At the World Building Council (WorldGBC), we say that a green building is one that, in its design, construction, and day-to-day operations, reduces or eliminates negative impacts and creates positive impacts on climate and the natural environment. We often use the term “green building,” singular, in addition to “green buildings,” plural, because the action of building is as important to us as the building after it’s built.
Green building is about preserving precious natural resources, but it’s also improving quality of life. In the past, many people have had the idea that a green building is all about making sacrifices and doing less of something to preserve resources, but now we also think about how a green building can contribute positively. It’s about improving our quality of life, and improving our ability to thrive on the planet in the future.
Like green building, net zero carbon can refer both to a building’s operation and to its construction. At WorldGBC, the definition of net zero carbon begins with operational efficiency, as we recognize that that is more achievable in a shorter time frame. Buildings that are net zero carbon utilize deep energy efficiency in their operations, and the energy that the building does use comes from renewable sources, either on site or off site. An example of an on-site source would be a solar panel on the roof. An example of an off-site source would be drawing power from a zero carbon district energy system or renewable energy source near the building.