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Green construction - Sustainable development terms
Category: Earth and Environment > Sustainable development
Date & country: 10/11/2007, UK
Words: 350

A non living component of an ecosystem e.g. sunlight.

ACH (Air changes per hour)
Air outside a building is constantly infiltrating through cracks in a building shell and exchanging with inside air. ACH is the measure of the rate at which this occurs. For example, an ACH or 0.5 means that all the air in the building will change out in two hours.

Acid rain
Commonly used to mean the deposition of acidic components in rain, snow, fog, dew, or dry particles. The more accurate term is acid precipitation. Clean or unpolluted rain has a slightly acidic pH of 5.6, the extra acidity in rain comes from the reaction of air pollutants, primarily sulphur dioxide and nitrogen oxides, with water in the air to form strong acids (like sulphuric and nitric acid). The main sources of these pollutants are vehicles and industrial and power-generating plants.

The process whereby air pollution, mainly ammonia, sulphur dioxide and nitrogen oxides, is converted into acid substances

Action Research
The collecting of information to bring about social change, eg. to get data to expose environmental dangers and recommend actions for change.

Adaptable buildings
Buildings that can be easily remarketed, retrofitted, or reconfigured to better meet the changing needs of occupants, maintenance, and the larger community.

Is basically dirt that has been moistened with water, sometimes with chopped straw or other fibers added for strength, and then allowed to dry in the desired shape. Commonly adobe is shaped into uniform blocks that can be stacked like bricks to form walls

Aerobic digestion
Decomposition of organic waste using micro-organisms and oxygen in the process. See - Composting.

Planting of new forests on lands which, historically, have not contained forests.

Agenda 21
A framework of political recommendations designed to protect the environment and encourage nations to move towards achieving sustainable development in the 21st Century.

Air infitration
Uncontrolled inward air leakage through cracks in a building envelope. May also refer to air leaking outward (called air exfiltration).

Air-to-Air heat exchanger
See - Heat recovery ventilator

A compound of nitrogen and hydrogen with the formula NH3. At standard temperature and pressure, ammonia is a gas. It is toxic and corrosive to some materials, and has a characteristic pungent odour.

Aseismic buildings
Buildings constructed so as to withstand different degrees of earthquake damage.

Is the reduction in amplitude and intensity of a signal with respect to distance traveled through a medium. Attenuation is usually measured in units of decibels per centimetre of medium (dB/cm) and is represented by the attenuation coefficient of the medium in question.

Autoclaved concrete
Mix of lime, sand, cement and water are mixed, and then put into moulds, where an aluminium powder is added, which causes the mass to expand. It is then put into a steam-curing chamber (autoclave), which gives it strength. The resulting material has many benefits (non-combustible, easily worked, Low U-value, etc.)

Available biological capacity
The quantity of biologically productive space available for human use.

Balance point
The outdoor temperature at which a building`s heat loss to the environment is equal to internal heat gains from people, lights, and equipment. Surface load dominated buildings such as single family detached residences will have balance points in the 15-20oC range. Internally load dominated structures, like office buildings, may have balance points so low that the climate never overcomes their internal heat gain.

Balancing pond
A pond designed to attenuate flows by storing runoff during the peak flow and releasing it at a controlled rate during and after the peak flow has passed. The pond always contains water. Also known as wet detention pond.

The continuous process of measuring companies in similar service areas against strong competitors or recognised industry leaders. Benchmarking is used by regulators to improve performance and can be applied to all facets of operation. It requires a measurement mechanism so that the performance gap can be identified.

The accumulation of a substance (typically a persistent chemical or heavy metal) in the tissue of a plant or animal, generally through the uptake of water or food, at a rate faster than the plant or animal can excrete it, resulting in a steady increase in contamination over the organism's lifetime.

A substance, such as an enzyme, that initiates or modifies the rate of a biological process and is generally consumed in that process, in contrast with a chemical catalyst, which accelerates a chemical reaction without being consumed.

An additive which will prevent growth of bacteria or fungi. Used in paints, floor coverings and sometimes in fabrics; toxic materials which are usually only safe in low concentrations.

Materials that will decompose into naturally occurring, harmless components with exposure to air, sunlight and/or moisture.

Decomposition of organic matter by micro-organisms and other living things.

The variety of life in all its forms, levels and combinations. This phrase acts as a coverall for eco-system diversity, species diversity, and genetic diversity.

The variability among living organisms, including diversity within species, between species and of ecosystems.

Biodiversity responsibility
The amount of biologically productive area a nation would need to set aside in order for global biodiversity to be maintained. A figure of 12% is generally accepted as the minimum requirement.

A fuel produced from dry organic matter or combustible oils produced by plants. Examples of biofuel include alcohol (from fermented sugar), bio diesel from vegetable oil and wood.

Biological productivity
A measurement of biological production of a given area over a given time period. A typical indicator of biological productivity is the annual biomass accumulation of an ecosystem.

Biological wastewater treatment
Purifying wastewater in a natural or emulated wetland environment. Such systems are powered mainly by sunlight and achieve purification through the combined action of living food chains, many of which are microscopic.

The accumulation of a substance by an animal that preys on other animals that have themselves accumulated the substance. This process can deliver remarkably high concentrations of persistent chemicals or heavy metals to top predators even if the levels in the surrounding physical environment are quite low.

The total mass of all living organisms within a biological community. In the energy production industry, it refers to living and recently living biological material which can be used as fuel or for industrial production. Most commonly biomass refers to plant matter grown for use as biofuel, but also includes plant or animal matter used for production of fibres, chemicals or heat. Biomass may also include biodegradable wastes that can be burnt as fuel.

Bioretention area
A depressed landscaping area that is allowed to collect runoff so it percolates through the soil below the area into an under-drain, thereby promoting pollutant removal.

The part of the earth and its atmosphere in which living organisms exist or that is capable of supporting life.

The living components of an ecosystem.

Water from toilets, kitchen sink, or other dirty sources, which may be contaminated with microorganisms or harmful bacteria.

Brown roof
A roof that incorporates a substrate (laid over a waterproof membrane) that is allowed to colonise naturally.

An area previously used for housing, industry or other infrastructure which then has to be cleared, de-contaminated and redeveloped for a new use.

Building ecology
Physical environment and systems found inside the building. Key issues include air quality, acoustics, and electromagnetic fields.

Building envelope
Building elements (e.g., walls, roofs, floors, windows, etc.) that enclose conditioned spaces and through which energy may be transferred to and from the exterior.

Building Related illnesses (BRI)
Illnesses caused by toxic off-gassing from building materials or moulds, bacteria, etc. that can accumulate in HVAC systems and carpeting.

Built-in obsolescence
Products constructed to degrade and malfunction after only a short time of use, needing replacements.

Anything produced in the course of making another product.

A type of soil containing calcium carbonate that makes a very hard brick/block without firing, common in the southern USA and South America.

Calorific value
The energy content of a fuel measured as the heat released on complete combustion.

Cap-and-trade system
A regulatory or management system that sets a target level for emissions or natural resource use, and, after distributing shares in that quota, lets trading in those permits determine their price.

Carbon credit
Are measured in units of certified emission reductions (CERs). Each CER is equivalent to one ton of carbon dioxide reduction. Developed countries that have exceeded the levels can either cut down emissions, or borrow or buy carbon credits from developing countries.

Carbon cycle
Is the biogeochemical cycle by which carbon is exchanged between the biosphere, geosphere, hydrosphere and atmosphere of the Earth. Major components include photosynthesis, respiration and decay between atmospheric and terrestrial systems.

Carbon dioxide (CO2)
The greenhouse gas whose concentration is being most affected directly by human activities. Carbon dioxide also serves as the reference to compare all other greenhouse gases. The major source of emissions is fossil fuel combustion.

Carbon emissions
See – Greenhouse gas

Carbon footprint
A representation of the effect human activities have on the climate in terms of the total amount of greenhouse gases produced (measured in units of carbon dioxide).

Carbon Management
A strategy for large organisations who wish to manage and reduce their carbon emissions while growing profitably; provides a strategic view of how carbon impacts the organisation by identifying the risks and opportunities associated with climate change

Carbon monoxide (CO)
A colourless, odourless, very toxic gas made up of carbon and oxygen that burns to carbon dioxide with a blue flame and is formed as a product of the incomplete combustion of carbon.

Carbon sequestration
Refers to the process by which atmospheric carbon is absorbed in to carbon sinks such as the oceans, forests and soil.

Carbon sink
Is a carbon reservoir that is increasing in size, the main natural sinks are the oceans, and plants and other organisms that use photosynthesis to remove carbon from the atmosphere by incorporating it into biomass. The concept of carbon sinks has become more widely known because the Kyoto Protocol allows this as a form of carbon offset.

Carbon tax
A tax on energy sources which emit carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. It is an example of a pollution tax, which has been proposed by economists as preferable because it taxes a bad, rather than a good, issue.

Carrying capacity
The number of individuals who can be supported in a given area within natural resource limits, and without degrading the natural, social, cultural and economic environment for present and future generations.

The area contributing surface water flow to a point on a drainage or river system; can be divided into sub-catchments.

Certified emission reduction (CER)
Each CER is equivalent to one ton of carbon dioxide emissions reduction. A CER is the technical term for the output of Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) projects, as defined by the Kyoto Protocol.

Chloroflourocarbon (CFC)
A chemical compound made up of carbon, fluorine, and chlorine. CFCs have been used as propellants in spray cans, coolants in refrigerators and air conditioners, and in foam, plastics, and cleaning solvents. They are very stable in the troposphere, but are broken down by strong ultraviolet light in the stratosphere and release chlorine atoms which have been shown to deplete the ozone layer.

Circular metabolism
A system where some or many of the outputs are recycled back into the system, meaning less inputs are required.

City metabolism
Using a view of cities as organisms, describes the way in which they operate to enable continued growth and functioning.

City system
The people, goods and information flows which enter and leave a city, creating a system of inputs and outputs.

Climate change
Refers to the variation in the Earth's global climate or in regional climates over time. It describes changes in the variability or average state of the atmosphere over time scales ranging from decades to millions of years. These changes may come from processes internal to the Earth, be driven by external forces or, most recently, be caused by human activities.

Closed loop-recycling
A recycling system in which a particular mass of material is remanufactured into the same product. See - Ecodesign.

A method of using the heat that is produced as a by-product of electrical generation and that would otherwise be wasted; the heat can be used for space heating of buildings or for industrial purposes. Utilising the heat in this way means that 70-85% of the energy converted from fuel can be put to use, rather than the 30-50% that is typical for electrical generation alone. The term CHP is employed in the UK and some other parts of Europe, while the term co-generation is employed elsewhere in Europe, the US and other countries.

Combined Heat and Power (CHP)
See - Co-generation

Combined sewer
A sewer designed to carry foul sewage and surface runoff in the same pipe.

Community Plan
A plan which is developed at local authority level involving local communities to promote and put sustainable development into practice in the locality.

Material resulting from the controlled microbial transformation of organic materials under aerobic, high temperature conditions.

A waste management option involving the controlled biological decomposition of organic materials into a relatively stable humus-like product that can be handled, stored, and applied to the land without adversely affecting the environment.

Composting toilet
A toilet which uses little or no water in which the waste composts to a material which can be safely used as a soil additive.

Compressed earth blocks
Earth that is mechanically compressed into a block form, often stabilised with cement, and having a higher compressive strength and better weatherability characteristics than adobe. See - Earth construction.

Contaminated land
Land that retains undesirable residues resulting from a previous use or recent incident.

Controlled waters
Waters defined and protected under the Water Resources Act 1991. Any relevant territorial waters that extend seaward for 3 miles from the baselines, any coastal waters that extend inland from those baselines to the limit of the highest tide or the freshwater limit of any river or watercourse, any enclosed dock that adjoins coastal waters, inland freshwaters, including rivers, watercourses, and ponds and lakes with discharges and groundwaters.

Cost-benefit analysis
The appraisal of an investment or a policy change that consders all associated costs and benefits, expressed in monetary terms, accruing to it.

Design, industrial, management and economic activities which ensure that materials and products are cared for throughout their life cycle, so that once their current use life is complete they are returned to new use lives or functions. See - Ecodesign and Recycling.

Land area within property boundaries.

A natural source of light, daylight consists of sunlight, cloud diffused sunlight, both reflected by the ground and adjoining surfaces.

Daylight transmittance
The ratio of the amount of light transmitted through a window divided by the amount of light incident on its outside surface.

Daylighting design
The use of controlled natural lighting methods indoors, through the use of skylights, windows and reflected light.

The process of removing or reducing regulation. It is often employed in connection with the liberalisation process for privatised industries. The term is sometimes used erroneously to describe the movement of publicly owned companies and industries in to the private sector.

When applied to an economy, refers to the phasing out of its dependence on (carbon-containing) fossil fuels.

The conversion of forested areas to non-forest land use such as arable land, urban use, logged area or wasteland; historically, this meant conversion to grassland or to grainfields.

Activities, processes and products which reduce, rather than enhance, the possibility of a future which can be sustained.

Degree days
The difference between the average daily temperature and the CIBSE degree day baseline temperature. This measure is used to estimate building energy needs. It is also a quick way to compare the severity and character of a climate. A heating degree day is counted for each degree below 15.5o reached by the average daily outside temperatures. For example, if, on a given day, the daily average temperature outdoors is 12 oC, then there are 3.5 degrees below the 15.5 oC. Thus, there are 3.5 heating degree days for that day. Reverse this process (degrees above 15.5 oC) to calculate Cooling Degree Days.

Demand Side Management
The planning, implementation, and monitoring of utility activities designed to encourage consumers to modify patterns of electricity usage, including the timing and level of electricity demand. It refers only to energy and load-shape modifying activities that are undertaken in response to utility-administered programs.

The transformation of arid and semi-arid land into desert, generally due to overgrazing, deforestation, poor irrigation and tilling practices, climate change, or a combination of these factors.

Design criteria
A set of standards agreed by the developer, planners and regulators that the proposed system should satisfy.

Detention basin
A vegetated depression which is normally dry, except after storm events, constructed to store water temporarily to attenuate flows; may allow infiltration of water to the ground.

Development gap
The economic and consequent social divide between richer countries such as the USA and poorer countries such as Bangladesh.

General name for a significant decline in tree health and numbers, especially native trees; caused by a variety of agents, including insect attack, disease, pollution and human-induced changes to the environment.

Diffuse pollution
Pollution arising from land-use activities (urban and rural) that are dispersed across a catchment, or sub-catchment, and do not arise as a process effluent, municipal sewage effluent, or an effluent discharge from farm buildings.

A general term that describes a large group of chemicals that are highly persistent in the environment. The most toxic compound is 2,3,7,8-tetrachlorodibenzo-p-dioxin or TCDD. Dioxins are generally formed as unintentional by-products of industrial processes involving chlorine (such as waste incineration, chemical and pesticide manufacturing and pulp and paper bleaching), but also during the combustion of biomass, such in wood stoves.

Disposable culture
Communities where no real recycling or consumer item repairs are carried out; the USA demonstrates such a culture, whereas India is famous for its re-use of items.

Distortionary subsidy
A subsidy that creates an unintended distortion in the allocative efficiency of the local or global economy.

Distributed generation
A new trend in the generation of heat and electrical power. The Distributed Energy Resources (DER) concept permits consumers who are generating heat or electricity for their own needs (like in hydrogen stations and microgeneration) to send surplus electrical power back into the power grid, a process also known as net metering, or share excess heat via a distributed heating grid.

District energy or heating
Heating provided from a central boiler, or a number of heat stations, to serve a network of pipes that supply heat to a number of buildings. Such schemes may be fuelled by a range of sources, both fossil and renewable and some schemes are multi-fuelled. The buildings served may be a mix of housing, public and commercial buildings.

Dow Jones Sustainability Index. Created in 1999, DJSI indexes were the first of its kind, listing companies according to their sustainable development performance.