You have no doubt been reading or hearing about the new “green” or “eco-friendly” revolution going on in the world—especially concerning homes and how they affect the environment. However, with any new genre, there begets new terminology. What exactly does LEED mean? Or “cradle-to-cradle”?

To help solve your dilemma, we’ve come up with a handy list of terms. This is far from being complete, but we’ve edited it down to what we think which terms are relevant to readers.
Adaptive Reuse: Process by which existing structures are renovated to be used in a new way.
Alternative Energy: Energy harnessed in environmentally, most often non-traditional ways; hydroelectricity, wind, natural gas, and solar power are examples. Also called Renewable Energy.

Biodegradable: Waste material capable of decomposing under natural conditions.
Building envelope:The exterior surface of a building (walls, windows, floors, roof, etc.). Also called a Building Shell.

Closed-loop Recycling: Reuse of wastewater for non-potable purposes in an enclosed process.
Compact Fluorescent Lamp (CFL): Small florescent lamps (light bulbs), more energy-efficient than standard incandescent bulbs. Also called PL, CFL, Twin-Tube or BIAX lamps.
Construction Waste Management: Strategies employed during construction or demolition to reduce waste materials and maximize reuse and recycling.
Cradle-to-Cradle: Term used to describe materials that are recycled into new products at the end of their defined lifespan.
Cradle-to-Grave: Assessment of the environmental impact of a product/process/service, from initial extraction of materials to final production, use and disposal.

Energy Management System: A control system that can monitor environmental and system loads, and adjust HVAC operations accordingly in order to conserve energy while maintaining comfort.
Energy Modeling: Process used to determine a building’s energy use based on software models from programs such as DOE-2 and Energy Plus. Also called Building Energy Simulation.
Energy Star: U.S. EPA program that evaluates energy saved/consumed by electronic products, and energy-reducing products such as insulation and windows.
Environmental Footprint: The impact a company/building/city has on the environment. Determining factors include depletion
of raw materials/nonrenewable resources, and waste and emission quantities.

Fly Ash: A fine, glass powder recovered from the gases of burning coal. When mixed with lime and water, Fly Ash forms a compound similar to cement. Substitution of Fly Ash for traditional cement is considered a sustainable building strategy.

Green Building: The practice of creating buildings more efficient in their use of energy, water and materials. The goal of green building is to reduce the impact of building on the environment. This can be achieved through the use of more resource-efficient site selection, construction, renovation, operation, maintenance and demolition. Also called Sustainable Building.
Elements of green building include: Energy efficiency, water efficiency, environmentally preferable building materials, and waste reduction.
Green Roof: Rooftop gardens intended to reduce rooftop and building temperatures, filter pollution, lessen pressure on
sewer systems, and reduce the Heat Island Effect. Also called
an Eco-roof.
Ground Source (Geothermal) Heat Pump: Underground coils that transfer heat from the ground to the inside of a building.

Indigenous Planting: Using native plants in landscaping.

Life Cycle (of a product): All stages of a product’s development, from extraction of fuel to power production to marketing, use and disposal.
Light-Emitting Diode (LED): Long-lasting means of illumination that requires very little power.
Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED): Green building rating system developed by the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) to provide standards for the
design, construction and operation of “high-performance”
green buildings.
Buildings can achieve LEED Certification. Professionals can achieve LEED Accreditation for demonstrating thorough knowledge of green building practices, principles and the
LEED Rating System.
Low Emissivity (low-E) Windows: Windows that lower energy loss by inhibiting the transmission of radiant heat, while still allowing sufficient light to pass through.

Modular Building: Building technique that uses pre-constructed (modular) building components, manufactured in a plant, delivered to a site in one or more complete sections.

Night Flushing: The process of removing hot air from a building during evening hours to cool elements within the building and flush stale air.
Nonrenewable Energy: Energy derived from nonrenewable resources.
Nonrenewable Resource: A resource that cannot be replaced in the environment because it forms at a rate much slower than its rate of consumption (fossil fuels, for example).

Offgassing: Evaporation of volatile chemicals. Paints, stains, varnishes, insulation, flooring, particleboard and plywood can produce offgassing. These chemicals negatively impact indoor air quality and occupant health.
Onsite Renewable Energy Generation: Electricity generated by renewable resources, using a system/device located on site where the power is used.
Open-Loop Recycling: Conversion of material from a product into a new material, often of lesser quality. Also called Downcycling or Reprocessing.

Photovoltaic (PV): A system that converts sunlight directly into electricity using cells, made of silicon or other conductive materials, in which a chemical reaction occurs resulting in the release of electricity.

Radiant Heat: Heat transferred as light energy; different from conductive heat, generated from direct contact between two materials.
Rainwater Catchment/Harvest: On-site rainwater storage system used to collect non-potable water for building or landscape purposes.
Recycling: Process by which junk/trash materials are collected, separated and/or processed to be reused as raw materials or finished goods.
Refurbished: Products that have been upgraded in order to be returned to active use in their original form. This is preferable to recycling, as it requires a lesser expenditure of process and input to return a product to the market.
Regional Manufacture: Goods produced within a certain radius of a project site. It is considered a Sustainable Building Strategy as it reduces product transportation and increases the likelihood that the product meets local environmental laws.
Relite: Windows/translucent panels above doors or high
wall partitions designed to allow natural light to shine further
into a building.

Salvage: Building materials picked (salvaged) from waste
for reuse.
Solar Collector: Device used to capture or concentrate the sun’s energy.
Solar Panel: Device that collects and converts solar energy into heat or electricity.
Structural Insulated Panel (SIP): Manufactured panels consisting of a center panel of polystyrene in between two layers of engineered wood paneling. SIPs can be used for
walls, roof or flooring, and result in a structure very resistant
to air infiltration.
Sunshades: Devices for blocking unwanted solar gain.
Sustainability: Practices that ensure the continued viability
of a product/practice well into the future.

United States Green Building Council (USGBC): Non-profit organization whose mission is to expand “sustainable building practices.”
Volatile Organic Compound (VOC): Organic chemical compounds that evaporate quickly, especially solvents, adhesives, fuels or industrial waste, and contribute to smog and poor air quality. VOCs include formaldehyde, gasoline, ketones, and hydrocarbons such as ethylene, acetylene and benzene.

Water Side Economizer: Device that reduces energy consumption by allowing the water chiller to be turned off
when it is not needed to produce water at the desired chilled water set point.
Watts/sq. foot: Shorthand measure of a building’s energy use; often applied to indoor lighting.

Xeriscaping: Use of native, water-efficient plants to minimize the need for irrigation in landscaping.

Acronyms to know

EPA: Environmental Protection Administration
OSHA: Occupational Safety and Health Administration
IAQ: Indoor Air Quality
USGBC: United States Green Building Council
LEED: Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design
VOC: Volatile Organic Compound
HVAC: Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning