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Green buildings often include measures to reduce energy consumption – both the embodied energy required to extract, process, transport and install building materials and operating energy to provide services such as heating and power for equipment

As high-performance buildings use less operating energy, embodied energy has assumed much greater importance – and may make up as much as 30% of the overall life cycle energy consumption. Studies such as the U.S. LCI Database Project show buildings built primarily with wood will have a lower embodied energy than those built primarily with brick, concrete, or steel.

To reduce operating energy use, designers use details that reduce air leakage through the building envelope (the barrier between conditioned and unconditioned space). They also specify high-performance windows and extra insulation in walls, ceilings, and floors. Another strategy, passive solar building design, is often implemented in low-energy homes. Designers orient windows and walls and place awnings, porches, and trees to shade windows and roofs during the summer while maximizing solar gain in the winter. In addition, effective window placement (day lighting) can provide more natural light and lessen the need for electric lighting during the day. Solar water heating further reduces energy costs.

Onsite generation of renewable energy through solar power, wind power, hydro power, or biomass can significantly reduce the environmental impact of the building. Power generation is generally the most expensive feature to add to a building.

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