Glossary – SKCR Green Home Advisor
A term used to describe products made of materials that can be broken down, or decomposed, by biological agents or a living ecosystem, such as bacteria.
is the outline of the total area of a lot or site that is occupied by the building structure, not including parking lots, landscapes, courtyards and other non-building facilities.
is an environmentally-friendly, non-profit, residential building program of the Master Builders Association of King and Snohomish Counties. Developed in partnership with King County, Snohomish County, and other agencies in Washington state, it encompasses a network of architects, builders, developers, subcontractors, suppliers, lenders and real estate agents. Built Green serves both the building industry and consumers. It provides the residential building industry with green building standards for the building site, water usage, energy efficiency, indoor air quality and material selection, and it provides consumers with four easy-to-understand rating systems. These ratings quantify environmentally friendly building practices for remodeling and new home construction.
First used in 1999, the term refers to the total amount (or sets) of greenhouse gasses (specifically carbon dioxide emissions) caused by an organization, product, event or person during a given time period. It is used to describe the environmental impact of such emissions, and is measured in terms of the units of carbon dioxide (CO2). Calculating the total carbon footprint is difficult, if not impossible, because of the immense amount of data required as well as the fact that carbon dioxide can by produced by natural occurrences. Ecomii, an online green lifestyle resource, offers 5 easy tips for reducing your carbon footprint in 2013.
Carbon trading is an economic incentive system that allows a company or country with high carbon emissions to purchase or trade polluting rights through a regulatory system known as cap-and-trade. This mechanism means carbon credits or pollution permits may be sold and purchased. This exchange is designed to allow those with higher carbon emissions to purchase the right to release more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere from entities (or countries) that have lower emissions. A variation of the scheme involves the sale of carbon offsets from emission reduction projects. Carbon trades originated with the 1997 Kyoto Protocol. The goal of the arrangements is to ensure the aggregated companies do not exceed a baseline level of pollution and to provide incentives for participants to pollute less.
Clean energy is generally considered to be energy, as electricity or nuclear power, that is produced with a low impact on the atmosphere or environment when used. In its definition for a Clean Energy Prize, MIT stated clean energy solutions involve products or services which promote, enhance or advance diversity of supply sources/transmission, efficiency in use, and that reduce negative environmental effects such as greenhouse gas emissions. A more detailed, technical definition appears in the Clean Energy Standard Act of 2012.
Community Power Works
Community Power Works (CPW) is an innovative public-private pilot program to test and deliver energy efficiency solutions for residential, commercial and institutional buildings within the City of Seattle. It is funded through a Federal grant and guided and supported by diverse partnerships involving individuals and organizations from environmental, labor, business and energy sectors. Along with encouraging energy efficient upgrades, the partners strive to stimulate new green technology and support the construction and green jobs sectors. CPW manages a list of contractors who must meet certain criteria for experience, customer service and quality assurance, and also offers rebates and customer services to complement programs of Seattle City Light and Puget Sound Energy.
CFL (compact florescent lamp or light bulb)
CFLs are low-wattage, compact (or compressed) versions of the more familiar long, tubular fluorescent lamps found in offices, schools and other buildings. These energy-efficient lamps are designed for use in most lighting fixtures, such as table lamps. Although more costly than an incandescent bulb, they last around six times longer and use only about 25 percent of the power of an equivalent incandescent bulb. Current designs are cooler, available in warmer color tones, and some are dimmable. Primary advantages are cost savings, energy savings and longevity. Drawbacks include upfront costs, and concerns associated with mercury, clean-up and disposal. Many municipalities prohibit tossing broken or burned out bulbs into the trash. According to ENERGY STAR, the United States could eliminate greenhouse gas emissions equal to 800,000 cars if each household in the country replaced just one incandescent bulb with a CFL bulb.
In buildings, daylighting refers to strategies used to utilize available sunlight for illumination by manipulating window placement, window fixtures and room dimensions to maximize natural light in a space, thereby minimizing the need for lamps and overhead lights and the energy required to power them. Proponents cite research showing improved performance and health at work in schools. In urban design and urban planning, daylighting involves redirecting a stream or creek into an above-ground channel. Along with restoring the water to a more natural state, daylighting is intended to improve the riparian environment.
Ecodesign is the process or approach to design that considers materials, practices and processes, together with their environmental impacts during the whole lifecycle of a product or project, considering procurement, manufacture, use and disposal. Applying a system-oriented, multidisciplinary and cross-functional approach, ecodesign can assess both potential waste and savings in materials and energy, as well as yield other benefits ranging from cost savings to increasing innovation and competitive advantages.
Energy Performance Score (EPS)
The Energy Performance Score (EPS) is a rating tool (or audit) that reflects home energy consumption and associated carbon emissions. It consists of three components: the audit (conducted by certified EPS auditors), the scorecard, and recommended upgrades to yield energy savings. Used for both new and existing homes, it allows home-to-home comparison so homeowners may compare their score with state averages and see where they rank in energy use on a regional and national scale. The EPS scorecard illustrates a home’s energy score as well as its carbon footprint. It is paired with an energy analysis report that provides in-depth information on a home’s performance (or operating costs) and provides upgrade recommendations, plus estimates for the costs and savings associated with the improvements. The rating system, similar to the miles-per-gallon (MPG) metric for automobiles, was co-developed by Earth Advantage Institute and Energy Trust of Oregon.
The term “ENERGY STAR,” introduced in 1992, is a labeling program used in various ways to identify and benchmark energy performance and to provide easy-to-use online tools and resources. It is joint program of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) to help save money and protect the environment through energy efficient products and practices. This voluntary labeling program, used on new homes as well as commercial and industrial buildings, identifies and promotes energy-efficient products to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.(Computers and monitors were the first labeled products. The label now appears on major appliances, office equipment, lighting, home electronics, and elsewhere.) An ENERGY STAR qualified building means the building meets EPA criteria for energy efficiency and may display the ENERGY STAR building label. In other applications the term describes an activity or participation in a program, such as the ENERGY STAR Challenge.
Also called e-waste and e-scrap, electronic waste refers to obsolete, outdated or discarded electrical or electronic devices such as computers, televisions, cell phones, printers, PDAs and other devices and their parts. Such waste can contaminate water, air and dirt, and tends to be highly toxic to humans, plants and animals. Informal processing of electronic waste in developing countries is posing health and pollution concerns because some components are considered toxic and not biodegradable. According to Electronic Recyclers International (ERI) — the largest electronic waste recycler in the U.S. whose facilities include a location in Auburn, Wash.,– e-waste is the fastest growing segment of municipal solid waste. It constitutes as much as 5 percent of the U.S. municipal solid waste stream and continues to grow five times faster than all other waste streams. Annually it is a $40 billion industry.
Grasscycling is the practice of leaving grass clippings on the lawn to decompose, mulch and nourish the soil, rather than bagging and disposing them. It can be beneficial because it adds organic nitrogen back into the lawn, helps retain moisture, and shades the soil, preventing weed seeds from germinating.
This all encompassing term generally refers to environmentally friendly building, site design/management and construction practices adhering to LEED certification levels, Built Green or other accepted standards. Green building results in design work that improves human health while reducing waste and pollution through the efficient use of resources such as energy, water and natural or recycled building materials. In Washington state, the Department of Ecology website has a Green Building section with tips and resources for improving a home’s environmental performance, plus links to various incentives and rebates.
Greenwashing is the misleading, deceptive or unsubstantiated practice by a company, government or other organization that promotes green-based environmental claims to sell a product or service or gain political support but which operates or conducts itself in a way that is damaging to the environment or contrary to stated claims. EnviroMedia Social Marketing in partnership with the University of Oregon maintains a Greenwashing Index that allows consumers to rate environmental claims made in advertising. It is intended to hold advertisers accountable for the sustainable practices they claim to have.
Incandescent light bulbs (once known as the electric lamp) may be any of various devices that produce light by heating a suitable material to a high temperature. These bulbs use a glowing white filament heated to white-hot by electrical resistance to generate light. Because of its poor efficiency and yellowish color, it is being phased out and replaced with alternatives such as fluorescent lights and LEDs.
LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) is an international voluntary green building certification system that guides the design, construction, operations and maintenance of buildings, homes and communities. It was developed by the U.S. Green Building Council in 2000 as a consensus-based, market-driven program that provides third-party verification of green criteria. LEED addresses the entire lifecycle of a building, considering stewardship of resources and sensitivity to their impacts. An estimated 1.6 million square feet of building space are LEED-certified each day in more than 130 countries These buildings are designed to lower operating costs while increasing asset value, reducing waste, conserving energy and water, providing a healthier and safer environment for occupants, reducing harmful greenhouse gas emissions. In many locations, such buildings qualify for tax rebates, zoning allowances and other incentives.
LED (light-emitting diode)
LED is an electronic device that emits light when an electrical current passes through it. Also defined as a semiconductor light source, LEDs are commonly used for indicator lights, such as power on/off lights, on electronic devices. Early LEDs emitted low-intensity red light, but more modern versions may have very high brightness. Because LEDs are energy efficient and have very long life spans (often more than 100,000 hours) they have broad applications, including electronic signs, clock displays, flashlights, street and decorative lighting, aviation and automotive lighting, traffic signals and computer monitors. Infrared LEDs are also used in the remote control units of various commercial products including televisions, DVD players and other domestic appliances.
A low-E coat is a microscopically thin glazing that slows the emission of radiant energy. This coating permits most of the sun’s light radiation to enter the building, but prevents heat radiation from passing through. By maintaining a more stable temperature inside buildings, low-e windows reduce the need for heating or cooling, thereby saving money and energy. They can also block harmful UV rays.
A Passive House is a very well-insulated, virtually air-tight building that is primarily heated by passive solar gain and by internal gains from people, electrical equipment, and other efforts to cut energy consumption. Passive houses have no separate heating systems apart from heat recovery ventilation. The concept represents today’s highest energy standard. These houses achieve overall energy savings of 60-70 percent and 90 percent of space heating withoutapplying expensive “active” technologies like photovoltaic or solar thermal hot water systems. Energy losses are minimized, and gains are maximized. Super insulation and air-tight construction minimize losses. According to the Passive House Institute U.S., the passive house standard is redefining the boundaries of the building sector in response to growing desires to be energy independent and, ideally, carbon-neutral.
Renewable energy is that which is generated from regenerative resources or energy that cannot be exhausted, such as wind, water and sunlight. In the Clean Energy Standard Act of 2012, it is defined as solar, wind, ocean, current, wave, tidal, or geothermal energy. Ecologists refer to renewable energy as a practice based on the concept of “reduce – reuse – recycle – repair,” and a concept that may be applied in daily living to help promote a sustainable society.
Renewable energy and I-937
Washington State voters approved Ballot Initiative 937 (I-937) in the November 2006 elections. The measure requires large utilities to obtain 15 percent of their electricity from new renewable resources such as solar and wind (but excluding hydro) by 2020 (with incremental steps by 2012 and 2016) and undertake cost-effective energy conservation.
A renewable resource is a natural resource that can be regenerated or replenished over time, either through naturally recurring processes or biologically. A resource is considered to be renewable if it can be replenished at a rate equal to or faster than it is used by humans or others in the ecosystem. Biomass, water, geothermal, wind and solar are the most frequently used renewable resources, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.
Insulation levels are specified by R-Values, a measure of insulation’s ability to resist heat traveling through it. The higher the R-Value the better the thermal performance of the insulation. The EPA has a table that shows what levels of insulation are cost-effective for different climates and locations in a home.
Sustainability refers to use of a resource so it is not depleted or permanently damaged. In 1987, the Brundtland Report, also known as Our Common Future, defined sustainability as “development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.” The nonprofit Natural Capitalism Solutions describes sustainability as “a way of working and living that balances immediate needs for commerce, living, habitation, food, transportation, energy and entertainment with future needs for these resources and systems as well as the liveliness and support of nature, natural resources and future generations.”
A take-back program accepts used products and/or packaging. These items are returned to the manufacturer or other outlet at the end of their lives. The manufacturer is then responsible for remanufacturing, recycling, or properly disposing of the products. Take-back programs exist for batteries, cell phones, small electronics, ink/toner cartridges, light bulbs and other products. Many municipalities and drug stores also offer periodic take-back programs for unused, unwanted or expired medications. Earth911 (a for-profit company) has a recycling directory with information on more than 300 items along with “green guides” for reducing household waste, starting a compost pile, promoting product stewardship and more.
VOCs (Volatile Organic Compounds)
VOCs are emitted as gases from certain solids or liquids. They include a variety of chemicals that are widely used as ingredients in household products, including some with short- and long-term adverse health effects (such as carcinogens). These organic compounds are volatile at typical room temperatures. VOCs are found in paints, stains and lacquers, solvents, aerosol sprays, cleaning supplies, synthetic foams, pesticides, moth repellants and air fresheners, dry-cleaned clothing, building materials, office equipment, correction fluids and carbonless copy paper, hobby supplies such as glues and adhesives, and permanent markers. Concentrations of many VOCs are consistently higher indoors (up to ten times higher) than outdoors. The EPA suggests several steps to reduce exposure.
Zero waste is an evolving philosophy based on designing products that are mindful of reuse, the environment and future generations. The term was first used publicly in the name of a company, Zero Waste Systems Inc., which was founded by a chemist in the mid 1970s in Oakland, Calif. Its mission was to find new homes for most of the excess chemicals from the electronics industry. Zero Waste America, an Internet-based environmental research organization, defines zero waste as the recycling of all materials back into nature or the marketplace in a manner that protects human health and the environment. Zero Waste Washington(originally Washington Citizens for Recycling) is a nonprofit organization that promotes waste prevention and recycling in Washington. It strives to “protect people and our natural world by advocating for products designed and produced to be healthy, safe, and continually recycled and reused.”