In short, it all begins with education from the bottom up, and regarding everyone involved in a building process. First of all, consumer awareness on green building is murky for the majority. For example, I have several prospective clients and or builders ask me each week what green building means to me. Many assume that being green means the use of cfl lights and solar panels. Or, some think it is low-flow water and reduced waste of some form or another. In a sense, they are right I tell them, those are all green aspects but I define our green buildings by far more than that.
The importance of all this is simple really, if a consumer wants some green elements in their building envelope then that is an improvement and I support them no matter how green they wish to be. For the sake of argument, in regard to what I might briefly classify as “green without comprimise” or “green from the groud up,” I would say that education is severely lacking in the system. In fact the one system that provides some guidance that many are becoming slightly familiar with is LEED, but beyond that it is an open gate for a flood of green bits and pieces and all are quick to use it in reference to their projects.
If you ask anybody what going green means to them, they will likely respond, “environmentally friendly, using clean energy, conserving resources.” But if you ask somebody how to build a green home from foundation to finish you will generally find yourself confronting a blank stare. The forms of education out there is so wide in variety and subject to the bias of the author behind it that there is no wonder all is dis-jointed right now in this new and rapidly developing field. I will expand on education in the next series but it is sufficient to state simply that education is the primary problem in building seriously green buildings.
Equally as important to any building process is the intricate and sometimes fragile and even negative role that local government provides to a project. The relationship between city officials and residents is also generally strained and confused on the matter. Each having their own idea of what is green and what is feasible therin. In many areas, neither have the know-how on what green really is except perhaps what they have read in the paper or seen on TV. Thus local government struggles with how to start or where to begin. For example, should government mandate that all homes must have solar panels or should the consumers demand it up front due to the dramatic rise in energy prices? This is just a simple example of what communities are confronted with when considering going green. The big picture is what government is charged to consider and implement for its citizens and the community. But when the city officials themselves know not what resources and products and systems are available then they are shooting themselves and their citizens in the foot when they presume and make judgments accordingly.
Groups have been formed in recent years such as the green building council which has introduced building standards for going green and efficient “green building practices.” This has now coined a well-known name called LEED however most have simply heard of it by now and are not actually familiar with its guidelines. Many other organizations have followed suit and are forming organizations to help consumers and policy-makers alike to sort through the prodigious amount of information and products available to create efficient and cost-effective green building systems. The ultimate goal of these organizations including our own goverment is to produce buildings that consume no more energy than they produce by the year 2025. This is wildly impossible at the moment given the profound lack of education and pervasive resistance to change which I will elaborate on next time.
As it is, I am aware of one community in my local region that understands the pitfalls and challenges confronting green development first hand. Aside from all this spit-fire the developer is planning and managing to make green development happen affordably and competitively. For a more in depth review of how this is being done look forward to this ongoing series. In the meantime, you may visit coyote creek estates for more information and contact the expert behind it all, Dave Christenson. His site is expected to showcase his green homes in detail in the near future.