Greening Our Urban Environments

Commonly Used Terms

Brownfield: Abandoned, idle or underused industrial or commercial buildings where expansion or development is complicated by real or perceived environmental contamination.

Carbon Neutral: A term used to describe projects or processes that emit no net carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. This is usually accomplished by providing renewable energy on-site and exporting waste or excess heat or power for off-site users.

Central Enthalpy Wheel: A form of heat exchange mechanism, in which exhaust air transfers heat or cooling to incoming (outdoor) air.

Deep Green: A practice of green design which goes beyond “light green” approaches which are limited to being “less bad.”  Deep Green practices aim for holistic sustainability and regenerative, restorative places and communities.

Development Manager: A manager who plans, organizes, secures and manages resources to successfully complete a project on behalf of another owner or property manager.

Ecological Footprint: A measure of human demand on the Earth’s ecosystems. It compares human demand with the planet’s ecological capacity to regenerate.  It represents the amount of biologically productive land and sea area needed to regenerate the resources a human population consumes and to absorb and render harmless the corresponding waste.  Humanity’s ecological footprint is rapidly depleting the planet’s natural capital, as we collectively would require 1.4 Earths to absorb our current (growing) footprint.

FSC-certified wood: The Forest Stewardship Council is a non-profit organization that certifies various forests around the world exhibiting good sustainability and management practices based on a specific management criteria. The wood from these forests is often quickly renewable using hybrid timber and advanced forestry methods. Other forests are simply carefully managed by limiting the impact on both the environment and the people and demonstrating a social benefit in the process.

Greywater: Waste water from lavatories, showers, baths and sinks only. This water can be stored in special equipment and may then be used to water lawns, gardens or other relatively benign non-potable uses such as groundwater recharge. Water from toilets is called black water; it must be properly drained to the sewer or septic system.

Green Power: Generally this is the production of electricity from environmentally friendly sources such as photovoltaic, geothermal, hydroelectric, biomass, hydrogen fuel cells, ocean energy and wind power. As with all forms of electricity generation, there are significant costs involved and in some cases undesirable byproducts such as vane noise, unsightly appearance or diversion of wild waterways. While large-scale versions of these methods are not practical within an urban environment, many homes and businesses are taking advantage of solar systems that not only make electricity but also heat water and interior environments. In the future if clean-fusion-process electrical production can be developed, the use of fossil fuel generation can be greatly reduced or eliminated. Another advantage of green power is the reduction of carbon dioxide generation.

Heat recovery : A process by which “waste” heat or cool is captured through the use of heat exchangers or enthalpy wheels, to preheat or preheat air or water in another system.

HVAC: The acronym for heating, ventilation and air conditioning.

IAQ: Indoor air quality. As buildings become tighter, chemicals in building finishes may more easily accumulate and concentrate.  In green buildings, low-emitting materials are specified, low-VOC paints, adhesives, carpets, woods and coatings are used and measures are taken to improve the exchange of fresh air without sacrificing heating/cooling economy.

LEED : Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design. The LEED program was developed by the U.S. Green Building Council as a system for rating new and existing commercial, institutional and residential buildings. It evaluates the overall environmental performance during the lifecycle of a building and provides a tangible methodology for analyzing the standards of a green building.

LEED Platinum: The LEED system certifies buildings at four levels: Certified, Silver, Gold and Platinum.  LEED Platinum therefore is rewarded to the highest-scoring, “greenest” buildings: the highest-performing, efficient and healthy buildings in the LEED rating system.

Manufactured locally: Refers to products that are manufactured within a relatively short distance from the job site. In the LEED rating system, this is defined as being extracted and manufactured within 800 km of the project site. The main intent is to minimize long-distance shipping and the energy expended and pollution created to move a product from greater distances.

Micro-utility: An independently-run, community-scale renewable energy project.  When developing sustainable community projects, it is useful to create a separate entity to build, own and operate an energy system, with a separate balance sheet from the project, and different risks and rewards.

Pedestrian-friendly design: Planning and architectural techniques which create a human-scale, walkable and accessible urban environment.  Generally such design requires compact development forms, a highly connected street network, a mix of shops, restaurants, housing and commercial uses, narrow streets, wide sidewalks, shade trees, safe pedestrian crossings, and street-oriented buidings.

Solar Photovoltaic Panel: Either roof- or ground-mounted to collect solar energy and, through the use of special solar voltaic cells, convert the energy to direct current electricity. A special controller converts this electricity to alternating current, making it usable in most residential and commercial applications. Electricity made in this fashion can be stored in batteries for later use; consumed as it is made to help offset the overall electrical use of a building; or fed into the commercial electrical grid for use in other locations. These panels only work when there is light, but surprisingly produce electricity even on cloudy days.

Prime Developer: An owner who develops a property for his/her own company, either to own or to ultimately sell.

Reclaimed lumber: Lumber reclaimed by “deconstruction” of a building or structure. This lumber can be used for non-structural applications such as paneling and flooring and, if re-graded, can be used in structural applications.

Recycled-content material: Products manufactured using post-consumer materials such as plastic, fiber, wood and glass. Deconstruction of various structures can also produce a variety of “raw” materials to create new products from — everything from tiles to carpeting to composite flooring materials and beyond. Recycled-content materials help to reduce the need for new raw materials and the accumulation and manufacturing processes involved.

Renewable Energy: Energy that is generated from natural resources such as sunlight, wind, rain, tides and geothermal heat, which are naturally replenished.

Sustainability Retrofit: Comprehensive, holistic renovations of existing structures, which produce energy savings, healthier indoor environments and long term financial savings.

Triple Bottom Line: An expanded spectrum of values and criteria for measuring organizational success, economically, socially and ecologically.  A TBL philosophy is underpinned by attention to unconventional metrics, which help measure results not only according to conventional economics, but also things like carbon emissions, waste generated and/or health and happiness.

Volatile organic compound (VOC): Many of the products that we buy are made with materials that off-gas VOCs usually in the form of formaldehyde gas, a by-product of hydrocarbon-based materials. Building materials such as particle board, plywood, adhesives, paints, varnishes, carpet, drapes and furniture are often made with formaldehyde products. Other sources include some you may not think of: tobacco, burning gas, perfume, cleaning agents, hairspray and even copy and printing machines. Degrees of exposure to VOCs can cause everything from mild symptoms such as irritated eyes, ears and throat to more severe reactions such as wheezing and lung, memory and anxiety problems. By using low-VOC products, exposures are reduced and indoor air quality is improved