You’ve heard them: black water, carbon footprint, embodied energy, gray water, and many others that are black water, carbon footprint—the list of Green and Sustainable Design terms is endless. Do we really know the meanings and understand them though? What about environmentally sustainable design, green architecture, or sustainable design?

These are all terms that have been floating around for a few years. With the increasing concern of saving the earth, and with the waste generated in construction and demolition, they aren’t going to fall off any time soon. Designers are returning to the concepts that have been around forever, we simply quit using them as things ‘improved’ These approaches seek to reduce and reverse the effect that buildings and construction, have on the environment in addition to us humans.

We’re going to briefly review some of these green and sustainable design terms. You may be surprised to find out if you’ve been using them incorrectly!

Carbon Footprint

A term that is used frequently during sustainable design discussions and refers to greenhouse gas emissions, another term to be defined: these are gases produced through the greenhouse effect, resulting in the environment impacted detrimentally with rising temperatures. These gases are caused by humans, events, and products. In general, a smaller carbon footprint means there is less emissions of greenhouse gases, making it better for the environment.

Embodied Energy

This term refers to theamount of energy required for producing goods or services. It is considered embodied within itself, and the energy that is required for the life cycle is taken into consideration.

Generally, a highly embodied energy product such as a steel beam, will create additional greenhouse gas emissions than a low-embodied energy product like concrete. Natural materials are lower than man-made materials.

Black Water and Gray Water

Black water and gray water are classifications of wastewater. Water from baths, dishwashers, showers, sinks, and washing machines is considered gray water. It can be reused in limited ways without being treated. Black water comes from toilets, and toilet paper disposals that have matters like pathogens and cannot be released safely into the environment. The organic material in black water makes it difficult to process. With proper treatment and composting, can actually be reused for the nutrients found within. Regardless, the separation of gray and black water is often a critical component in ecologically oriented buildings and neighborhoods.