Green Building and Sustainability in

the AEC Industry

Author’s Corner

In her white paper, Marissa Jacobson, Director of Client Operations / BIM Management, discusses the positive effect of sustainability within the AEC industry.

Please click on the video to the right to learn more about the author, her paper’s key points, and her motivation for writing on this subject.

To discuss this white paper in more detail, please contact Marissa using the information provided at the bottom of the page.

According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, "Green building is the practice of creating structures and using processes that are environmentally responsible and resource-efficient throughout a building’s life-cycle from siting to design, construction, operation, maintenance, renovation and deconstruction."

The architect/designer attempts to maintain good quality of air, water, and earth by selecting eco-friendly designs, construction materials and practices, thus reducing any negative impacts on the built environment while improving the quality of life for the building’s occupants.

In most jurisdictions/communities, buildings only need to be designed to meet the building ordinances and code requirements for that particular area; thus, building with sustainability in mind becomes a choice, not a prerequisite. The American Institute of Architects (AIA) has stated that, "Green building design challenges designers to go beyond the codes to improve overall building performance and minimize life-cycle environmental impact and cost."


There are few urban cities and communities that have started to adopt the rule of sustainable building, thinking about reducing the carbon footprint, and being more energy efficient. However, many local, state, and federal officials have not been persuaded to update these practices as a rule (as it is for fire prevention or other building practices). This leaves it up the designer, property owner, or other stakeholders to decide.

Residential and commercial buildings within the U.S. utilize 40% of total energy produced and consume 75% of electricity produced (U.S. Energy Information Administration, 2019).

The green building movement encourages structures that decrease these environmental impacts by using improved building construction, building operation and maintenance, and lifecycle considerations. These can include less construction waste (sometimes influenced by design), energy/water conservation and enriched indoor air quality.

Characteristics of Sustainable Design/Building

The main goal of sustainability is to develop structures using fully green design and building practices. While most green buildings do not have all the following features, sustainable architecture and design may include:

  • Ventilation systems designed for efficient heating and cooling
  • Energy-efficient lighting and appliances (e.g., ENERGY STAR® products)
  • Water-saving plumbing fixtures
  • Landscaping with native vegetation and planned to maximize passive solar energy
  • Minimal harm to the natural habitat
  • Alternative renewable energy power sources such as solar power or wind power
  • Non-synthetic, non-toxic materials used inside and out
  • Locally obtained wood and stone, eliminating long-haul transportation
  • Use of recycled architectural salvage
  • Efficient use of space
  • Optimal location on the land, maximizing sunlight, wind, and natural sheltering
  • Rainwater harvesting and greywater reuse
Characteristics of Sustainable Design/Building

Sustainability begins with the design ideas and practice; however, the building and construction processes are a huge aspect of green building as well. Some of these practices can include strict sourcing of building materials, dredging waterways, recycling concrete, and using rail and water to deliver materials.

LEED Certification

In 2000, a rating system and, subsequently a certification, was created for builders, developers, and architects to optionally follow. This is called LEED accreditation and is an acronym for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design.

"Projects pursuing LEED certification earn points across several categories, including energy use and air quality," explains the U.S. Global Building Council.

"Based on the number of points achieved, a project then earns one of four LEED rating levels: Certified, Silver, Gold or Platinum." This can be adapted and applied to any building whether residential, commercial, or industrial and is also a choice, not a requirement.


The future of Sustainability

Sustainability has a number of associated names and concepts used by many, such as eco-design, eco-friendly architecture, arcology, and net zero (energy and emissions). Others may think of it from the aspect of environmental movement, using terms like friendly architecture, environmental architecture, natural architecture, and even organic architecture. These all have aspects of green architecture and focus more on the relationship between the building and its environment. A building can be very “green” but not be aesthetically appealing; it can also be the opposite and look beautiful and even be constructed from very expensive materials, but not be sustainable in any sense.

Green building should not be viewed as an add-on but should be a consideration from project conception, through design and building practices. The relationship between these design objectives must be evaluated, understood, and appropriately applied for aesthetics, accessibility, functionality/operational efficiency, cost-effectiveness, historic preservation, security, comfort, safety, and health.


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David Haynes

Meet the Author

Marissa Jacobson - Director of Client Operations /BIM Management

Marissa Jacobson serves as the Engineering Director of Client Operations and BIM Management at Vee Technologies. She has over 10 years of experience in architecture and engineering with extensive commercial, residential, and institutional project portfolios with an emphasis on design and management. Marissa fosters an environment of teamwork and ensures that strategy is clearly defined while overseeing design, quality, and technical performance. Her strong communication and client relationships skills enhance Vee Technologies process-driven management style.

Green Building and Sustainability in the AEC Industry

Green Building and Sustainability in the AEC Industry