AATCC: American Association of Textile Chemists and Colorists is a professional and standard setting organization focused on textiles.


Acidification : An increase in acidity of a substance, referring in this case to such adverse environmental effects as acid rain or soil acidification.


Agricultural run-off : Pollutants including eroded soils, silted soils, excess fertilizers, animal effluence, or pesticides, which enter the water table by means of agricultural production.


Agrifiber : Particleboard or composite panel such as straw or hemp or other fibrous materials.


Alternative Building System : Any building system that attempts to address the issues of ecological sustainability  by changing the practices in traditional building systems that are presently or potentially harmful to the environment .


Ambient Air Space : Air that is confined in a certain space (e.g. under roof tiles) but still connected and part of the outside air.


ASHRAE : American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air Conditioning Engineers is a professional and standard setting organization that develops standards for ventilation and acceptable range for temperature, humidity and air velocity. 


ASTM: American Society for Testing and Materials is a organization that develops voluntary standards for a wide range of industries from petroleum, paint, flooring , environmental siting,  and more.


Biodegradable : Any material that is capable of being broken down rapidly by the natural processes of microorganisms.


Biodiversity : The variety of life in all forms, levels and combinations.  The term biodiversity includes genetic diversity, species diversity, and ecosystem diversity.[i]


Building-related illness : An illness caused by an identifiable agent in the indoor air.  The cause is typically biological, such as mold, but may also be chemical (e.g. formaldehyde ).  Symptoms may be flu-like, but they may also lead to serious diseases such as Legionnaires, and hypersensitivity pneumonitis.


Carbon dioxide : A colorless, odorless, incombustible gas formed during respiration, combustion, and organic decomposition.  CO2 is also a heat-trapping gas associated with the greenhouse effect and global warming trends.


Carcinogenic : Any substance or agent that causes or tends to cause cancer. 


CFCs  (Chlorofluorocarbons): The first and probably most well known example of a group of chemical compounds that are responsible for the depletion of the ozone  layer.


Carpet and Rug Institute Green Label Indoor Air Quality Test Program : A scientific testing and labeling program for carpets, cushions and adhesives .  This green label identifies low-emitting  materials.


Chlorophyll : A group of green pigments or green granular matter found in the chloroplasts of plants and other photosynthetic organisms.


Daylight factor : Computed by dividing the amount of indoor illumance  at a point on a workplane by the outdoor illumance under overcast conditions.


Depressurized: Depressurized, or negative pressure, is created when more air is vented from the space than enters.  Since the air pressure within the room is negative, air from surrounding areas will flow into the space.


Drip irrigation : Similar to a moisture sensor irrigation system, this system uses water efficiently for irrigation by allowing water to drip out of the irrigation pipes all along the installed pipes directly into the soil.  Pipes can be installed either above or below ground (See Water Resource Report).


Earth dikes : Temporary ridges of compacted soil that are used to divert runoff and stormwater  to a desired location.  The earth dikes can help with erosion and sedimentation problems.[ii]


Ecological footprint : A tool for determining if our lifestyles are sustainable .  Categories of human consumption translate into areas of productive land required to provide resources and assimilate waste products.  The “footprint” is total amount of land required for food, housing, transport, consumer goods, and services.  This approach shows that the most advanced countries consume and have a larger footprint on the earth than the rest of the planet.[iii]


Effluent : Outflow of waste or water from a treatment facility and the outflow of sewage from a sewer system.


Embodied Energy: The total amount of energy involved in the entire production of a product, from the point it is extracted until the current state.


Energy Star : International standard for energy-efficiency for electronic products.  Products that comply with the Energy Star standards have been approved for their concern for the environment .  If one buys a product with an Energy Star seal, one can save money on electric bills, as well as reduce greenhouse  gas emissions. These standards have spread throughout the world.[iv]


EnvironDesign Conference : Annual conference focused on sustainable  design techniques and innovations, including green building .  Located at a different city each year, past cities include, Washington D.C, Seattle, and Minneapolis.


EPA  (Environmental Protection Agency): The Environmental Protection Agency enforces and creates policies against environmental degradation.  The staff is highly educated and technically trained; more than half are engineers, scientists, and policy analysts. In addition, a large number of employees are legal, public affairs, financial, information management, and computer specialists.


EPACT : The Energy Policy Act of 1992.  Under the new law, some of the most common and least efficient lamps (light bulbs and fluorescent tubes) cannot be made or imported into the U.S. Fortunately, the market has an ample supply of highly efficient substitutes.


Established Natural Areas : Areas of land that already contain viable plant and wildlife habitat.  These can be virgin or restored areas and are preferably native to the landscape .


Eutrophication : The increase of nutrient levels (such as nitrogen and phosphorus ) in a body of water.  This causes an increase in plant and algae growth which lowers its dissolved oxygen content and consequently its ability to support aquatic life. 


Foliage Density (for windbreaks): A measure of the areal coverage of a plant.[v]  It refers to how much branch and leaf area is present.  Trees with higher foliage densities are more effective at blocking wind than are trees with low foliage densities.[vi]


Formaldehyde : An organic, carbon-containing gas chemical.  It is a volatile organic compound.  It poses health threats including headaches, fatigue, and moodiness, irritation of mucus membranes, respiratory problems, and cancer.


Fossil fuel : A deposit of hydrocarbon such as petroleum, coal or natural gas derived from living matter of a previous geologic time. These materials are burned by industry, automobiles, and other consumers to produce energy.


Geothermal energy: This alternative energy source uses the heat of the earth for direct-use applications, geothermal heat pumps, and electrical power production.  Geothermal technologies are beneficial, because they release little or no air emissions.  In comparison to conventional energy technologies, geothermal power produces much lower air emissions.[vii]


Global climate change : The temperature of earth has fluctuated considerably over millions of years. Global climate change associated with human activity is the study of the dynamic changing of earth’s surface temperature and the altering of weather patterns associated with the greenhouse effect.


Green roofs : Ecological roof gardens that involve large planted areas, specialized soil substitutes, and little or no reengineering on the existing roof.  Green roofs improve the building’s thermal insulation , absorb less heat, produce oxygen, absorb carbon dioxide, filter air pollution, provide wildlife habitat, and absorb up to 75 percent of rain falling from it, thus slowing stormwater  runoff.[viii]


Grey  water systems : A form of recycling  water by collecting rain water or water coming from all interior sources except toilets. This water is not considered contaminated and can be used for landscape  and irrigation.  Ideal for plants and irrigation, but many restrictions are placed on the use of grey water systems (See Water Resource Report). 


HCFCs: Used as a substitute for CFCs, this group of gases is now being phased-out of production as it has also been found to contribute to ozone  depletion. They are, however, still very powerful greenhouse gases and they create various other undesirable environmental hazards.


Heat island effect : The result of the summer warming trends that keep surfaces extremely warm.  Dark materials absorb more heat from the sun. Black surfaces in the sun can be up to 70°F (40°C) hotter than the most reflective white surfaces. If those dark surfaces are roofs, some of the heat collected by the roof is transferred inside, thus creating unwanted heat.  Landscape  design, vegetation, and alternative roof, and paving materials can all help with the heat island effect.[ix]


Heat Reflectivity : The ability of a surface to reflect the rays of the sun, thereby reducing the amount of heat held by the surface.


High emissivity  roofing: Requires using materials that reflect solar radiant energy.[x]  This helps curb excess heat gain into the building requiring less energy for cooling.


High-reflectivity  roofing: Requires using roofing materials that reflect solar light energy away from the surface.[xi]  This helps curb excess heat gain into the building requiring less energy for cooling.


HVAC: Heating, ventilation, and air conditioning system.


IAQ : Indoor air quality.


Indoor Air Quality Program : Refers to the Indoor Air Quality Program established by CSB and SJU Environmental Health and Safety.


IEQ : Indoor environmental quality that encompasses all aspects of the indoor setting including air quality, ventilation, thermal comfort, lighting,  and noise.


IESNA: Illuminating Engineering Society of North America is a professional organization and is a technical authority in illumination.


Illumance : The amount of light illuminating a point on a surface.


Impervious : A solid that does not allow a liquid to pass through its surface; impenetrable.[xii]  In this context it refers to the ability of rainwater to pass through unnatural surfaces around and near a building or the building’s parking lot.


Joist space : Insulated space between floor joists or wall framework.


Laminar flow : Streamlined flow of air.


Low-emitting  materials: Materials that do not release high amounts of volatile organic compounds.


Leakage : The unwanted leaving of air through spaces in heating, ventilation, and air-conditioning duct work due to poor construction  or design.


LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design): A voluntary, consensus-based national standard for developing high-performance, sustainable  buildings.


Medite : A composite building product manufactured from pre-consumer recycled wood .


Mercury : A metallic element, silvery white in color, which is liquid at room temperature. Mercury is found in thermometers, batteries, in preparation of chemical pesticides, and as an airborne by-product of coal combustion.


MERV : Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value is a rating of the effectiveness of air filters in removing particle contaminants from the air and is dependent upon the particle size.


Moisture sensor irrigation : An irrigation system that uses optimal water efficiency  by measuring moisture levels throughout the site  being irrigated.  By measuring the moisture levels along the irrigation pipes, the sprinklers adjust so water is not wasted. 


Municipal treatment facilities : Water or waste water treatment  facilities in operation by a city or local  governing body.


Mutagenic : Any substance or agent that is capable of causing mutation.  In this sense, the term mutagenic is concerned with extracellular factors like chemical pollution.[xiii] 


National Green Building  Conference : An annual conference on green building which is located in a different city each year.


Nitrogen dioxide : A highly reactive oxidant and very toxic  gas.  It can cause irritation to the eyes, nose, and throat, as well as respiratory damage.  Nitrogen dioxide is generated from combustion activities, such as unvented gas stoves and heaters, and environmental tobacco smoke.


Non-point source  pollution: Pollution which does not come from a direct source, but rather comes from many sources. Non-point pollution includes run-off from parking lots, streets, lawns, roofs, or any other impervious  surface. Non-point pollution also includes fertilizer or pesticide run-off from lawn or garden maintenance.


Open-grid pavement : Pavement that is pervious to water.  It consists of a thin open-graded asphalt mix over the top of course ground stone aggregate.  Water is able to pass through the asphalt surface and is stored in the aggregate until it is able to percolate deeper into the soil.[xiv]


Ozone : A molecule with three oxygen atoms.  It has adverse environmental effects at low altitudes as the substance commonly known as smog.  It has positive environmental effects at higher altitudes as it creates the ozone layer that protects the earth from harmful ultra violet radiation. 


Passive system : Reference to passive radon -resistant construction  features.  Basic radon-resistant building techniques include having a gas-permeable layer below the foundation or flooring  system, with plastic sheeting placed on top and a vent pipe that runs from the gas-permeable layer to the roof of the building, allowing the air to be vented outside.


Phosphorus : Multivalent, non-metallic element of the nitrogen family which occurs inorganically in phosphate rocks and organic phosphates in all living cells. Phosphorus is a food source for many small organisms including phytoplankton and algae


Point source  pollution: Pollution which comes from direct sources, such as a pipe emitting effluent  from a waste water treatment  facility. Generally, point pollution includes all pollution from which a direct source can be recognized.


Pollution sensitivity zone : Groundwater  aquifer which is more susceptible to pollution from run-off due to variation in geological structure.


Potable  water: Fresh water supply which is used for human consumptive purposes such as drinking, bathing, cooking, or washing.


Purlins : The horizontal components of a roof structure used to support and attach roof panels.


Radon : A radioactive gas that occurs naturally in the soil and is created by the decay of uranium.  Radon can become concentrated in homes and buildings, because it can seep in through the foundation.  It is the second leading cause of lung cancer and is a serious public health concern in Minnesota.


Rain garden : A landscaping  feature that is planted with native perennial plants and is used to manage stormwater  runoff from impervious  surfaces such as roofs, sidewalks, and parking lots.[xv]


Rebuild America : Growing network of community-driven voluntary partnerships that foster energy efficiency  and renewable  energy in commercial, government, and public-housing buildings.


R-Value : The measurement of thermal resistance to heat flow.  A higher R-value indicates greater insulating effectiveness.   The type of material, its density and its thickness are all factors in determining R-value.  Installing more insulation  in a building helps the R-value increase.[xvi]


Sight line : A line extending from an observer's eye to a viewed object or area.[xvii]  In this context it refers to natural landscape  and how much of that landscape is visible and unobstructed.


Silt fencing/sediment traps /sediment basins : Methods of controlling sediments around a construction  site .[xviii]  Often, bare earth must be exposed, and these devices are designed to keep sediments carried by runoff near the site.


Sheet Metal and Air Conditioning National Contractor Association : A trade association with standards for HVAC  systems.


SmartWood : The nation’s oldest certification program, since 1989. The original purpose of SmartWood, a national non-profit organization, was to focus on sustainable  practices in the world’s tropical rainforests. Today there are over 800 SmartWood certified operations in temperate, boreal, and tropical forests worldwide. The purpose of SmartWood is to improve effectiveness in sustainable forestry, promoting biodiversity , equity for local  communities, fair treatment to workers, and creating incentives for businesses to benefit from sustainable forestry practices.


Solar Heat Gain Coefficient  (SHGC): The fraction of solar radiation  admitted through a window.  SHGC is expressed as a number between 0 and 1.  The lower the solar radiation number, the less heat is being transmitted. A high SHGC can help offset a portion of the energy needed for heating in the winter.[xix]


Stormwater  management system : A system designed to catch, retain, divert, and/or use a sudden influx of water that results from rainfall or snowmelt. 


Sulfur : An abundant tasteless, odorless, nonmetallic element; best known in yellow crystals; occurs in many sulfide and sulfate minerals and even in native form. Sulfur occurs abundantly in nature and is also a by-product of coal combustion.


STC :  Sound Transmission Class is a number rating the effectiveness by which a material or building technique impairs or prevents the transmission of sound.


Sustainable  development : Development which meets the needs of present generations without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. Development which is not detrimental to earth’s natural resources, or one which makes the use of renewable  energy sources such as wind energy or solar energy.


Tetragenic : Any substance or agent that is capable of interfering with normal embryonic development and can produce non-heritable birth defects.  Tetragenic substances are most often radiation or chemicals.[xx] 


Thermal Bridge : The part of a building envelope  where heat is transferred at a much higher rate than the surrounding area.  Windows  and doors are two common examples thermal bridging areas.  Adding insulating spacers is one way to remedy the problem and minimize rapid heat loss or heat gain.[xxi] 


Thermal Mass : The ability of a material to absorb heat.  Materials with a high thermal mass operate much like thermal sponges, because they cool a building during the summer by absorbing heat from the sun and releasing it over a period of time.  Thermal mass should be used in addition to, but not a substitution for insulation


U- Factor or U-value: The rate of window heat loss.  The U-factor is the inverse of the R-value in that the lower the U-factor is, the higher its insulating value.  To achieve energy efficiency , our cold Minnesota climate  demands windows  with a U-factor of 0.35 or less.  Some three-layer products have U-factors even as low as 0.15.[xxii]


Up-cycling : Reusing a material in a fashion that does not downgrade its quality


Urban run-off : Includes pollutants from automobiles, salt or silt from roadways, fertilizers or lawn maintenance pollutants, or other foreign material entering the water table by way of impervious  surfaces.


USGBC  (United States Green Building  Council): The nation’s foremost coalition of leaders from across the building industry working to promote buildings that are environmentally responsible, profitable, and healthy places to work and live. 


Visible Transmittance  (VT): An optical property that indicates the amount of visible light passing through a window.  Most VT values range between 0.3 and 0.8.[xxiii]  The higher the VT the more light transmitted.  For maximizing daylight and view, select window glazing with a VT of 0.50 or higher.


VOCs : Volatile organic compounds refer to a variety of different organic compounds that vaporize at room temperature, including benzene, chloroform, p-Dichlorobenzene, formaldehyde,  and tetrachloroethylene.  They are the “principal component in atmospheric reactions that form ozone  and other photochemical oxidants.”[xxiv]  They cause a variety of negative health effects from dizziness, irritation, nervous system damage, developmental effects, and cancer.  The health impact of VOCs depends on the amount inhaled, the extent of exposure, and individual susceptibility. 


Wildlife corridor s: Hedges, canals, ditches, road and railway verges, and streams that connect fragmented habitats.  There is passage for movement between the populations through these corridors.  They promote an increased immigration rate between the linked populations, which maintains diversity.  A benefit is less chance of extinction.[xxv] 


Windbreaks: This landscape  design tool helps to protect buildings from the harsh effects of strong wind.  Professional landscapers can approximate where to position trees and to determine how dense with trees the windbreak  should be.[xxvi]  Windbreaks are an accepted agricultural practice used to reduce the negative impacts of excessive wind and snow. While the practice is widely utilized, many older, existing windbreaks have become dysfunctional and many sites are still in need of wind and snow protection.


[i] JSDN. “Biodiversity -Definition,” <> (14 April 2004). 

[ii] “Earth Dikes Construction Handbook,” (20 April 2004).

[iii] Task Force for Healthy and Sustainable Communities, “How Sustainable Are Our Choices?,” (15 April 2004).

[iv] Energy Star, (19 April 2004).

[v] “Foliage Density Estimates,” (20 April 2004).

[vi] John P. Slusher and Doug Wallace, “Planning Tree Windbreaks in Missouri,” (20 April 2004).

[vii] United States Department of Energy , “Geothermal Topics,” <> (19 April 2004).

[viii] Thompson, William and Sorvig, Kim. Sustainable Landscape  Construction. (Washington D.C: Island Press, 2000).

[ix] Heat Island Group, “Learning About Urban Heat Islands,” (19 April 2004).

[x] ibid.

[xi] The Garland Company, “Roofing Glossary,” (20 April 2004).

[xii] Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary, “Entry for Impervious,” <> (20 April 2004).

[xiii] “Entry for Mutagenic,”

 (14 April 2004).

[xiv] Elvidio V. Diniz and Hugh Masters, “Porous Pavement Phase 1—Design and Operational Criteria,” (20 April 2004).

[xv] Rain Gardens of West Michigan, <> (20 April 2004).

[xvi] U.S. Department of Energy. “Insulation  Fact Sheet,” 2002.  (22 April 2004)

[xvii] Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary, “Entry for Sight Line,” <> (20 April 2004).

[xviii] Natural Resources Conservation Service, “Factsheet: Silt Fence,” (20 April 2004).

[xix] Efficient Windows  Collaborative. “Solar Heat Gain Co-Efficient,” 2003.    (23 April 2004).

[xx] Hyperdictionary. “Tetragenic: Dictionary Entry and Meaning,”   (14 April 2004).

[xxi] U.S. Department of Energy. “Building Energy Codes Program,” 16 Oct. 2003.   (23 April 2004).

[xxii] Efficient Windows  Collaborative.  “U-Factor ,” 2003.  <> (22 April 2004).    

[xxiii] Efficient Widows Collaborative.  “Visible Transmittance ,” 2003.  (14 April 2004).

[xxiv] Minnesota Pollution Control Agency. Environmental Indicator of the Month for September 2003: Careful Where You Breathe – Pollutants in Indoor Air. 2003.

[xxv] Jennifer Meret, “Habitat Fragmentation and Wildlife Corridors,” (20 April 2004).

[xxvi] Jon S. Wilson, “Windbreak  Design,” (20 April 2004).