WSJ Enterprises Blog

Putting reality in real estate and green building

Where is Green Building Going?

As an instructor for LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) I am asked at some point during every training session, “Where is Green building going?” As consumers we are bombarded daily by new green products, energy saving devices, government incentives and articles telling us how we simply must change our ways.

I can best answer the question by giving an analogy. One day in the mid-Sixties a person woke up one day and exclaimed, “Oh my God, cigarettes can kill you!” From that day forward our country has embarked on a campaign to reduce ETS or Environmental Tobacco Smoke. It began as areas in restaurants designated as NO SMOKING. It rapidly expanded to no smoking in public buildings, then to planes, trains and last year Mayor Blumberg announced that smoking would not be allowed in any New York City parks. We have accepted the ETS ban on smoking as a standard, as a mandatory given, to the extent nobody would think to spark one up in a public building.  It only took about 45 years to get this far and not every state is on board.

Green building (by the way I dislike the term immensely and would prefer it be called common sense building, but that would be another article) in comparison to ETS is at the point of nearing no smoking in public buildings. We all know about sustainable building to differing degrees and have heard about solar power and passive solar heating and geothermal but may not understand it. Recycling has been either mandated or made an option to the majority of us. Building certifications by such groups as LEED, NAHB (National Association of Home Builders), Energy Star, Green Globe and as many as 90 other certifications vie for significance. The U.S. Green Building Council projects $60 Billion being spent on Green building in 2010 and approximately $240 Billon on renovation projects with a projected $430 Billion spent on remodeling and replacement by 2020. NAHB estimates that 10-12% of new homes will be “Green” (there’s that word again) by the end of 2010.

In McGraw Hill’s, Greening of Corporate America 2007 Report, they estimate by 2010, 80% of Corporate America is expected to be engaged in green at least 16% of the time and 20% engaged 60% of the time. With building construction and use consuming 40% of our primary energy use*, 72% of our electrical consumption* and 13.6% of our water consumption** the need for our attention and participation is becoming obvious.

We are a country of largesse. We have everything and what we don’t have we historically have gone out and taken it. We don’t worry about climate change or global warming because it didn’t come up while we showered this morning and had breakfast and drove our car to work. Environmental problems aren’t something we must deal with, until gasoline became $3.00 per gallon and we decide enough is enough.

You need to educate to create the incentive for green building. If people don’t understand it they aren’t going to do it. Too many people see green building as a premium, an extra, an added cost that won’t bring any payback, is too difficult or takes too much time or effort. The definition of intelligence is behavior modified by experience. We all need to experience the benefits of green building and sustainable practices before we will start acting more intelligently in our daily lives. Information isn’t enough, if it were, we would never see another person smoking.

So, to answer the question, where is green building going? I have to tell you about a vendor from Finland I met at the International Builders Show in Las Vegas. He had a method of creating pressure treated wood without any chemicals. I asked him if this process he had been doing for 80 years in Finland was part of their green building program. He looked at me with a confused expression and said, “Green building, what’s green building? In Finland we just call it “building”.” We need to go to the point where we just call it “building”.


 *EIA Annual Energy Outlook 2008

**US Geological Survey 2000 data


July 22, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | 3 Comments