Asheville Green Building Definitions

This list of Asheville green building definitions was adapted from a list compiled by a group of sustainable Asheville professionals that I belonged to in 2008. The purpose of that project was to prepare a list of Asheville green building definitions to be used in real estate listings with the regional Multiple Listing Service (MLS).

Well... that hasn’t happened yet.

But, this is a great list of definitions!

Hopefully, the MLS will eventually use these terms to help Realtors locate appropriate property for their clients.

In the meantime, you can benefit from these Asheville green building definitions. They are grouped by categories: Site Plan; Location, Linkages and Community; Design; Materials; Building Envelope; Energy Consumption and Production; Indoor Air Quality; and Water Use.

Site Plan

  • Brownfield Redevelopment - Brownfields are abandoned or underused industrial or commercial properties where redevelopment is complicated by actual or perceived environmental contamination. Brownfields vary in size, location, age and past use. They can range from a small, abandoned corner gas station to a large, multi-acre former manufacturing plant that has been closed for years.

  • Cluster Development - Cluster development is grouping a development's structures on a portion of available land, reserving a significant amount of the site for protected open space. The goal of cluster development is to preserve significant open space that consists of critical ecological habitat, steep slopes and/or agricultural land. Cluster development uses the smallest amount of new road possible in order to minimize impervious surfaces.

  • Edible Landscaping - Landscaping with cultivated and maintained vegetables, fruits and herbs.

  • Hydro-Appropriate Landscape - Landscaping that does not normally need supplemental water, utilizes drought tolerant plantings that are not invasive, mainly native plants.

  • Light Pollution Reduction – Use of outdoor light at night only when and where it is needed and at appropriate lighting levels, incorporating fully shielded, light efficient fixtures aimed downward where needed. Timers and sensors should be used to shut off lights when not in use. More info at

  • Low Impact Development (LID) Stormwater Management - Property that has been developed using Low Impact Development (LID) measures. These minimize runoff, maximize infiltration, and maximize on-site retention with the use of bio-swales, rain gardens, wetlands, rainwater retention, green roofs, and pervious pavement, for example.

  • Natural Resources Inventory - A natural resources report and management plan performed by a licensed landscape architect, botanist, wildlife manager, or other appropriately licensed professional. The inventory identifies hydrology, wildlife habitat, natural plant communities, and plants found on the site, and is used to design any development of the site.

  • Solar Access - A site or building that has adequate solar access will not be significantly shaded by neighboring buildings, trees or mountains in the winter months.

  • Solar Site Design - Property that has proper solar site design has deciduous trees (not evergreen) on the south and west sides of a building. These provide shade in the summer months, reducing cooling needs, and let light and heat through in the winter months, reducing heating needs. Qualifying property must have a sun study of the site on record that shows how the sun interacts with the trees to block sun in summer months and allow sun through in the winter months. Architects, green builders, and solar energy companies can usually perform sun studies.

  • Tree Canopy - A site where at least 40 percent of the area is covered by a tree canopy, measured by the tree canopy at maturity on a site plan. A healthy tree canopy provides many benefits in both urban and rural environments. The tree canopy provides shade and a habitat for animals. It helps slow down rainfall and is integral to a healthy water cycle. Trees also help to clean the air, produce oxygen, and absorb carbon dioxide from the air. Preserving trees, or planting new trees, should be part of a master site plan. Improperly placed trees can create problems such as greater heating demands for buildings and foundation problems. (from:

Location, Linkages and Community

  • Infill Development - Property that has developed land surrounding it and is within 1/16th of a mile (330 ft) from the existing water, sewer and road network.

  • Pedestrian-Oriented Real Estate - Property that is within ¼ mile walk to goods and services. People are more likely to walk to their destination if it is within ¼ mile of their point of origin.

  • Shared Parking - Property that shares parking with another property. This can be a more efficient use of space.

  • Transit-Oriented Real Estate - Property that is within ¼ mile walk of a public transportation stop. People are more likely to use public transit if it is within ¼ mile of their point of origin.

  • Walkable Real Estate - Property that is adjacent to sidewalks, greenways or a trail. Sometimes this also refers to being pedestrian-oriented.


  • ADA Accessible Design - Buildings that meet Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) accessible design standards are more easily used by people with physical challenges. For example, the building's occupants may be able to "age in place," remain in their home as they age because of features like a ramp and hand rails strategically placed.

  • Daylighting – Design that maximizes the use of natural light throughout the house, minimizing use of artificial lighting.

  • Optimum Value Engineered (OVE) framing - Also called Advanced Framing, an engineered framing design that minimizes wood use. OVE results in lower material and labor costs and improved energy performance. (from

  • Passive solar design - A building system that takes into consideration design elements such as thermal mass within the house to absorb the sun’s heat in the winter, sun shading that blocks sun in the summer and allows sun to enter the house in the winter, and natural ventilation.

  • Small - Units that are 1500 square feet or smaller take fewer materials and resources to construct than larger units. They have smaller footprints, requiring less grading and site disturbance. They use less energy and when demolished, there are fewer resources wasted.


  • Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) Certified Wood - FSC is a non-profit organization devoted to encouraging the responsible management of the world’s forests. FSC sets high standards that ensure forestry is practiced in an environmentally responsible, socially beneficial, and 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 consistently with FSC standards. Independent, certification organizations are accredited by FSC to carry out assessments of forest management to 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. This chain of custody certification assures that consumers can trust the FSC label. (from

  • Formaldehyde-free cabinetry and countertops - Most conventional cabinets and Formica countertops are made using materials that outgas urea formaldehyde. The use of solid wood, solid countertops or formaldehyde-free materials will mitigate a potential indoor air quality problem. (from

  • Local material use - Materials from within 250 miles of the building's location. Less energy is used to transport these than materials from further distances. Purchasing materials from close to the building's site of construction also support local/regional economy.

  • Low Emitting Materials - Low Emitting Materials do not offgas high levels of harmful chemicals into the air. No-VOC paints, no-VOC adhesives, and Formaldehyde-free cabinetry are examples of Low Emitting Materials. The LEED program offers credits for products that emit low levels of harmful particulate matter. To select this element, documentation is required showing that building products are eligible for Low Emitting Materials LEED credits.

  • Low- and no-VOC adhesives, paints and other finishes – These contribute to healthy indoor air. VOCs (Volatile Organic Compounds) are gases that are emitted from certain liquids or solids. They include a variety of chemicals and some can cause short- or long-term health problems. Adhesives, paints and finishes are used throughout the building process and almost all emit Volatile Organic Compounds. (from

  • Rapidly renewable resources - These have a shorter harvest rotation—typically 10 years or less. They are often biodegradable and generally produced from agricultural crops. Because sunlight is generally the primary energy input (via photosynthesis), these products may be less energy-intensive to produce, with some transportation and processing energy. Examples include bamboo, form-release agents made from plant oils, natural paints, geotextile fabrics from coir and jute, cork, and such textiles as organic cotton, wool, and sisal. (from

  • Recycled content materials - Recycled content materials are made from post-consumer or post-industrial waste or byproducts. Examples include cellulose insulation, which is made from newspaper, and concrete that is made using fly ash, a byproduct of coal-fired power generation. It should be noted that while recycling is a good thing, not all recycled content is healthy. (from

  • Reused/salvaged material - A reused material is one that is refurbished or is salvaged, such as flooring salvaged from a home before the home is demolished.

  • Site-harvested materials - Materials that come directly from the site such as lumber milled with a portable sawmill from trees cut on the site or earth plaster made from clay on the site.

Building Envelope

  • Air infiltration test - This test shows how much air leakage there is in a house. You don’t want heat to escape in winter months. An efficient home has had an air infiltration test done within the last year and has either: 1) obtained a HERS score of 85 and under (scale 0 - 500; 0 best), or 2) documentation of an air infiltration test performed by a home energy rater with no more than .35 air changes per hour (0 air changes per hour being the best).

  • Building envelope - This is the roof, exterior walls and floor of a building.

  • Ductwork within conditioned space - Ductwork that is inside the home's occupied area (conditioned space) is more efficient and contributes to healthier indoor air quality. (from

  • Energy Star windows - Windows that are energy efficient and are certified and documented as Energy Star.

  • Energy Star door - Doors that are energy efficient and are certified and documented as Energy Star.

  • Energy Star reflective roof - Energy Star reflective roofs reflect the heat of the sun and can lower the roof surface temperature by as much as 100 degrees. That decreases the amount of heat transferred into the building and the amount of air conditioning needed.

  • Fully insulated home - A fully insulated home is more energy efficient than one that is not. If documentation cannot be provided showing that a home is fully insulated, proof must be obtained using an infrared photography assessment conducted by a home inspector or a home performance rater to show a home's insulation in all walls, ceiling and floor.

Energy Consumption and Production

  • Electricity load control device – Use of professionally installed and programmed equipment to regulate power use during peak hours - also called Demand Side Management (DSM). It saves on power bills and resources.

  • Energy Star air conditioner - Energy Star-qualified central air conditioners have a higher seasonal efficiency rating (SEER) than standard models by about 14 percent.

  • Energy Star heat pump - Energy Star-qualified heat pumps have a higher seasonal efficiency rating (SEER) and heating seasonal performance factor (HSPF) than standard models, which makes them about eight percent more efficient than standard new models and 20 percent more efficient than older models.

  • Energy Star refrigerator and dishwasher - Energy Star-qualified appliances incorporate advanced technologies that use 10–50 percent less energy and water than standard models.

  • EPA certified wood stove - Properly installed EPA certified wood stove and fireplace inserts burn wood efficiently, more safely, and heat a home effectively with much less smoke. Wood smoke is waste. Any smoke that escapes from a wood stove unburned is wasted fuel that will stick in the chimney as creosote or be released as air pollution. An old or poorly installed wood stove can result in higher maintenance costs, greater risk of smoke in a home, and more environmental pollution. (from

  • Geothermal heating and cooling - A geothermal heating and cooling system is a heat pump that uses the ground's constant temperature to create a very efficient heating and cooling system.

  • High-efficiency furnace - A high-efficiency furnace has a minimum 90 percent efficiency and is a sealed combustion furnace.

  • Micro-hydro electric - A micro-hydro system uses the energy of a stream of moving water to create electricity. This is done by using the water to turn a turbine that generates electricity.

  • Optimized HVAC (Heating, Venting, and Air Conditioning) system - A home where the HVAC system has been optimized for combustion efficiency by a combustion analyst with documentation on file.

  • Solar Photovoltaic (PV), grid-tied - A power system with solar PV panels that use the sun’s energy to create electricity and are tied to the utility lines and batteries, not required to store the electricity. These can use net metering or dual metering.

  • Solar Photovoltaic (PV), off grid - A power system with solar PV panels that use the sun’s energy to create electricity and that are tied to a battery bank which stores the electricity. This PV system is not tied to utility lines.

  • Solar thermal hot water - A hot water system with one or more solar collectors that use the sun’s energy to heat water. This is not to be confused with solar photovoltaic (PV) panels that use the sun to create electricity.

  • Solar thermal space heating - A building with one or more solar collectors that use the sun’s energy to provide space heating for the building. This is often combined with a solar thermal hot water system. Examples include solar hot water with a tie-in to radiant floor heating, heat pumps, or furnaces. This is not to be confused with solar photovoltaic (PV) panels that use the sun to create electricity.

  • Wind energy – Wind energy production machines use blades to collect the wind’s kinetic energy. The wind flows over the airfoil shaped blades causing lift, like the effect on airplane wings, causing them to turn. The blades are connected to a drive shaft that turns an electric generator to produce electricity.

Indoor Environmental Quality

  • Appropriately-sized HVAC (Heating, Venting, and Air Conditioning) system – This is an installed appropriately sized HVAC unit that has a Manual-J load calculation on file. For more information on Manual-J load calculations, see

  • Carpet below grade - Homes with carpet below grade tend to have air quality problems due to moisture and possible mold.

  • Carpet fixed - A house without any carpet attached to the sub-floor. Fixed carpet cannot be cleaned well and can harbor indoor pollutants.

  • Central air filtration system - A home with ductwork can also have a central air filtration system, which is integrated into the HVAC system. As air cycles through an HVAC system, particulate matter, bacteria and allergens are filtered out. There are different kinds of filters. Some systems also clean the air with ozone or UV lights. The filter needs a Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value (MERV) rating of 12 or higher. (from

  • Combustion appliances tested - All combustion appliances should be tested. The test should be conducted using the Building Performance Institute's Combustion Safety Test Procedure for Vented Appliances Guidelines and verify that ambient carbon monoxide levels are below 8ppm. (from OSHA’s guidelines are 8 PPM.

  • Crawlspace sealed - Crawlspaces must be sealed with at least an 18 millimeter vapor barrier, 100% coverage, all seams sealed, no vents to outside, and active dehumidification or other state code approved method of conditioning. (from )

  • Dehumidification system - A central or permanently attached dehumidification system is in addition to an HVAC system. It is controlled by a humidistat, rather than a thermostat, to remove moisture from the air of a home. Central dehumidifiers are a mechanical refrigeration system that works in conjunction with air conditioning to automatically monitor and control moisture levels for optimal comfort and health. Humidity levels should be between 30 and 60 percent for comfort and under 50 percent to prevent health problems from dust mites, mold, mildew and bacteria. (from

  • Detached garage - Having a detached garage prevents fumes from vehicles and yard equipment from entering into the house. Also, there is no heat loss to the living space when the garage door is opened. (from

  • Ductwork absent - The absence of ductwork, which is used in heating and cooling systems in a home, leads to healthier indoor air quality because ductwork usually spreads dust, bacteria, fiberglass, and other particulate matter that is harmful to indoor air. Ductwork tends to be poorly maintained and is insulated with fiberglass. (from

  • Ductwork without fiberglass - Ductwork systems that are not made with fiberglass are healthier than ductwork made from fiberglass. Fiberglass particles are released into the air and are thought to be carcinogenic. If fiberglass in ductwork becomes wet it can also breed harmful mold and bacteria. (from

  • Ductwork sealed, cleaned and tested - Ductwork that has been sealed, cleaned and tested performs more efficiently and provides healthier indoor air than ductwork systems that have not been sealed and tested.

  • Formaldehyde testing – This is testing for formaldehyde using a test kit from Advanced Chemical Sensors, Inc., or equivalent, and meets EPA and American Lung Association recommendations for safe indoor air quality limits. (from

  • Fresh air introduction – This is an HVAC system that has a mechanical fresh-air introduction system to supply fresh air into the house. When a house is built tightly and sealed, fresh air needs to be introduced in a controlled way.

  • Lead testing – This refers to testing for the presence of lead on painted surfaces (walls, floors, trim) and water using EPA guidelines. (from Before 1978, lead was used in house paint.

  • Low level CO monitor - Low level CO (carbon monoxide) monitors installed at head height or higher help alert building occupants if there are dangerous carbon monoxide levels. Monitors need to be installed at head height or higher because carbon monoxide rises, so they are not effective if installed lower than head height.

  • Radon mitigation system - A radon mitigation system usually entails sealing cracks in the foundation and venting the basement, slab, or crawlspace. Radon mitigation systems can be installed during the construction of a home, which is easiest, or can be retrofitted into an existing home. (from

  • Ventilation - All bathrooms, the kitchen, and all combustion appliances need to be vented outdoors. If there is spot ventilation for a commercial range hood in the kitchen, the ventilation system must be coupled with a fresh air replacement system.

  • VOC (Volatile Organic Compounds) testing – Testing for VOCs using a test kit from Advanced Chemical Sensors, Inc., or equivalent, and identifies chemicals of concern. (from

  • Water quality testing - Testing for one or more of the following: toxic metals, volatile organic compounds, bacteria, lead, herbicides and pesticides. Sample kits can be purchased to test the water, samples taken and sent to a laboratory for analysis. City and county health departments may also conduct testing.

Water Use

  • Dual flush toilets - Dual flush toilets have two flush modes - one is .8 gallons and the other is 1.6 gallons. They use about half the water of a conventional single flush toilet. (from, glossary of green building terms)

  • Innovative wastewater management - Wastewater is domestic water that has been used or is water used in a manufacturing process. It contains waste products and is often called sewage. Wastewater is typically treated in septic tanks or in a central sewage treatment facility. Innovative wastewater management techniques include grey water recycling, Living Machines and Wastewater Wetlands.

  • Low flow faucets and showerheads - Low flow faucet aerators attach to the faucet and mix water with air, which reduces the amount of water coming out of the faucet by 50% and keeps the pressure the same. Low flow showerheads may reduce water flow through the use of an aerator. There are also low flow showerheads that reduce flow but do not aerate. (from )

  • Rainwater harvesting - This is capturing rain and storing it for future use. The most common rainwater harvesting technique is to use rain barrels or cisterns to hold water collected from a roof. This water can be used for gardening, washing cars, and other non-potable uses. (from

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