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The fact is every home or building constructed today has some “green” features. Heating and air units are far more efficient then they were 10 years ago. New building best practices have reduced material waste, increase construction efficiency, and made buildings more energy effective. We have compiled a starter list of terms that may help you become more familiar with green building "speak" and some of the concepts that you will frequently hear in regards to green building.

Glossary of Terms

Advanced Framing: A house-framing technique that optimizes lumber use to improve material efficiency and energy performance of the building envelope.

Air Barrier: The layer of the building envelope that effectively blocks air movement, which also blocks the flow of most water vapor.

Air Handler: A fan that is used to distribute heated or cooled air throughout the house. It works in conjunction with a furnace, whole house central air conditioner, or heat pump.

Building Envelope: The exterior layer of a house that provides protection from colder (and warmer) outdoor temperatures and precipitation. It includes the house foundation, framed exterior walls, exterior doors, windows, roof or ceiling and insulation.

Daylighting: The use of sunlight for daytime lighting needs.

Dual-flush toilet: A toilet that provides two flush levels; one for solid waste and a reduced volume flush for liquid and paper only.

ENERGY STAR: A US Environmental Protection Agency and US Department of Energy labeling system identifying the most energy-efficient products on the market. Includes computers, appliances, office equipment, and air conditioners.

Environmental footprint: A measure of one’s overall impact on the environment.

Graywater: Untreated waste water from bathtubs, showers, bathroom sinks, and clothes-washers. It does not include waste water from toilets, kitchen sinks, or dishwashers.

Green Building: The design and construction of buildings that minimize impacts on the environment.

Green Electricity: Electrical power generated from renewable energy sources such as wind, solar or hydropower.

Greenfield: A site that has not been previously developed.

Greenwashing: Falsely promoting or exaggerating the greenness of a product or service.

Heat exchanger: A device that allows for transferring heat from one material to another. Air-to-air, or heat recovery ventilator transfers heat from an outgoing airstream to an incoming airstream.

Hydropower: The generation of electricity from moving water.

Impervious surface: A surface that does not permit water to infiltrate into the ground. Examples include roads, parking lots and sidewalks.

Life cycle: The entire life of a product or material from raw material to disposal.

Low-e glass coating: A very thin metallic coating on glass or plastic window glazing that makes it reflective to heat thereby reducing heat loss through the window.

On-Demand water heater: A water heater that heats the water as needed. On-demand water heaters do not have a storage tank. Energy is saved by eliminating the need for reheating the tank due to standby heat loss. On-demand water heaters also reduce water waste from waiting on hot water delivery to the outlet.

Photovoltaic (PV): The material used in solar power that generates electricity from sunlight.

Potable water: Water considered safe for drinking and cooking.

Radiant-floor heating: A heat distribution system in which the floor serves as a low temperature radiator. When used with hydronic heating, hot water is usually circulated through tubing embedded in flooring. The heat rises creating a comfort zone measured from the floor up.

Renewable Energy: Energy that comes from sources that are not depleted by use. Examples include sun, wind and geothermal.

Stormwater: Runoff from rain that is carried offsite into storm sewers or infiltrated into the ground.

VOC (volatile organic compound): An organic compound that evaporates into the atmosphere as fumes from products such as stains and paints. The vapors can have negative health effects.

Wastewater: Used water from toilets, showers, sinks, dishwashers, and washing machines that include contaminants and that needs disposed of through the sewer system or an onsite wastewater disposal system.

Wind power: The use of the wind to generate electricity.

Xeriscaping: A type of landscaping that requires little, if any irrigation. It generally relies on regionally adaptive native plants.

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