The Green Medium is an Emerald Award-winning, youth-run blog that seeks to innovate how we discuss and inform ourselves on environmental concerns.

Green Building, from Gardens to Sewage

Green Building, from Gardens to Sewage

What is a green building?

With only ever-increasing limelight around "green tech" and "green building", it becomes more and more important to define what such buzzwords mean. By what criteria is it even possible to categorize architecture as "green" or not?

Originally developed by the U.S. Green Building Council, the LEED Green Building Rating System answers this question of a building's "green"-ness by addressing particular areas of architectural design and corresponding environmental impact. LEED, which stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, awards tiered certificates to building projects, ranging from certification to platinum rating, based on their scores in a total of nine identified important categories.

Green Building in Alberta:

The High Performance Green Building Program at the University of Calgary, named a finalist in the 2016 Emerald Awards, is exemplary for both its performance and continued efforts in sustainable architecture. With 12 buildings currently LEED certified, the green buildings on the campus of University of Calgary account for 1.7 million square feet. But what can these buildings be used for? What do they look like? And, what, ultimately, is their impact on a larger scale?

One can first look at a specific group of three buildings to understand the spread of the work being done in this green building initiative. Yamnuska Hall, Crowsnest Hall, and Aurora Hall provide board to more than a thousand students. Some elements of the buildings seem like stuff of fantasy - Crowsnest is described along with the greenery which surrounds it, with berry and apple-picking advertised steps away from housing. Other features seem to encourage a greener lifestyle, with bike storage and bike routes provided.

How they do it:

There are other less flashy characteristics that many of these buildings share - and a lot of them have to do with toilets. Low-efficiency toilets are huge culprits of water waste. It has been reported that with a switch from low- to high-efficiency toilets in the Great Lakes region alone, as much as 213 billion litres of water per year would be saved. Imagine the effects, then, if this was adopted on a much wider scale. A national toilet transition would have the potential to save billions and billions of litres of water, with just this one improvement.

But there is no possibility of widespread improvement without the leadership of remarkable institutions. Although less exciting than the gardens described neighboring the university residences, the University of Calgary Green Building Program offers a variety of innovative solutions to the issue of water waste. The Downtown Campus building employs high-efficiency toilets, while the Child Development Centre uses greywater, residential wastewater from washing or bathing, for flushing. The roof of the Energy Environment Experiential Learning structure goes a step further, by gathering rainwater and melted snow for in-building flushing.

It is not without consideration to a whole possible array of environmental concerns that green buildings can truly be categorized as such. The LEED certification process offers a solution to this question of what defines a "green" building; to examine what LEED looks like today, my next installment at the Green Medium will focus on the process of this green certification and its impact on commercial entities.



University of Calgary. University of Calgary, 2018.

Alberta WaterSMART. "Greywater Recycling and Reuse in Alberta." 21 March 2011.

Water Canada. "Great Lakes, Wasted." Water Canada, 5 July 2010.

"The Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED)." Environment and Ecology.


Green Building: LEED and Business

Green Building: LEED and Business

Introduction: An Albertan Green Buildings Series

Introduction: An Albertan Green Buildings Series