‘Green’ and ‘sustainable’ are not interchangeable

In recent years, green and sustainable buildings have been built or retrofitted one after another. However, ‘green’ and ‘sustainable’ are often used interchangeably, but there is a slight difference in meaning. If you are not sure about the differences, this article is for you.

Sustainable buildings

Sustainability is a broad concept referring to a building’s overall ability to provide a comfortable, healthy, and productive environment over the long term without negatively impacting the environment, as IotaComm defines, adding: Sustainable buildings aren’t just about the environment but take into account all three pillars of sustainability: planet, people, and profit. 

Sustainable construction and facility management think about how can a building be built and used with consideration for the future of our people, the planet, and the business itself.

A sustainable building puts sustainability at the heart of every stage of its life cycle from planning to design and construction, through operation to demolition. A sustainable building incorporates environmentally responsible and resource-efficient practices without negatively impacting the surrounding environment, the British Assessment Bureau points out.

Lifecycle-considerations of a sustainable building

  • Planning: During the planning process, the sustainable building should consider any impact on the environment and look to preserve the surrounding environment as much as possible.
  • Design: Sustainable architecture considers things like window placement for optimal natural lighting and ventilation.
  • Construction: The materials used should be safe for the environment and occupants. The construction process should conserve natural resources, and limit energy consumption and waste to reduce environmental impact.
  • Operation and maintenance: Energy and water should be used efficiently relying on renewable energy resources as much as possible. 
  • Demolition: Solid waste and disposed of materials should be handled in an environmentally safe manner.

Green buildings

The “green building” concept solely focused on the environment and refers to the individual steps toward environmental sustainability. Green initiatives can include switching to renewable energy, implementing natural ventilation systems and reducing carbon footprint long term. 

LEED and WELL certifications are both green building standards that outline steps buildings can take to become more environmentally friendly.

How to become green and sustainable?

A building can be both green and sustainable, or one but not the other as a green building can have not been built sustainably, and a sustainable building can operate without green initiatives. When thinking about taking advantage of the opportunities that sustainability and green initiatives bring, there are quite a few steps facility managers and building owners can take:

  • Reduce your energy waste by switching to smart meters, LED lighting, and monitoring water usage and CO2 levels.
  • Improve your building’s, and occupants’ health by monitoring air quality regularly.
  • Reduce your environmental impact by setting up solar and other forms of renewable energy technologies.


Most buildings were built before green and sustainable architecture and design became a major point of concern. But that doesn’t mean facilities managers and building owners can’t take action to change their buildings for the better. There’s huge potential for progress when it comes to lessening buildings’ environmental impact.



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