We in the green building movement can do a lot to hasten the transition to green building practices. A few of these priorities are described below.
Most of the buildings that will be around in 2030 are already built. To achieve significant progress in improving the environmental footprint of the building sector, we will have to focus significant effort on existing buildings. If you haven’t done so already, consider expanding your practice to address remodeling in addition to new construction. Invest in the skill-building that will be needed to dramatically improve the energy performance of these buildings while also ensuring durability by managing water more effectively and dealing with other problems. Existing buildings pose huge challenges and warrant a lot of our attention.
With LEED, the process of certification should continue to be streamlined, and better support should be offered to teams going through the certification process. Practitioners in the green building movement should get involved in LEED and other certification systems to help make the process better. LEED was created out of a volunteer initiative, and its continued improvement depends on active participation from the green building community. With LEED we should differentiate buildings that are “designed and built for LEED” from those that are proven to operate to LEED standards—verification of performance is key.
Seek compromise on contentious issues such as prerequisites in building certification programs, energy performance targets, and forestry certification that are diverting attention from larger goals. With the tight economy and struggling building trades, we can’t afford to waste resources fighting about relatively minor differences in approach. The recent lawsuit against the U.S. Green Building Council (see USGBC, LEED Targeted by Class-Action Suit
) is the most flagrant example of that infighting.
Moving the building industry to where we need to be—net-zero-energy buildings—in a very short timeframe, as called for the by 2030 Challenge, presents tremendous challenges. To understand what is involved in creating this level of energy performance, architects would do well to get a net-zero-energy project under their belts. Only after actually working on such a project can one understand all that is involved. Even if a company doesn’t plan to pursue such a high level of performance for many projects anytime soon, getting real, on-the-ground experience in creating such buildings will greatly inform the transitions that will be needed.
The extent of change that is called for in the world today will require actions on a much broader level than just the design and construction community. Laws and regulations will have to change—at every level from local to national. Building codes will have to be strengthened. To build support for such change, those of us involved with green building can’t simply talk to each other; we need to engage other segments of society, including the political realm. Get involved in your local planning commission or city council. Learn who is running for state offices and endorse candidates who understand the extent of change that will be needed. Run for office yourself.
There are a lot of “green” certification schemes out there—both for products and buildings. Some competition is good in driving the industry forward with leadership standards, but complexity in the certification world is hampering progress in getting buy-in from consumers and manufacturers. Some have referred to the proliferation of eco-labels as “the NASCAR effect,” with almost as many certification stamps being slapped on green building products as there are company logos on racecars. A certain amount of consolidation of product certifications, such as the recently announced acquisition of EcoLogo by UL Environment (see
Oct. 2010), may be a good thing.
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November 1, 2010