Are Green Buildings Safer?

Everyone knows that green buildings use less energy to operate. And studies show they’re healthier for occupants, which makes for happier residents and more productive workers. A study released suggests that greener construction can advance building resiliency.

Green buildings are generally designed and built more carefully, with better materials and tighter finishes. It turns out that efficiency-focused features may also help green buildings and their occupants ride out long-term climate shifts such as droughts or heat waves and even give an edge in short-term disasters, by staying dry in floods and well sealed during high winds.

These buildings with tight seals are a huge plus for energy insulation: with little heat leaking out during the winter, while cool stays in during the summer. Better sealed, less drafty buildings are a big plus in wind storms too. When tornadoes or hurricanes rake a community, some of the most costly, serious damage is done when wind and water infiltrate a building, sending water deep into hidden cavities. A small opening — whether a missing shingle or a poorly sealed window –can set off a domino effect of damage.

Water is another realm where green design can protect buildings and enhance the environment. Permeable surfaces that let rain water soak into urban surfaces can dramatically lower the incidence of flash flooding, or overflowing from the storm water system when heavy rains overwhelm sewer systems. In drought-stricken areas, green buildings can capture rainfall, conserve fresh water and reuse grey water.

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