This table contains terms that are used in this emerging "green" world. If you come across a term that you think should be added to our list email us at and we will research that term and get it added.



A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z #



Acrylic – A synthetic textile, resin, or paint derived from acrylic acid.

Acoustical Ceiling Tile – Ceiling tile designed to improve sound quality and block noise transmission.

Active Solar Heating Collection units absorb heat from the sun and transfer it through pumps or fans to a shortage unit for later use, or directly to the building interior.  The system requires controls to regulate its operation.

Active Solar Water Heater  Collection units absorb heat from the sun and transfer it through pumps to a storage unit.  The fluid in the storage unit conveys its heat to the domestic hot water of the building through a heat hanger.  The system requires controls to regulate its operation.

Aerator –A device most installed on faucets to increase spray velocity, reduce splash, and save both water and energy.

Air Conditioning Setpoint - The room temperature that an air conditioning system is set to achieve; the higher the setpoint, the lower the demand for energy.

Air Handling Unit –A heating and/or cooling distribution mechanism that channels warm or cool air to different parts of a building.  The equipment includes a blower or fan, heating and/or cooling coils, as well as related controls, condensate drain pans, and air filters.  The unit does not include ductwork, registers, grilles, boilers, or chillers.

Albedo –Also known as “solar reflectance,” this is the ratio of reflected solar energy to incoming solar energy over wavelengths of approximately 0.3 to 2.5 micrometers.

Alternative Use License (AUL) –In Brownfield redevelopment, AUL refers to a district’s capacity to be rezoned to an alternative acceptable use, taking into account the known contaminants of the site.

Ambient Air –Open air, surrounding air, or outside air.

Ampere - The unit to measure the flow of electric current.

ASHRAE American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning.

ASHRAE 55-1992 ASHRAE standard:  Thermal Environmental Conditions for Human Occupancy.

ASHRAE 62-1999 ASHRAE standard: Indoor Air Quality.

Ballast - The device that provides proper starting and operating voltages for Fluorescent and High Intensity Discharge lamps and controls the amount of current these lamps draw.

Bamboo flooring – Bamboo is a grass (not a wood) that annually produces new shoots.  Individual stems are harvested from controlled forests every three to five years.

Benchmarking – The process to measure the performance of energy, water and recycling for comparison with similar hotels. The result is often a business case for making environmental improvements.

Biodegradable – Capable of decomposing naturally within a relatively short period of time.

Broadloom – Originally denoted carpet produced in widths wider than six feet.  Today, carpet comes in 6-foot, 12-foot, and 15-foot widths.

Brownfields – Abandoned, idled, or under-used industrial and commercial facilities where expansion or redevelopment is complicated by real or perceived environmental contamination.

Building Automation System (BAS) – A system that optimized the startup and performance of HVAC equipment and alarm systems.  A BAS system increases the interaction among the mechanical subsystems of a building, improves occupant comfort, lowers energy use, and allows off-site building control.

Building Related Illness (BRI) – BRI refers to a diagnosed illness of which the symptoms of are identified and can be attributed directly to airborne building contaminants.

Built Environment – Buildings and infrastructure constructed by human beings.

Color Rendition - A number assigned to different types of lighting to indicate how closely it approximates natural light ; the higher the number, the closer it is.

Carbon – An abundant chemical element on Earth. As the basis for all living things, carbon is present in particular abundance in a solid and a liquid form in trees, other plants, and soils, and in various forms in all fossil fuels, including coal (solid), petroleum (liquid), and methane (gas). Carbon bonds with oxygen in the atmosphere to form carbon dioxide.

Carbon Dioxide (CO2) – A colorless, odorless, non-poisonous gas that exists in trace quantities (less than 400 parts per million) in ambient air.  Carbon dioxide is a product of fossil fuel combustion.  Although carbon dioxide does not directly impair human health, it is a greenhouse gas that traps terrestrial (I.e., infrared) radiation and contributes to the potential for global warming.

Carbon Footprint – A cumulative measure of the impact a product, service, activity, company, individual or other entity has on the environment, in terms of the amount of greenhouse gases produced, and measured in units of carbon dioxide. These impacts usually result from energy consumption, pollution, and other sources.

Carbon Neutral – A combination of efficiency improvements (resulting in reduced carbon dioxide emissions), and purchases of carbon offsets that balance 100% of a carbon footprint.

Carbon Offset – A reduction in carbon dioxide emissions by a project (such as rainforest preservation) that is sold to a purchaser to balance the purchaser’s own emissions. The funds generated by the sale of offsets support the development of additional reductions.

CERES – A coalition of investors and environmentalists formerly known as the Coalition for Environmentally Responsible Economies.

Certified or Certification – A process by which an independent agent verifies that the claims made by a product, service, etc. are valid. Many certification programs exist through which products meeting independent standards may use a label or logo to indicate their claims have been verified.

Chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) – A family of inert, nontoxic, and easily liquefied chemicals used in refrigeration, air conditioning, packaging, and insulation, or as solvents and aerosol propellants.  Because CFCs are not destroyed in the lower atmosphere, they drift into the upper atmosphere, where their chlorine components destroy ozone.

CO2 Sensor – A sensor for the measurement of gaseous carbon dioxide.  Used in combination with energy recovery units or demand controlled ventilation to promote energy efficiency.  Used to maintain appropriate indoor carbon dioxide levels.

Cogeneration – The generation of electricity and the capture and use of otherwise wasted heat energy byproducts.  Also referred to as a combined heat and power (CHP) system.

Combined Heat and Power (CHP) – The generation of electricity and the capture and use of otherwise wasted heat energy byproducts.  Also referred to as cogeneration.

Commissioning – The process of ensuring that a building’s complex array of systems is designed, installed, and tested to perform according to the design intent and the owner’s operational needs.  The commissioning of new buildings is most effective when considered throughout the planning stages, and as early as the schematic design phase.

Compact Fluorescent Light (CFL) or Lighting – A type of fluorescent lamp.  Compared to incandescent lamps of the same luminous flux, CFLs use less energy and have a longer life.

Composite Material – Complex material made up of two or more complementary substances.  Composite materials can be difficult to recycle (e.g. plastic laminates).  They are best applied in situations where they can be removed for a reuse that does not require remanufacture.

Composting – A process whereby organic wastes, including food, paper, and yard wastes, decompose naturally and produce a material rich in minerals and ideal for gardening and farming as a soil conditioner or mulch, and  for resurfacing or covering a landfill.

Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) –  A substitute for gasoline (petrol) or diesel fuels.  CNG is considered to be an environmentally “clean” alternative.  It is made by compressing natural gas  (which is composed mainly of methane [CH4]) in a percentage range of 70% to 98%.

Conventional – Indicates the usual method of production. Used in contrast to green or environmentally-friendly production methods.

Data-Tracking – The process of gathering energy, water and waste data for hotels to track there performance over periods of time.

Daylighting – A method of illuminating building interiors with natural light and minimizing the use of artificial lighting.  Common daylighting strategies include the proper orientation and placement of windows, the use of light wells, or light shafts.

Demand Charges – A designation on your electric bill.

Demand Control Ventilation (DCV) – Ventilation provided in response to the actual number of occupants and to occupant activity.

Demand Control Ventilation Using Carbon Dioxide Sensors – A combination of two technologies:  CO2 levels in the air inside a building, and an air-handling system that uses data from the sensors to regulate the amount of air admitted.

Density Bonus – A credit that allows developers to build more units than would normally be allowed in a certain zoning district by exchanging the excess units for other community benefits, such as affordable housing, historic preservation, and green building.

DEQ – Department of Environmental Quality (usually at the state level).

DESIRE - A website that is use to track available energy related incentives.

Digital Thermostat – Energy saving devices that are manually programmed to allow users to control temperature settings.  Digital thermostats are more accurate than conventional thermostats and can be programmed with high and low set points.  They can be used with most heating and cooling devices. 

Down-Cycling –The recycling of one material into another material of lesser quality.  One example is the recycling of high-grade plastics into lower grade plastics.

Dual Flush Toilet – A toilet that has two buttons to allow appropriate water usage, typically ranging from one to two gallons.

EA – Energy and Atmosphere section of the LEED rating system.

Eco-Friendly, Environmentally- Friendly – a loose term often used in marketing to inform consumers about an attribute of a product or service that has an environmental benefit. This term does not necessarily indicate all attributes of a product or service is environmentally benign.

Energy-Efficient – producing a high level of output or performance relative to the amount of energy consumed.

Emission – The release of any gas, particle, or vapor into the environment from a commercial, industrial, or residential source, including smokestacks, chimneys, and motor vehicles.

Emissivity – The ratio of energy radiated by a specific material to the energy related by a black body at the same temperature.  This is a measure of a material’s ability to absorb and radiate energy.

Energy Modeling – A computer model that analyzes a building’s energy related features in order to project the energy consumption of a given design.

Energy Recovery Units – Mechanisms that extract energy from the indoor air (warm air in winter, cool air in summer) and transfer it to the fresh incoming air.

Energy Star – A joint program of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S. Department of Energy helping individuals and businesses save money and protect the environment through energy efficient products and practices.

Environmental Coordinator – An associate who leads the hotels environmental committee and is responsible for developing an environmental green plan for energy, water, and solid waste use.

Environmental Impact – Any change to the environment, good or bad, that wholly or partially results from industrial manufacturing activities, products or services.

EPA – The United States Environmental Protection Agency, charged with setting and enforcing environmental regulations nationwide.

EPP – Environmentally preferred product.

Exposed Aggregate – The component pieces of a composite material used to resist compressive stress and visible in the end product.

Fair Trade – A certification scheme that evaluates the economic, social and environmental impacts of the production and trade of agricultural products, in particular: coffee, sugar, tea, chocolate, and others. Fair Trade principles include: fair prices, fair labor conditions, direct trade, democratic and transparent organizations, community development and environmental sustainability.

Fan Coil Unit (FCU) – A small terminal HVAC unit often composed only of a blower and a heating and/or cooling coil (heat exchanger) and frequently used in hotels, condominiums, and apartments. 

Flashing – A type of weatherproofing.

Floor Area Ratio (FAR) – The ratio of the total floor area of a building to the size of the land of its location, or the limit imposed on such a ratio.

Fly Ash – The ash residue from high temperature combustion processes.  Electric generating plants using western coal produce a non-toxic fly ash that, because of its very high calcium content, can be a substitute for Portland cement (the common bonding material in concrete).

Formaldehyde – A colorless, pungent smelling, toxic material used as a component for the glues of many wood products.  It can cause respiratory problems, cancer, and chemical sensitivity. 

Fossil Fuels – Fuels, such as coal, oil and natural gas, produced by the decomposition of ancient (fossilized) plants and animals.

Foundation Mat Slab – Builders use mat-slab foundations to distribute heavy column and wall loads across an entire building area, and to lower the contact pressure as compared to conventional spread footing.  Mat-slab foundations can be constructed near the ground surface, or at the bottom of basements.  In high-rise buildings, mat-slab foundations can be several meters thick, with extensive reinforcement to ensure relatively uniform load transfer.

FSC Products – Forest Steward Council wood bearing the FSC logo guarantees that it was sustainably harvested from a certified, well managed forest.

Going Green – Meaning to pursue knowledge and prectices that lead to more enviromentally friendly and ecologically responsible decisions and lifestyles which can help protect the environment and sustain its natural resources for current and future generations.   

Green – Making decisions based on an environmentally-friendly philosophy and conservation of natural resources

Green Field – A piece of undeveloped land.

Green Globe –Specific to hospitality, this international benchmarking and certification program is based on the Agenda 21 principles of Sustainable Development, providing a framework for managing sustainability programs and monitoring performance and improvement.

Green Globes –The green Building Initiative’s green management program includes an assessment protocol, rating system and guide for integrating environmentally-friendly design into commercial buildings.

Greenhouse Gases – Atmospheric gases that contribute to the greenhouse effect and sustain life on earth. Increasing concentrations of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere are altering the habitat humans evolved to thrive in; this is a process called global warming or climate change. Greenhouse gases include: carbon dioxide, water vapor, nitrous oxide, ozone, methane, and CFCs.

Green Key A Eco-Rating Program is a graduated rating system designed to recognize businesses that are committed to improving their fiscal and environmental performance.

Green Power –This is a term used to describe sources of energy that are considered to be environmentally friendly and non-polluting, such as geothermal, wind and solar power.

Green Seal –An environmental standard that focuses exclusively on developing environmental standards, and certifying products, practices, and operations.

Green team –Interdisciplinary team comprised of representatives from various operating departments that is committed to improving the environmental sustainability of the property.

Greywater –Wastewater that does not contain sewage or fecal contamination and can be reused for irrigation after simple filtration.

Gross Square Feet (GSF) –The total area occupied by a building when measured from exterior to exterior.  This area included all mechanical areas.

Halons –Man-made substances (also known as bromofluorocarbons) that are chlorofluorocarbons containing bromine.

Hardscape –Paved areas such as streets and sidewalks, large business complexes and housing developments, and other industrial areas where the upper soil profile is no longer exposed to the actual surface of the Earth.

HarvestedRainwater – Rain that falls on a roof and is channeled by gutters to a storage tank or cistern.  The uses of this water depend on the existence and nature of pollutants that may have been picked up from the roof’s surface.

Heat Island Effect –“Heat island” refers to urban air and surface temperatures that are higher than those of nearby rural areas.  Many American cities and suburbs have air temperatures up to 10º F (5.6º C)  warmer than their surrounding natural land cover.

Heat Recovery Systems –Building mechanical systems that capture waste heat from another system and use it to replace heat that would otherwise come from a primary energy source.

HVAC –Heating, ventilating, and air conditioning equipment that controls the ambient environment (temperature, humidity, air flow, and air filtering) of a building.  HVAC systems must be planned for and operated along with other data center components such as computing hardware, cabling, data storage, fire protection, physical security systems, and power.

 HVAC&R – Heating, ventilating, air conditioning and refrigeration equipment.

Hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs) –Compounds containing carbon, hydrogen, chlorine, and fluorine.  HCFCs originally were intended as replacements for CFCs, but they are only a temporary solution because they still contain chlorine and have the potential to destroy stratospheric ozone.

Hyrdonic HVAC –Water based HVAC.

IEEE – Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers.

IEQ – Indoor Environmental Quality section of the LEED rating system.

In Situ Remediation – The clean up or remediation of a polluted site performed by using and simulating the natural processes in the soil, in contrast to ex situ where contaminated soil is excavated and cleaned elsewhere off site.

Incandescent Light – An electric lamp in which a filament is heated to produce artificial light.  Incandescent lighting consumes more energy and is less efficient than CFLs or LEDs.

Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) – Pollution from gases or particles released into the air is the primary cause of indoor air quality problems.  Inadequate ventilation can increase indoor pollutant levels by not bringing in enough outdoor air to dilute emissions.

Infill Development – Real estate development that occurs in a previously built area.

Integrated Design – Multi-disciplinary teams of building professional work together from the pre-design phase through post-occupancy to optimize a building’s environmental sustainability, performance, and cost savings.

Irrigation – Supplying water to grass, trees, and other plants.

ISO – The International Standards Organization provides an internationally accepted specification for an Environmental Management System (EMS).  The ISO specifies requirements for establishing an environmental police, determining environmental aspects and impacts of products/activities/services, planning environmental objectives and measurable targets, the implementation and operation of programs to meet objectives and targets, checking and corrective action, and management review.


Key Card Energy System – An occupancy sensor system that used an inserted computerized card to activate or deactivate equipment (e.g. heating, cooling, lighting).

Kilowatt Hour (kWh) – A unit of energy measured at 1,000 watt hours.

Kilowatt Peak (kWp) – A measure of peak kilowatt output (e.g. of a photovoltaic system).

LCD – Liquid crystal display.

LED – Light emitting diode.

LEED – The Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design Green Building rating system.  LEED is a voluntary, consensus-based, national standard based on a four level certification program that encompasses design techniques for the building envelope and throughout the interior for new construction and renovations, as well as their operational program for existing properties.

LEED AP – LEED accredited professional.

Life Cycle Cost – The amortized annual cost of a product, including capital costs and installation, operating, maintenance, and disposal costs discounted over the lifetime of the product.

Low E-Windows – Low emissivity windows reflect heat, not light, keeping spaces warmer in winter and cooler in summer.

MERV –The Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value for air filtration.

MR –Materials and Resources section of the LEED rating system.

Natural ventilation – The process of supplying and removing air through an indoor space by natural means.  There are two types of natural ventilation for buildings: wind driven ventilation and stack ventilation.

Net metering –A method of crediting customers for electricity that they generate on site in excess of their purchased electricity consumption.  Customers with their own generation offset the electricity they would have purchased from their utility.  If such customers generate more than they use in a billing period, their electric meter turns backwards to indicate their net excess generation.  Depending on individual state or utility rules, the net excess generation may be credited to the customer’s account (in many cases at the retail price), carried over to a future billing period, or ignored.

NIMBY –Not in my back yard.

NGO –Non-governmental organization.

Non-profit –A corporation that is organized for scientific, educational or charitable purposes in which there are no individual stockholders and no part of the corporation’s income is distributed to its members.

Occupancy Sensors –Mechanisms that automatically turn off lighting, HVAC, and/or electricity once a room is vacant.

On-site Renewable Energy Generation –Electricity generated by renewable resources using a system or device located at the site where the poser is used.  On-site generation is a form of distributed energy generation.

On-site Sewage Treatment –Treating waste water where it is produced for reuse by technologies that require non-potable water at the same location.

Organic –Relating to products (foods, textiles, etc.) grown or raised without synthetic fertilizers, pesticides, or hormones.  It also often means that products are not genetically modified.  Use of the term is regulated by the USDA, but it is still generally used to describe a production philosophy.  Many organic growers believe the USDA Organic certification standard to be weak.

Ozone –An unstable poisonous allotrope of oxygen (03) occurring in two forms.  (1) Stratospheric ozone:  In the stratosphere (the atmosphere layer beginning seven to ten miles above the earth), ozone is found naturally and provides a protective layer shielding the earth from ultraviolet radiation’s harmful effects on humans and the environment. (2) Ground level ozone: Ozone produced near the earth’s surface through complex chemical reactions of nitrogen oxides, volatile organic compounds, and sunlight.  Ground level ozone is the primary component of smog and is harmful to humans and the environment.

PPM –Parts per million.

Packaged Terminal Air Conditioner (PTAC) –Equipment combining an air conditioner and a heater into a single, electrically-powered unit typically installed through a wall and often found in hotels.

Paspalum –Tall American perennial grasses commonly known as paspalumsBahiagrasses, or Dallis grasses.  They are most diverse in subtropical and tropical regions.

Passive Cooling –A building’s structure (or an element of it) is designed to permit increased ventilation and retention of coolness with the intention of minimizing or eliminating the need for mechanical means of cooling.

Passive Design –As applied to home construction, building design and placement permits the use of natural processes such as radiation, convection, absorption, and conduction to support comfort levels.

Passive Heating –A building’s structure (or an element of it) is designed to allow natural thermal energy flow, such as radiation, conduction, and convection generated by the sun, to provide heat. 

Passive Solar Water Heater –A water heating system that does not require mechanical pumps or controls to create hot water for domestic use.

Passive Ventilation –The introduction and/or removal of air that used both convective air flows resulting form the tendency of warm air to rise and cool air to sink, and takes advantage of prevailing winds.  Many passive ventilation systems rely on building users to control their operation.

PERC –The Property and Environment Research Center.

Photo Plastic Laminate (P-Lam) –A laminate is a material constructed by uniting (or bonding) two or more layers of material.  Examples of laminate materials include Formica and plywood.  Formica and similar plastic laminates (such as PioniteWilsonart or Centurply Mica) often are referred to as High Pressure Decorative Laminate (HPDL) because they are created with heat and pressure that amounts to more than 5 lbf/in²(34kPa).

Photovoltaic (PV) –A system that converts sunlight directly into electricity using cells made of silicon or other conductive material.  When sunlight strikes the cells, a chemical reaction occurs, and this results in the release of electricity.

Photovoltaic Panels –Devices using semiconductor material to directly convert sunlight into electricity.  Power is produced when sunlight strikes the semiconductor material and crates an electrical current.

Post-Consumer Recycled (PCR) Content –Material that has been recovered after its use as a consumer product.  Examples include fleece clothing made from pop bottles and reclaimed carpet tiles used for new tile backing.

Pre-consumer Recycled Content –Material that is diverted from the waste stream following an industrial process.  This excludes reutilization of materials such as rework, regrind, or scrap capable of being reclaimed within the same process.

Recirculated Water –Rinse water that is reused before it is discarded, or water continually moving through a system, as in a fountain.

Reclaimed Water –Wastewater (sewage) that has been treated and purified for reuse, rather than discharged into another body of water (e.g. a river).

Recyclable Content –Materials that can be recovered or diverted from the waste stream for recycling and reuse.

Recycled Content –The percentage of recycled materials in a product, generally determined by weight.

Recycling –The series of activities, including collection, separation and processing, by which products or other materials are recovered from the solid waste stream for use in the form of raw materials for the manufacture of new products (other than fuel).

Regulation –A federal agency imposes a regulation; Congress enacts a law.

Renewable Energy –Energy resources such as wind or solar power that produce indefinitely without being depleted.

Renewable Resources –Resources that are created or produced at least as fast as they are consumed.

RFP –Request for proposal.

R-Value –A measure of the thermal resistance of material, especially insulation.

SEER– Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio, as defined by the Air Conditioning and Refrigeration Institute.

SF – Square feet.

Sick Building Syndrome – A situation in which a building’s occupants experience acute health conditions and/or levels of discomfort that appear to be linked to time spent in
the building, but no specific illness or cause can be identified.  Complaints may be localized to a particular room or zone.

SMACNA – Sheet Metal and Air Conditioning Contractors’ National Association.

Smart Growth – A range of development and conservation strategies that help to protect our natural environment and make are communities more attractive, economically stronger, and more socially diverse.

Sound Attenuation – A reduction in the intensity or pressure level of sound that is transmitted from one point to another.

SS – Sustainable Sites section of the LEED rating system.

Sustainability – Meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs.

Toxic – The attribute of any material or waste product that can produce injury and /or loss of life when inhaled, swallowed, or absorbed through the skin.

United States Green Building Council (USGBC) – A national organization, founded in 1993, whose mission is to accelerate the adoption of green building practices, technologies, policies, and standards.  USGBC established the LEED certification guidelines. 

Urban Sprawl – The unplanned, uncontrolled spreading of urban development into areas adjoining a city.

Variable Air Volume (VAV) – An HVAC system strategy through which the volume of air delivered to conditioned spaces is varied as a function of ventilating needs, energy needs, or both.

Variable Frequency Drive (VFD) – A specific type of adjustable speed drive that controls the rotational speed of an alternating, current (AC) electric motor by controlling the frequency of the electric power supplied to the motor.  VFDs also are known as adjustable frequency drives (AFD) variable speed drives (VSD), AC drives, or inverter drives.

Vegetative Roof/Green Roof – A building that is partially or completely covered with vegetation and soil, or is a growing medium, and planted over a waterproofing membrane.

Veneers – Thin slices of wood, usually thinner than 3.0 mm (1/8 inch), that are glued and pressed onto core panels (typically wood, particle board, or medium density fiberboard) to produce flat panels such as doors, tops and side panels for cabinets, parquet floors, and furniture elements.

Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) – Chemicals that contain carbon molecules and are volatile enough to evaporate from material surfaces into indoor air at normal room temperatures (referred to as off-gassing).

Waterless Urinals – Units that resemble conventional wall fixtures.  The “waterless” units connect to the regular waste lines, but eliminate the flush water supply lines.  This eliminates the flush valves, and there are no handles to touch, no sensors, and no moving parts.

WE – Water Efficiency section of the LEED rating system.

Whole Systems Thinking – A process through which the interconnections of systems are actively considered, and solutions are sought that address multiple problems at the same time.



Zoning – Legislative regulations by which a municipal government seeks to control the use of buildings and land within the municipality.


501c3 – Internal Revenue Service non-profit tax status designation.



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