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At ArchitectureWeek magazine, we use a four part test for green building, a "Four Leaf Green" standard for full-spectrum climate-stabilizing and environmentally-responsible buildings:
One - Maximum Overall Sustainability
As in LEED and comparable international overall sustainable building standards, including prioritizing reuse of existing structures, especially when they have cultural as well as construction value.
Two - Minimum Carbon Footprint
As in Energy Star and the UK Zero-Carbon Housing standard, and other increasingly strict prerequisite standards for limiting building carbon-equivalent footprints, and general energy consumption, over the full design-build-occupy cycle.
Three - Effective Location
Buildings are built in locations that reduce VMT by regional geography and by walkable access to frequent transit. As in the 'Living Building Challenge', buildings are built on brownfield sites or otherwise in such a way as to maintain existing natural carbon storage, ecosystem services, and biodiversity.
Four - Appropriate Size
Buildings are measured and evaluated to standards that account for climate and environmental impacts on a per-occupant basis, as well as on a per-building-area basis. Size matters, as well as efficiency.
Location is especially important, though sometimes overlooked, since the greenest building in a sprawl location will probably have a higher overall carbon footprint than an average contemporary building in a walkable urban neighborhood.
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