What Is Green Building?

What is Green Building?    |    Why does it Matter?    |    Why USGBC MA?    |    More Resources

Green Building-- What is it?

Green building is fundamentally about rethinking the spaces we work and live in.  The built environment-- the materials and spaces that surround us throughout our lives-- have a substantial impact on our health, and on the environment.  Green building is pivoting societies--both in the developed and developing world-- from an antiquated model of building construction, maintenance, and operation to one that is more efficient, less wasteful, more sustainable, AND more economical.  

The United States Green Building Council defines green building as “the planning, design, construction, and operations of buildings with several central, foremost considerations: energy use, water use, indoor environmental quality, material section and the building's effects on its site.” The goals of green building are:

  • Reverse contributions to climate change
  • Enhance human health and wellbeing
  • Protect and restore water resources
  • Protect biodiversity and ecosystem services
  • Promote sustainable and regenerative resource cycles
  • Build a greener economy
  • Enhance community, social equity, environmental justice, and quality of life

These considerations were often overlooked with buildings before USGBC came around. Founders Rick Fedrizzi, David Gottfried, and Mike italiano realized how much savings and environmental at damage was at stake when they founded USGBC in 

1993.  By focusing on how our buildings are built and maintained, we can save enormous amounts of money, reverse the runaway destruction of our environment that modern society is causing, and improve the spaces we live and work in-- as well as the air we breathe and water we drink.  

Why Does it Matter?

Green building offers opportunities for sustainable and economic growth on a national and global scale.  This year it is estimated that 40-48 percent of new nonresidential construction will be green, which equals a $120-145 billion opportunity.  62 percent of firms building new single-family homes report that they are doing more than 15 percent of their projects green. By 2018, that percentage increases to 84 percent. Read more on USGBC National's website

USGBC recently partnered with Booz Allen Hamilton, a consulting firm, to produce the 2015 Green Building Economic Impact Study, a report on the economic impacts of green building and LEED. In short, the report concluded: "By 2018, green construction will directly contribute 1.1 million jobs. Of that, LEED will be responsible for directly contributing 386,000 jobs." Here are a few other important pieces of information from the report: 

From 2011-2014, the green construction market has generated $167.4 billion in GDP, supported over 2.1 million jobs, and provided $147.7 billion in labor earnings. From 2015-2018, the study predicts that green construction will generate an additional $303.4 billion in GDP, support 3.9 million jobs, and provide $268.4 billion in labor earnings. 

The report also grapples with the accounting of indirect and induced economic impacts of green building.  By using energy, land, water, and materials more efficiently, green building has the "added benefit of saving money for both businesses and taxpayers." California's green building cost-benefit analysis report notes this, and demonstrates that an initial upfront green investment of just 2% of construction costs "is shown to yield lifecycle savings of more than 10 times the amount of the initial investment. 

The 2015 U.S. Construction Outlook Report shows that green building's standards directly correlate to reduced environmental impact, lower emission costs and water bills, lower operations and maintenance costs, more responsible waste disposal, and even an increase in worker health and productivity!

Green building has already had a substantial and formative impact on our nation, and the biggest growth is yet to come.  Consider that annual green construction spending is expected to grow 15.1% year over year (YoY) for 2015-2018, from $150.6 billion in 2015 to $224.4 billion in 2018 and residential green construction spending is expected to grow 24.5% YoY from $55 billion in 2015 to $100.4 billion in 201. 

The numbers are remarkable. How we build and design our homes, offices, and other spaces affects our quality of life. Still not convinced? Check out a few other studies, reports, and data from the past five years that show how important green building and sustainability are for our future:

  1. At COP21, More than 100 banks managing a total of $4 trillion in assets called for a doubling of energy efficiency by 2030.  Read more here
  2. In early 2015, Citi announced a $100 Billion, 10-Year commitment to finance Sustainable Growth.  Read more here
  3. This January, a report by the Abu Dabhi based International Renewable EnergyAgency (IRENA), revealed that "Doubling The Share Of Renewable Energy By 2030 Could Increase Global GDP By $1.3 Trillion."  Read more here & see the report here
  4. Case Study:  General Mills Announces New Commitment to Climate Change, invests $100M in clean energy and energy efficiency to protect company and planet's future.  Read more here
  5. Recently, the University of Guelph produced research declaring that: "environmentally friendly office buildings have higher rents and occupancy rates as well as more satisfied tenants."


At the USGBC MA, we drive sustainable and regenerative design, construction, and operation of buildings and communities in Massachusetts.  We envision a thriving and diverse community, working together for a built environment that it is ecologically, socially, and economically healthy, resilient, and prosperous for all. 

In the seven years we’ve been around, Massachusetts has added millions of square feet of LEED-accredited space and completed dozens of green building projects. In fact, in 2015 alone, Massachusetts had 19.85 million square ft. and 112 projects certified.  See the full story about Massachusetts' stellar green building record in 2016 here. Also check out this story about Boston making the Top Dozen list of U.S. Cities with the Most Energy Star Certified Buildings!

Our network includes over 30 sponsoring organizations, a network of over 500 professionals, and a contact list with over 14,000 subscribers.  We host LEED accreditation sessions, in-person webinars, and monthly events that members and sponsors can attend free of charge or at significantly reduced rates. As we look toward the future, we invite you to join us in our mission of promoting and advocating for sustainability in our living and work spaces. Join the movement now!

More resources

USGBC National's website is chalk-full of interesting and helpful information and data about green building:

The Business Case for Green Building

World Green Building Trends in 2016: Motivators and Obstacles

Definining Green Building

Learn the Basics

These resources provide more useful info about green building and its various standards:

Green Building Information Gateway (GBIG)

Environmental Protection Agency

Living Building Challenge

Passive House Institute US (PHIUS)

WELL Building Standard

Resilient Design Institute

Architecture 2030


Green Building Elements:  San Francisco Passes Mandatory Solar Ordinance for New Buildings

The Wall Street Journal: ‘Sustainable Investing’ Goes Mainstream.  An interesting article from an interesting source, considering the WSJ editorial team still routinely challenges the scientific validity of climate change! 

The Guardian: The New Bottom Line: Money is No Nonger a Dirty Word in Sustainability

The Guardian: US Taxpayers Subsidizing World's Biggest Fossil Fuel Companies

The Guardian: G20 Countries Pay Over $1,000 per Citizen in Fossil Fuel Subsidies, Says IMF.  Check out the IMF figures here

The Austin American-Statesman (An Op-ed by US Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz): US Needs Investments in Clean Energy

The New Republic: Who Will Pay for Climate Change?

The AtlanticAl Gore's Plan to Save Capitalism: Does it Make Sense? Also check out his company: Generation Investment Management LLP, an investment firm "dedicated to long-term investing, integrated sustainability research, and client alignment" 

The Atlantic (in collaboration with Morgan Stanley): The Investor's Guide to Climate Change

Forbes: Doubling the Share of Renewable Energy by 2030 Could Increase Global GDP by $1.3 Trillion

The New York Times (from the editorial section): Proof That a Price on Carbon Works

Other good info:

The Carbon Tracker Initiative: a great project where financial specialists are working to make carbon investment risk real today in the capital market.  

Stanford Law School's Steyer-Taylor Center for Energy Policy and Finance: an organization that develops and explores economically sensible policy and finance solutions that advance cleaner, more secure energy. 

The International Center for Climate Governance (ICCG): an international climate change think tank based in Venice-- these guys better put their money where their mouth is, since Venice is in big trouble if sea levels continue to rise!