of a building interacts with other parts and maximizes efficiency and durability -- and natural building -- choosing healthy, beautiful, locally produced materials.

Green buildings are healthier for the people who make the materials they are built with, those who build the structures, and the people who live in and around them. They put fewer materials in our landfills during the building process and at the end of the material's life. They house us with efficient use of energy and water. And they promote a healthy, local, and green economy.

Green building requires taking the following into consideration:

- proximity to public transportation and services
- appropriate concern for the temporal and spatial context of the building (e.g., strawbale in NY may require different design and detailing than in New Mexico)
- orient the building to minimize ecological footprint and maximize energy efficiency (e.g., daylighting)
- make use of energy sources that are contextually viable (e.g., timber if you are in a forested area)

- maximize the use of space for inhabitants to live comfortably without waste
- account for the longevity of the building -- make it flexible to changes in lifestyles and stages
- optimize indoor air quality so as to heighten human health and comfort

- employ local building materials (both raw and manufactured) and construction services (including labor, milling, etc.)
- use recycled and reused materials when possible
- avoid using hazardous and toxic products and materials
- use only primary access roads, avoid extraneous environmental impact in the building process
- on-site resource management during the construction process
- dispose of unused materials and technology properly (e.g., recycle)

- reduce energy consumption in daily life (e.g., decrease water usage)
- minimize waste (e.g., greywater systems)
- abate lifestyle costs by making healthy and environmentally preferable decisions
- built environment promotes well-being through continued sustainable operation practices and product choices


Ithaca Green Building Alliance
Using a holistic approach to green building, the Ithaca Green Building Alliance includes natural systems as a paragon of sustainable building, includes social considerations in both material choices and working conditions of those making the materials and putting the buildings together, context specificity of site design, application of building life cycle concerns, reduction of resource consumption, and integrated sustainable development processes.

Environmental Protection Agency
The Environmental Protection Agency defines green building using a cause and effect paradigm with considerations for energy efficiency, human health and environmental conservation. The EPA categorizes the effects of the built environment into a) aspects of the built environment, i.e. materials and design; b) consumption, i.e. energy usage throughout the lifespan of the building; c) short-term effects, i.e. indoor air quality and; d) long-term effects, i.e. loss of biodiversity.

For more information, visit:

National Association for Home Builders (NAHB)
The National Association for Home Builders conceptualizes green building within its applicability to the construction process. Taking into account environmental considerations as well as building science and ease of implementation, this definition applies primarily to builders interested in sustainable practices.

For more information, visit:

National Park Service
Humbled by the aesthetics of lands held by the Federal government, the National Park Service maintains that green building remain subservient to ecosystem services, while still accommodating human needs and mandating universal access. NPS identifies the primary objective of green design as "lead through example", ultimately causing a shift in values toward a sustainable lifestyle.

For more information, visit:

Smart Communities
Smart Communities takes a localized approach to ascertaining the parameters of green building. By placing the process of sustainable design within the context of community setting, implications, namely environmental impacts and energy usage are made more pertinent to individual homeowners.

Whole Building Design Guide
Whole Building Design Guide employs six fundamental principles to characterize green building; a) optimization of site potential, b) maximization of energy efficiency, c) conservation of water, d) use of environmentally preferable materials, e) enhancement of indoor air quality and, f) utilization of sustainable maintenance practices.

For more information, visit:

Last updated June 14, 2018