Kristi Appelhans, LEED AP
iss.kristi @
(208) 522-2224
Idaho Falls, Idaho

Frequently Asked Questions / Glossary


What is a “green” building?
A green building is a high performance building that is environmentally sustainable and financially sound. It is healthy and comfortable for the occupants. It uses resources like energy, water and materials thoughtfully and efficiently. The design takes into account the impact the building will have on the occupants, the community, and the natural world. Five major areas are considered during the design process: site and landscape, indoor environmental quality, energy efficiency, building materials, and water.

Is a sustainable building something different than a green building?
“Sustainable”, “high-performance” and “green” are all terms used to describe buildings that are healthy, comfortable, energy and resource efficient, and economically viable.

What is LEED?
(Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) is a rating system developed by the USGBC that serves as a benchmark for the design, construction, and operation of high performance buildings. Developed by volunteer committees from across the building and construction industry it covers five key areas; sustainable site development, water savings, energy efficiency, materials selection, and indoor environmental quality. You can learn more about it

Does green building cost more?
There are numerous examples of high performance commercial buildings and schools that have been built at no additional cost. The Banner Bank building in Boise is one of only a few Platinum LEED buildings in the US and was built at no extra cost. Fossil Ridge High School in Ft. Collins, Colorado, is another example of a high performance building that was built at no additional cost. Most green buildings cost between .5% and 2% more than conventional buildings but the energy savings alone can quickly recover that upfront investment. Integrated green design and life-cycle cost analysis work together to ensure that each building system, from the shell to the plumbing, is evaluated as an integrated part of the whole building within the context of the building budget. This ensures the best possible building for the available money. Many green strategies, like site orientation, appropriate window glazing, low-flow water fixtures, low VOC paint, adequate insulation, and energy efficient appliances, can lead to healthy, efficient buildings with little or no additional cost. Of course, there are other strategies like constructed wetlands and living machines that do add cost but even the most advanced strategies can usually be integrated into the design with a 10-15% premium.

What is USGBC?The United States Green Building Council is a group of over 12,000 members committed to expanding sustainable building practices worldwide. It has developed the LEED Green Building rating system that details sustainable building strategies for 9 different categories of building development.

  • "High performance", "green", "sustainable"
    All these are different terms describing buildings that are a result of an integrated design process; these buildings yield improvements in user health and productivity, reduce operating costs, and lessen our impact on the natural world.
  • "High performance green schools"
    A high performance green school is a healthy, comfortable place to learn and work that has lower operating costs and a reduced impact on the natural world.
  • "Life-cycle cost analysis"
    LCA looks beyond the first costs of a product or system to see if those costs, along with maintenance and upgrade costs, are offset by financial and other benefits that accrue throughout the project’s lifespan.
  • "Integrated Green Design" (IGD)
    Starting from the very beginning of the planning process integrated green design looks at each of the building systems as part of an integrated whole to optimize building performance for users and owners and to minimize the building's impact on the natural world.
  • "IAQ"
    Indoor air quality addresses the quality of indoor air as it affects the health and comfort of building occupants. The assesment is based on the presence or absence of such pollutants as molds and allergens, chemicals, carbon dioxide, bacteria, etc.  IAQ is optimized by technologies and design strategies that improve ventilation and filtration while controlling humidty and the sources of indoor pollutants like building materials, cleaning products, and pest control techniques.
  • "Integrated Design Team"
    An integrated design team includes all disciplines and stakeholders working together to develop a design that optimizes the building’s performance. It might include:
  • Owners
  • Architects
  • Engineers
  • Building users
  • Interior designers
  • Landscape architects
  • Maintenance personnel
  • Building occupants, i.e. parents, students, and teachers; the homeowners or their representative; employees