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Photograph shows part of the National Geographic Society building complex
The National Geographic Society headquarters in Washington, D.C., has just been certified "green" by the U.S. Green Building Council. The Society's three buildings became the first existing buildings to be given that honor.
Photograph by Jennifer Kirkpatrick
"Green" Buildings May Help Save Environment

By Sarah Ives
April 21, 2004

These days a green building means more than just the color of the paint. Green building can also refer to environmentally friendly houses, factories, and offices.

Green building means "reducing the impact of the building on the land," Taryn Holowka of the U.S. Green Building Council in Washington, D.C., said.

According to Holowka, buildings account for 65 percent of total U.S. electricity use.

But green buildings can reduce energy and water use. Also, the buildings are often located near public transportation such as buses and subways, so that people can drive their cars less. That could be good for the environment, because cars use lots of natural resources, such as gasoline, and give off pollution.

Green buildings are often built on previously developed land, so that the buildings don't destroy forests or other wild habitats.

Marty Dettling is project manager for a building that put these ideas into action. The Solaire (see a picture of the building) has been called the country's first green residential high-rise building.

According to Dettling, "We've reduced our energy consumption by one-third and our water by 50 percent."

The Solaire cuts energy in part by using solar power.

"On the face of the building we have what are called solar panels. The solar panels absorb the sun's energy and convert it to electricity," Dettling explained.

The Solaire also has lights that automatically turn off when people leave the room. Plus, the building has lots of windows. This allows people to use the sun for light instead of lamps during the day.

The Solaire cuts water by re-using it. The building takes water from the sink and shower and puts it in the toilets.

While not everyone lives in a green building, Holowka said that kids can help make "regular" homes greener. You can recycle, turn off the water faucet when you're not using it, and turn off lights when you're not in the room.

Not everyone is leaping to move into a green building, however. Some people think that features such as solar panels cost more money than more traditional energy sources.

Regardless, Holowka hopes that green buildings will become common in the future. "It's going to be big," she said.

Related Links
U.S. Green Building Council
Earth Day Guide

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