Best Practices in Green Design

Green building encompasses a wide range of design practices, building systems integration, product specification, and construction techniques. This chapter outlines the green building practices that are most applicable to affordable housing. Generally, affordable housing projects utilize readily available, low- to medium-cost materials and systems. Custom products, such as cast-in-place recycled glass terrazzo, or elaborate energy system approaches, such as nighttime ice production, displacement ventilation, or double-glazed facades, that may be found in commercial buildings or custom residential projects are not usually considered because of cost and a desire to maintain simplicity in operations and maintenance. The challenge is to identify opportunities for innovation through the integration of good architectural and mechanical system design with thoughtful and strategic selection of materials, appliances, lighting, and equipment.

We describe the best practices in green design in five main categories: (1) location and site, (2) water conservation, (3) energy efficiency and renewable energy, (4) resource-efficient materials, and (5) health and indoor air quality. These categories are similar to the structure of the U.S. Green Building Council's Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) rating system and encompass the issues addressed in the Enterprise Community Partners' Green Communities Initiative criteria; EarthCraft's Single and Multifamily programs; Alameda County Waste Management Authority's New Home Construction and Multifamily green building guidelines; and many other guidelines in use around the country.

While each of the green building topic areas is described separately here, it is important to follow the integrated design process described in Chapter 2, and to keep in mind that the various design strategies have interrelated impacts. For example, designing for natural daylight both improves livability and reduces electricity use, and well-located trees can both shade buildings in the summer and reduce stormwater runoff year round. The integrated design process is the best way to capture these synergies and to identify green building practices that derive the greatest benefit at the lowest additional cost. Furthermore, these strategies are only effective if they stay functional over the long term. Chapter 4 outlines how to put a maintenance and operations plan in place so that the benefits continue to accrue to the tenants and owners well into the future.

Specific practices are highlighted in this chapter, based on the decade of experience by Global Green staff members in providing technical assistance to affordable housing developers and their design teams. The recommended practices are generally cost-effective, provide clear benefits, and are compatible with the type of construction and maintenance common in the full range of affordable housing developmentsā€”from single-family houses to high-rise senior or SRO developments. However, each project is unique and the design team should combine local knowledge with guidance provided by green building rating systems, energy models, materials databases, and other tools to determine the most appropriate strategies for a given project type, resident population, and financial structure. The recommended best practices in this chapter are organized generally to follow the sequence of the design and development process.

Site selection sets the framework for many future choices related to green building. The type of development that surrounds the site; the shape and orientation of the site; the context of nearby urbanized, agricultural, or natural areas; and local climate conditions all establish a unique set of conditions that should be folded into the green

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