A Green Building Glossary

Biophilic design
The biophilia hypothesis or BET is the idea that humans have an innate proclivity to connect to nature. By providing opportunities for those connections either directly, or by referencing nature and its characteristics, a biophilic-designed home is believed to improve its occupants’ health and well-being.

A program of the International Living Future Institute (ILFI), Declare is a labeling system for building products that works much like nutrition labelsdo for food to promote transparency. A Declare label includes information about what the product is made of, where it is from, and where it goes at the end of its life (i.e., is it recyclable).

Embodied Carbon/Operational Carbon
Embodied carbon is the greenhouse gas emission associated with producing and transporting building materials—it impacts the environment before the construction process even starts. Operational carbon is released by the energy used to heat and power a building.

ERV (Energy Recovery Ventilator) vs. HRV (Heat Recovery Ventilator)
Both of these ventilation systems work in the same way to bring fresh air into your home, filter it, and distribute it to where you want it; the difference is that an ERV keeps some moisture in the air. Deciding which system to use depends on factors such as climate and family size.

Energy Use Intensity is the energy use per square foot per year of a home or other building. It can be simply thought of as the “miles per gallon” of the building industry.

FSC-Certified Lumber
Forestry Stewardship Council certification indicates that lumber comes from forests that are responsibly managed. Among other criteria, FSC standards incorporate the protection of water quality and a prohibition on the use of hazardous chemicals. (Using FSC-certified lumber is a great way to reduce embodied carbon emissions.)

Heat Pump
A machine installed on the exterior of a home that works to heat or cool the interior depending on the time of year. Heat pumps add to a home’s energy efficiency because they move heat, rather than generate heat.

HERS Index
The Home Energy Rating System (HERS) Index is the national home building industry standard that employs various diagnostic tests to determine a home’s energy efficiency. A HERS rating of 0 indicates a home that has achieved net-zero energy.

LEED Certified
Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design is the world’s most widely recognized green building certification, which acknowledges the highest level of sustainable building.

Living Building Challenge
A continuously evolving program of the ILFI that uses a series of high-level, holistic indicators to identify building projects that positively impact the environment. It is perhaps the most stringent and comprehensive certification standard that currently exists.

Mass Timber
Wood products created from multiple layers laminated together to achieve strength that is significantly greater than traditional lumber. These include CLT (cross-laminated timber) panels formed by perpendicular layers of wood glued together, and glulam (glue-laminated timber), which has a load-bearing capacity similar to steel. Mass timber constructionuses less energy and produces lower net-carbon emissions than concrete or steel construction.

Net-Zero Home
A home that produces as much energy as it consumes annually. It reduces energy consumption through airtight construction, the use of energy-efficient doors and windows, and proper insulation techniques, and offsets the remaining load with the energy produced by solar panels.

Passive House
A building built in accordance with an established set of design principles that provide an especially high level of energy efficiency, approximately a 90 percent reduction from a typical code-built structure.

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