These days, more and more people are being introduced to the world of sustainable design (aka “green building”). If you, like me, are new to the industry, however, you may feel like you’ve just entered extremely foreign territory. For one thing, this fast-growing segment of the home-building industry has developed a language all its own –- riddled with unfamiliar entities, tongue-twisting acronyms and dauntingly scientific-sounding systems.
Not only that, but the sustainable-design industry doesn’t have a single best-practices ratings system — it has several. There’s LEED, CSBA, BREEAM, Earth Advantage, Energy Star.
(Here’s a blog post detailing the different green-building certification options popular in Central Oregon.)
What’s more, there are countless green-focused resources available to tackle just about every aspect of home building and home renovation –- everything from the materials used to frame your house to the plants used to surround it, the paint used to coat the inside of it, the systems used to heat and cool it, and the décor used to furnish it.
Like I said, it’s a whole new world…one that, with time, no doubt will forever change the way the home-building process is approached.
Some Oft-Heard Green-building Terms
Here’s a glossary of some of the most common terms you’ll find in the green-building world (with input from the following sources: LEED, Green Resource Council, Wikipedia, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Seattle Office of Sustainability and Environment).
Active Solar Power: A system using mechanical devices (such as pumps or fans) that converts the sun’s energy into electricity for the home.
Adaptive Reuse: The renovation of a space for a purpose different from the original.
Air Changes Per Hour (ACH): The movement of a volume of air in a given period of time (i.e., if a house has one air-change per hour, the air in the house will be replaced in a one-hour period).
Air Exchange Rate: The rate at which outside air replaces indoor air in a given space.
Biomass: Plant material (i.e., trees, grasses and crops), vegetation, or agricultural waste that can be converted to heat energy to produce electricity. (In ecology, biomass also refers to all of the living material in a given area and often refers to vegetation)..
Blackwater: Wastewater from toilets and urinals is always considered blackwater; wastewater from kitchen, showers or bathtubs may also be considered blackwater (the exact definition varies from region to region). (See also, “Graywater”).
Building Research Establishment Environmental Assessment Method (BREEAM): The first widely used green-building rating system, developed in the United Kingdom in the early 1990s.
Building Envelope: The exterior surface of a building’s construction–the walls, windows, floors, roof, and floor (aka, building shell).
Building Footprint: the outline of the total area of a lot or site that is surrounded by the exterior walls of a building or portion of a building, exclusive of courtyards. Parking lots, landscapes and other non-building facilities are not included in the building footprint.
Certified Sustainable Building Advisor (CSBA): Someone who has completed a nine-month training program and exam designed to teach working professionals how to apply sustainable concepts to building design, development and construction.  The curriculum is overseen by The Sustainable Building Advisor Institute (SBAI), a non-profit organization incorporated in Washington state.
Certified Wood: Lumber from a source that has been determined, through a certification process, to have been harvested from responsibly managed forests – as defined by a particular standard. (There are numerous forest certification programs in general use, incorporating various standards; only the Forest Stewardship Council‘s standards, which include requirements that the wood be tracked through its chain-of-custody, can be used to qualify wood for a point in the LEED Rating System.
Charrette: A meeting held early in the design phase of a project, in which the design team, contractors, end users, community stakeholders and technical experts come together to develop goals, strategies and ideas for maximizing the environmental performance of the project.
Chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs): A family of inert, non-toxic and easily liquefied chemicals used in refrigeration, air-conditioning, packaging and insulation, or as solvents and aerosol propellants. CFCs are not destroyed in the lower atmosphere, so they drift into the upper atmosphere, where their chlorine components destroy ozone.
Closed-loop Control: A control system that utilizes measurement of a controlled variable for feedback. Based on the measured feedback, the control system alters its output in an attempt to force the controlled variable to reach a given setpoint. (For example, in a closed-loop geothermal heat pump, a pump circulates a heat transfer fluid through a series of buried pipes in a closed loop: the fluid never leaves the system, but rather travels back and forth in a loop between the earth connection and the heat pump.
Compact Fluorescent Lamp (CFL):  Small fluorescent light bulbs that can be used in place of incandescent light bulbs. CFLs consume significantly less electricity and last 8–10 times longer than incandescent bulbs. They combine the efficiency of fluorescent lighting with the convenience of standard incandescent bulbs. Light is produced the same way as other fluorescent lamps. Compact fluorescent bulbs have either electronic or magnetic ballasts. Like all fluorescent lamps, CFLs contain mercury, which complicates their disposal.
Composite Wood: See “Engineered Wood.”
Concentrated Solar Power CSP) aka, “Concentrating Solar Power“): Systems that use mirrors or lenses to concentrate a large area of sunlight, or solar thermal energy, onto a small area. Electrical power is produced when the concentrated light is converted to heat, which drives a heat engine connected to an electrical power generator.
Conditioned Space: The part of a building that is heated or cooled, or both, for the comfort of occupants.
Cooling Tower: A device that dissipates the heat from water-cooled systems by spraying the water through streams of rapidly moving air.
Cradle-to-Cradle: A term used to describe a material or product that is recycled into a new product at the end of its defined life. (See also “life-cycle analysis”.)
Cradle-to-Grave: A term used to describe the entire life of a material or product up to the point of disposal. Also refers to a system that handles a product from creation through disposal. (See also “life-cycle analysis”.)
Daylighting: Designing a building to take advantage of natural sunlight illumination.
Dual Flush Toilets: Toilets with two buttons that provide two flush options: one for liquid and another for solid waste. The button for liquid waste uses less water per flush.
Duct Blaster: A test that measures the air-tightness of heating and cooling ducts.
Economizer Cycle: A heating, ventilation and air-conditioning conservation feature consisting of indoor and outdoor temperature and humidity sensors, dampers, motors and motor controls for the ventilation system to reduce the air-conditioning load. Wherever the temperature and humidity of the outdoor air are more favorable than the temperature and humidity of the return air, more outdoor air is brought into the building.
EcoTimber: A company that sells sustainably harvested and reclaimed wood products from forests that are certified as well-managed (according to the rules of the Forest Stewardship Council), along with wood alternatives such as bamboo.
Efficacy: In lighting, the ratio of light output (in lumens) to input power (in watts). Higher efficacy indicates higher efficiency.
Energy Audit: A special inspection performed to determine where there are energy inefficiencies in a home. A qualified tester, who uses methods and measurements that comply with industry standards, collects detailed data and conducts an engineering analysis. A written report should include recommendations and a detailed cost and savings analysis.
Energy Recovery Ventilator: A type of ventilation system wherein the heated (or cooled) air being vented out of the home is used to heat (or cool) the supply air being pulled in from outdoors. The approach decreases the amount of energy needed to heat or cool the supply air.
Energy Star: Program administered by the Environmental Protection Agency that evaluates products based on energy efficiency. A home can also receive an Energy Star rating; to do so, it must be at least 15 more more energy-efficient than homes built to the 2004 International Residential Code and include additional energy-saving features that typically make them 20–30 percent more efficient than standard homes.
Engineered Lumber/Wood (aka “Composite Wood” or “Manufactured Board”): A range of derivative wood products manufactured by binding the strands, particles, fibers or veneers of wood, together with adhesives, to form composite materials. Engineered wood provides superior durability and strength; thinner or fewer pieces of engineered wood are required to meet the same strength requirements needed with traditional wood. The potential environmental drawbacks include impacts on indoor environmental quality due to offgassing of chemicals present in binders and glues, and air and water pollution related to production.
Environmentally Preferable Products (EPP): Products that cause significantly less environmental harm at some stage of their life cycle than alternative products that serve the same purpose, or products whose production and sales contribute significantly to the preservation of the environment.
Exfiltration: Uncontrolled outward air leakage from conditioned spaces through unintentional openings in ceilings, floors and walls to unconditioned spaces or the outdoors caused by pressure differences across these openings due to wind, inside-outside temperature differences and imbalances between supply and exhaust airflow rates.
Faucet Aerator: A device designed to save water and reduce splashing by adding air to a stream of water; usually found at the tip of a faucet.
Fluorocarbons (FCs): An organic compound in which one or more hydrogen atoms are replaced by fluorine. Once used in the United States as a propellant for domestic aerosols, they’re now found mainly in coolants and some industrial processes. FCs containing chlorine are called chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), which are believed to be modifying the ozone layer in the stratosphere, thereby allowing more harmful solar radiation to reach the Earth’s surface
Forest Stewardship Council (FSC): A non-profit organization that encourages the responsible management of the world’s forests by setting high standards to ensure that forestry is practiced in an environmentally responsible, socially beneficial, economically viable way. Landowners and companies that sell timber or forest products seek certification as a way to verify to consumers that they have practiced forestry consistent with FSC standards. Independent certification organizations are accredited by FSC to assess forest management and determine if standards have been met. Certifiers also verify that companies claiming to sell FSC-certified products have tracked their supply back to FSC-certified sources.
Fresh Air Ventilation: The mechanical ventilation component of an HVAC system that draws in fresh air rather than recirculating and filtering air within a home.
Geothermal Heat Pump (aka “Ground Source Heat Pump“): A heat pump that uses the constant temperature of the earth to provide cooling and heating for a home. A loop of piping is buried in the ground and fluid circulates through the loop. During the summer, the fluid uses the cooler temperature of the ground to provide indoor cooling. During colder months, the pump uses the below-ground temperature, which is significantly warmer than the outside air, to warm a home. Also referred to as a “closed-loop” system.
Graywater: Untreated household wastewater that hasn’t come into contact with toilet waste, such as water from bathtubs, showers, bathroom wash basins, clothes-washers and laundry tubs (but not wastewater from kitchen sinks or dishwashers). Some states and local authorities allow kitchen sink wastewater to be included in graywater. See also “Blackwater.”
Graywater Reuse: A strategy for reducing wastewater outputs from a building by diverting the graywater into productive uses such as subsurface irrigation or on-site treatment and use for non-potable functions such as toilet flushing. (Graywater reuse is restricted in many jurisdictions.)
Green Building (aka “Sustainable Building“or “High-performance Building“): The practice of creating structures and using processes that are environmentally responsible and resource-efficient throughout a building’s life-cycle — including siting, design, construction, operation, maintenance, renovation and deconstruction. Green buildings are designed to reduce the overall impact of the built environment on human health and the natural environment by efficiently using energy, water and other resources; by protecting occupant health and improving employee productivity; and by reducing waste, pollution and environmental degradation.
Green-e: A program established by the Center for Resource Solutions to promote green electricity products and provide consumers with a rigorous and nationally recognized method to identify those products.
Greenfield: An undeveloped plot of land.
Greenguard Environmental Institute (GEI): A non-profit organization dedicated to protecting human health and improving quality of life by enhancing indoor air quality and reducing people’s exposure to chemicals and other pollutants.
Greenguard-Certified: Products and materials vetted by the Greenguard Environmental Institute that meet stringent chemical emissions standards and provide a resource for choosing healthier products and materials for indoor environments, based on established criteria from key public health agencies. Greenguard certification is broadly recognized and accepted by sustainable building programs and building codes worldwide.
Green Label: A certification program by the Carpet and Rug Institute for carpet and adhesives meeting specified criteria for release of volatile compounds.
Greenwashing: Falsely promoting or exaggerating the greenness of a product or service.
Green Rater: Someone who verifies that a home is designed and built to the rigorous requirements of the LEED for Homes Rating System through onsite verification. Green Raters must be involved with the project from the design phase (before a preliminary rating where the rating system requirements are reviewed) and throughout the construction process.
Green Resource Council: Established in 2008 by the Real Estate Buyer’s Agent Council (a subsidiary of the National Association of Realtors), it was founded to make the knowledge of green real estate practices available to everyone. The council also provides sustainable education to real estate agents and offers the National Association of Realtors Green Designation, an 18-hour accredited course focused on green building practices.
Halogen Light Bulb: A type of incandescent light bulb that lasts longer and is more efficient than a standard incandescent light bulb. The light bulb uses a halogen gas, usually iodine or bromine, that causes the evaporating tungsten to be redeposited on the filament, thus prolonging its life. Halogen lamps produce a brighter, whiter light than standard incandescent.
Heat Exchanger: A two-way air conditioner that heats and cools by exchanging heat with the ground through a buried loop.
Heat Recovery Ventilator (aka “Heat Recovery Unit“): A ventilation system with balanced exhaust and supply fans that transmits heat from exhaust air to incoming fresh air.
HERS Index: A scoring system established by the Residential Energy Services Network to measure a home’s energy efficiency. The lower a home’s HERS Index, the more energy efficient it is in comparison to the HERS Reference Home (which is based on the 2006 International Energy Conservation Code). A home built to the specifications of the HERS Reference Home scores a HERS Index of 100, while a net-zero energy home (one that produces as much energy as it uses) scores a HERS Index of 0. (HERS stands for “Home Energy Rating System”).
High Efficiency: Technologies and processes that require less energy, water or other inputs to operate. A goal in sustainable building is to achieve high efficiency in resource use when compared to conventional practice.
High Efficiency Furnace: A furnace that has an Annual Fuel Utilization Efficiency (AFUE) of 85 percent (oil) and 90 percent (gas) or higher. In general, the higher the AFUE, the more efficient the furnace. The Energy Guide label on the equipment can be consulted to determine whether a furnace is efficient.
HVAC (Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning): General term for the heating, ventilation and air conditioning system in a building. System efficiency and design affect the overall energy performance of a home and its indoor environmental quality.
Indoor air quality (IAQ): The quality and attributes of indoor air affecting the health and comfort of building occupants. IAQ encompasses available fresh air, contaminant levels, acoustics and noise levels, lighting quality and other factors.
Insulated Concrete Forms (ICF): Rigid plastic foam forms that hold concrete in place during curing and remain in place afterwards to serve as thermal insulation for concrete walls. The foam sections are lightweight and result in energy-efficient, durable construction.
Insulation – Blown: Fiberglass, cellulose, or wool insulation that is blown in. It’s often easier and less expensive to install than batts of fiberglass insulation.
Insulation – Blown-in Blanket System (BIBS) (aka “Blown-in Batt“): An insulation system that blows dry white fiberglass insulation into walls, floors, attics and cathedral ceilings held in place with a fabric containment screen. The system offers a more uniform R-Value throughout the cavity and controls air infiltration better than standard batt installations.
Insulation – Foam in Place: A product that acts as an air barrier and provides insulation and air sealing in one step. Most foam insulation products have a higher R-value per inch than fiberglass batt insulation. Using foam insulation increases energy efficiency because smaller heating and cooling equipment is required.
Integrated Design: A holistic process to building or interior design that considers the many disparate parts of a building project, and examines the interaction between design, construction and operations to optimize the energy and environmental performance of the project. The goal of integrated design is developments that have the potential to heal damages environments and become net producers of energy, healthy food, clean water and air, and healthy human and biological communities. It is an essential concept in sustainable building.
LEED (aka Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design): Developed by the U.S. Green Building Council in 2000, LEED provides building owners and operators with a framework for identifying and implementing practical and measurable green building design, construction, operations and maintenance solutions.  LEED certification provides independent third-party verification that a building, home or community was designed and built using strategies aimed at achieving high performance in key areas of human and environmental health: sustainable site development, water savings, energy efficiency, materials selection and indoor environmental quality. The LEED rating system the an internationally recognized mark of excellence in green building.
Life Cycle Analysis (LCA; aka “Life Cycle Assessment”): The assessment of a product’s full environmental costs, from raw material to final disposal, in terms of consumption of resources, energy and waste.  Life cycle analysis is also used as a tool for evaluating the relative performance of building materials, technologies, and systems.
LED (Light-Emitting Diode) Lamp: A technology that produces light by causing electrons to flow through the lamp and release energy in the form of light.
Light Pollution: Excessive illumination of night-skies by artificial light.
Living Building Challenge: A philosophy, advocacy tool and certification program, launched and operated by the Cascadia Region Green Building Council, that promotes the most advanced measurement of sustainability in the built environment possible today. It can be applied to development at all scales, including buildings, infrastructure, landscapes and neighborhoods.  To be “Living,” the building(s) must achieve each of the Challenge’s imperatives: It must generate all its own energy onsite using renewable sources; capture and treat all its own water; be constructed of nontoxic, sustainably sourced materials; use only previously developed sites; and be beautiful and inspiring to its inhabitants. The goal is true sustainability.
Load Controller: An outdoor computer installed next to an electric breaker panel and connected to 220v appliances (such as air-conditioning units, clothes dryers, water heaters and electric spa heaters). It measures the usage of power in a home and controls peak demand energy usage by defaulting to a pre-set level. As demand increases, the load controller shuts off lower-priority appliances to maintain a user pre-set demand level.
Low E: Materials considered low-e (short for “Low Thermal Emissivity”) radiate, or emit, low levels of radiant thermal energy (heat). Examples include window glass manufactured with metal-oxide coatings, housewrap materials, reflective insulations and other forms of radiant barriers.
Low NOx Certified Boiler: A natural-gas burner with improved energy efficiency and lower emissions of nitrous oxides.
Low Toxic: Generic term for products with lower levels of hazard than conventional products. Specific criteria need to be applied to this term to make it meaningful in the selection of sustainable-building materials.
Low VOC: Building materials and finishes that exhibit low levels of “offgassing,” the process by which VOCs (Volatile Organic Compounds) are released from the material, affecting health and comfort indoors and producing smog outdoors. Low (or zero) VOC is an attribute to look for in an environmentally preferable building material or finishes.
MDF (Medium Density Fiberboard): A composite wood fiberboard, used for cabinetry and other interior applications. MDF containing urea formaldehyde can contribute to poor indoor air quality.
MERV Rating: A standardized rating system used to measure a home air filter’s ability to trap small particles and allergens (ranging in size from 3.0 microns to 10.0 microns). Most filters are labeled with a MERV (Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value) rating number, on a scale from 1-20 (residential filters commonly have MERV ratings of 1-11). The higher the MERV rating, the more efficient the filter, and the more particles it can filter.
Mixed Mode Ventilation: A ventilation strategy that combines natural ventilation with mechanical ventilation, allowing the building to be ventilated either mechanically or naturally, and at times both mechanically and naturally simultaneously
Naturescaping: A landscaping method that uses native plants to conserve and create natural habitats that provides nurturing environments for wildlife.
Natural Ventilation: Ventilation design that uses existing air currents on a site and natural convection to move and distribute air through a structure or space. Strategies include placement and operability of windows and doors, thermal chimneys, landscape berms to direct airflow on a site, and operable skylights.
Net Metering: A metering and billing arrangement that allows on-site generators to send excess electricity flows to the regional power grid. These electricity flows offset a portion of the electricity flows drawn from the grid.
Net-Zero Home (aka “Net-Zero Energy Home” or “Zero Energy Home”: A home that that produces as much or more energy than the occupants consume. Net Zero homes can be independent from the energy grid supply, or energy can be harvested on-site (usually through a combination of energy-producing technologies like solar and wind) while reducing the overall use of energy with extremely efficient heating, cooling and electrical technologies.
Night Flushing: The process of removing hot air from a building during the cool evening hours, to cool elements with thermal mass within the building and flush stale air.
Nonrenewable Resource: A resource that cannot be replaced in the environment (e.g., fossil fuels) because it forms at a rate far slower than its consumption.
No VOC Paints, Sealants and Varnish: Products that don’t off-gas volatile organic compounds (VOCs). Using products with very little if any VOCs provides for better air quality.
Off-gassing: The release of volatile chemicals from a product or assembly, which can affect indoor air quality and occupant health and comfort. Offgassing can be reduced by specifying materials that are low- or no-VOC and by avoiding certain chemicals (e.g., urea formaldehyde) entirely. Controlling indoor moisture, and specifying pre-finished materials, can also reduce offgas potential.
Off-the-grid: Not connected to a public utility facility.
Organic Compound: Any of the vast array of substances typically characterized as principally carbon and hydrogen, but that may also contain oxygen, nitrogen and a variety of other elements as structural building blocks.
Passive Solar: A type of design that takes maximum advantage of the sun’s energy to help warm the home in winter and helps to redirect or block that energy to reduce cooling needs in the summer.
Photovoltaics (PV): The field of technology and research related to the application of solar cells for energy by converting solar energy (sunlight, including ultraviolet radiation) directly into electricity using semiconductors that exhibit the photovoltaic effect. Installations may be ground-mounted or built into the roof or walls of a building.
PV Cell (aka “Photovoltaic Cell” or “Solar Cell”): An electrical device that converts the energy of light directly into electricity by the photovoltaic effect.
Photovoltaic Effect: The creation of voltage or electric current in a material upon exposure to light.
Radiant Heated Floors: A way to heat spaces using radiant energy that is emitted from a heat source. There are three types of radiant floor heat: radiant air floors (air is the heat-carrying medium); electric radiant floors; and hot water (hydronic) radiant floors.
Rain Garden: A shallow, constructed depression that is planted with deep-rooted native plants and grasses. It’s designed to receive runoff from hard surfaces, such as a roof, a sidewalk or a driveway. Rain gardens slow the rush of water from these hard surfaces and hold the water for a short period of time, allowing the water to naturally filter into the ground and be absorbed.
Rapidly Renewable: A term describing a natural material grown and harvested on a relatively short-rotation cycle (defined by the LEED rating system to be ten years or less).
Recirculating Hot Water Heater: A system that uses a thermostat or timer to automatically turn on the pump whenever the water temperature drops below a set-point, or when the timer reaches a setting. Hot-water recirculation systems can be activated by the push of a button or by a thermostat, timer or motion sensor. Such systems ensure that hot water is always available without any waiting time.
Reclamation: The restoration of materials found in the waste stream to a beneficial use that may be other than the original use.
Renewable Energy Certificate (REC): A certificate representing proof that a given unit of electricity was generated from a renewable energy source such as solar or wind. These certificates are able to be sold, traded or bartered as environmental commodities, where an electricity consumer can buy the renewable energy attributes of electricity to support renewable energy, even if they’re consuming generic grid-supplied electricity that may be supplied by nonrenewable sources.
Renewable Energy Source: Materials and natural resources that can be replaced, such as wind, solar, or hydroelectric power.
Retrofit: The replacement, upgrade or improvement of a piece of equipment or structure in an existing building or facility.
R-value: A measure of insulation’s ability to resist heat traveling through it. The higher the R-value, the greater its insulating properties.
Structured Insulated Panels (SIP): Panels made from a thick layer of foam sandwiched between two layers of Oriented Strand Board (OSB), plywood or fiber-cement. SIPS are often used in panelized construction. An alternative to the foam core, they’re available with a core of agriculture fibers (such as wheat straw) that provides similar thermal and structural performance. The result is an engineered panel that provides structural framing, insulation and exterior sheathing in a solid, one-piece component.
SEER Rating: A rating system (short for “Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio”) used to measure the efficiency of central air-conditioners and air-source heat pumps. The higher the rating, the more energy efficient the unit; air-conditioners that are SEER-rated at 14 or higher meet Energy Star criteria.
Solar Assisted Hot Water: A solar hot water array on the roof that supplements, but does not exclusively supply, the hot water to the home. Water warmed by solar energy is pumped into the hot water heater, where less energy is required to get it hot or less cold water needs to be warmed to fill the tank.
Solatube: A patented product created in Australia and marketed as a “tubular daylighting system” (as opposed to a skylight), the Solatube is designed to capture daylight via a dome installed on a roof that is channeled down a reflective tube and distributed it into a dark interior space.
Solar Cell: A solid-state electrical device that converts the energy of light directly into electricity by the photovoltaic effect.
Solar Collector: Any device used to capture or concentrate the sun’s energy. The leaves on a tree can be considered a solar collector, as can a window, solar panel, or dark-surfaced thermal mass.
Solar Panel: A packaged, connected assembly of photovoltaic cells; it can be used as a component of a larger photovoltaic system to generate and supply electricity in commercial and residential applications.
Solar Power: The conversion of sunlight into electricity, either directly, using photovoltaics, or indirectly, using concentrated solar power (CSP).
Solar Rough-In: A method of installing plumbing and/or electrical systems that would allow a later addition of a solar photovoltaic or a solar hot-water system.
Spray Foam Insulation: Insulation that is sprayed into place and then expands to fill cavities. It acts as both an insulator and a sealant and is an alternative to the standard insulation bats. The two types of spray foam are open-cell (isocyanurate) and closed cell (polyurethane). Closed cell foams typically have a higher R-value than open-cell foam.
Staggered-stud Construction: A way of building interior walls that uses wood studs that aren’t in a straight line, but in two rows that are staggered. One row of studs supports the lath on one side of the wall, and the second row supports the lath on the other; a fiberglass blanket may be woven between the staggered studs to improve the insulation of the wall.
Straw-Bale Construction: An alternative building method using bales of straw for wall systems. Straw left over from crops (such as wheat, oats, barley, rye, rice and flax) after all the food has been extracted, is gathered, baled, compressed and tied together in bales, which are placed over a stem wall to protect the straw from the ground soil; the straw bales are stuccoed and plastered over for finishing. This building method is most appropriate for regions with relatively little precipitation.
Sustainable Design (aka “Environmental Design,” “Environmentally Sustainable Design” or “Environmentally Conscious Design”): The philosophy of designing physical objects, the built environment and services to comply with the principles of economic, social and ecological sustainability.
Sustainability: Practices that would ensure the continued viability of a product or practice well into the future.
Tankless Water Heater: A system that delivers hot water at a preset temperature when needed but without requiring the storage of water. The approach reduces or eliminates energy standby losses. Tankless water heaters can be used for supplementary heat, such as a booster to a solar hot water system, or to meet all hot water needs. Tankless water heaters have an electric, gas or propane heating device that is activated by the flow of water.
Thermal Bridging: Unwanted heat loss or gain due to conduction through a material. An example of thermal bridging is heat loss that occurs with structural steel framing that is insufficiently insulated between conditioned and unconditioned space.
Thermal Mass (aka “Heat Capacity”): The capacity of a material to store heat. When outside temperatures fluctuate throughout the day, a large thermal mass within the insulated portion of the house can serve to level out the daily temperature fluctuations since the thermal mass will absorb heat when the surroundings are hotter than the mass, and give heat back when the surroundings are cooler. When combined with passive solar design, thermal mass can play an important role in major reductions to energy use in active heating and cooling systems.
Tyvek: A protective fabric made of polyethylene developed by DuPont. Large sheets of Tyvek are frequently used as “house wrap,” to provide a water barrier between the outer cladding of a structure and the frame and/or insulation, allowing water vapor to pass while restricting air infiltration.
U-Value: A measure of the amount of heat that flows in or out of a substance under constant conditions when there is a one degree difference between the air within and outside a building. U-values are used in determining the performance of a glazing system or window assembly.
Volatile Organic Compound (VOC): An organic compound that vaporizes and become a gas at room temperature with harmful effects on air quality. Common sources that may emit VOCs into indoor air include paint, pesticides, carpet and adhesives. In sufficient quantities, VOCs can cause eye, nose and throat irritations, headaches, dizziness, visual disorders, memory impairment; some are known to cause cancer in animals; some are suspected of causing, or are known to cause, cancer in humans.
Water-Source Heat Pump (aka “Groundsource Heat Pump”): A heat pump that uses a well or heat exchanger to transfer heat from water to the inside of a building. Most such units use ground water.
Weatherization: The process of reducing the leaks of heat from or into a building. It may involve caulking, weatherstripping, adding insulation and other similar improvements to the building shell.
Wind Power: A system that converts air movement into mechanical or electrical energy. Driven by the wind, turbine blades turn a generator or power a mechanical pump.
Xeriscaping: A landscaping method that makes routine irrigation unnecessary; it’s used in arid areas and incorporates native plants that can tolerate infrequent watering. It uses drought-adaptable and low-water plants as well as soil amendments such as compost and mulches to reduce evaporation.
Related Posts:
Green-Building Basics: Understanding the Various Certifications
2. Rare Gem on the Market: LEED Platinum Home in NorthWest Crossing
Are you searching for a sustainably designed home in Central Oregon? If you’d like help navigating this up-and-coming specialty market, email me for more information or contact me directly at 541-480-0987.

About the Author:
Lisa Broadwater, GRI, CDPE is a Central Oregon-based real estate professional who specializes in listing and selling homes, especially in Sisters, Tumalo, Bend and Redmond.