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How to measure a green building

Omega Center for Sustainable Living, Rhinebeck, NY

Yesterday was Earth Day and the blogosphere was abuzz with all the handy, dandy and most often meaningless catchphrases that abound in our newly environmentally conscious world (see, I just dropped one myself). Keep in mind that however good Earth Day is at making more people more aware of their environment (I saw a homeless man use one of his own plastic bags at a deli counter), it was invented by an ad man, just like Valentine’s Day and Secretary’s Day (now Administrative Assistant’s Day). So if you want to join in the fun of hyphenating your words with eco- and green- take a minute to learn what it really means.

Kroon Hall in Yale’s School of Forestry and Environmental Studies, New Haven, CT

Lesson 1: Architecture. The AIA (American Institute of Architecture) recently announced the Top Ten Green Buildings of 2010. But before we take a look at the winners, let’s go over the criteria:

1. Intent and Innovation – making sustainability the number 1 goal.

2. Community – how the design relates to local and regional issues, promotes community connectivity and transportation alternatives.

3. Site – how the building affects the quality of life of the surrounding environment.

4. Bioclimatic Design – conserving resources by making the most out of the local climate, sun path, prevailing breezes and seasonal and daily cycles. (Madonna’s school in Malawi, though not a winner, is a good example.)

5. Light and Air – the more the better.

6. Water – strategies to reuse rainwater, graywater and wastewater.

7. Energy – 2 words: carbon footprint.

8. Materials – making an informed selection of materials and reducing the amount of materials used in general.

9. Long Life – avoiding problems of Gehry-esque proportions.

10. Feedback – did you learn anything in the process that influenced the design?

See what buildings were up to snuff this year.