It is beginning to dawn on me that I may have started building energy efficient housing and historical renovations 35 years too soon, but better late then never. Somewhere in Valhalla, lucky for me, the Supreme Being ordered up a world I envisioned 40 years ago and said, “Bob, go to it!” I believed that $5 a gallon of gas would have occurred in the late 70’s and by the end of the Century we would have been paying close to $10 per gallon. Many people are, just not in this country.
I believed us American’s would have demanded strict energy efficient laws, designs and practices in the construction of buildings and houses back in the early 80’s. At the very least that cars and trucks would have been required, at a minimum, to get over 30 miles to a gallon of gas. What happened? The great despisers of the establishment(Us Boomers), became the establishment and the most dedicated Capitalist’s and consumers the world has seen. The sons and daughters of the “Greatest Generation,” the group that put their lives on the line for a better world for the future, sold out for luxury, consumerism and short term goals. We gave up going to the moon for going on vacation. We could have done both.
I did my first passive solar house in 1977, my first super-insulated house in 1979, my first solar thermal system in 1980. My reputation and building business was predicated on this belief in energy conservation. Never in my wildest imagination did I believe it would be back-seated for 35 years. Frankly I have never built, renovated or designed a home or older building without paying strict attention to energy, particularly insulation. But I was certainly in the minority.
Now the demand for competent, practical and knowledgeable practitioners of Sustainable, Energy Efficient, High Performance , Green building exceeds the supply. Actual builders and individuals who know how to apply these methods in a cost effective manner are few and far between. This situation will only worsen over the next couple of years as individuals and business entity’s continue to jump on the Green Bandwagon. The real caution here is that many will only have enough knowledge to get them into trouble. In other words their mouth will exceed their ability. There are going to be many horror story’s and litigation issues over the next few years as the industry continues to evolve.
While their are many dedicated Green Building advocates–there are minuscule amounts of individuals who can take classroom blackboard theory to applied, practical reality. There are even fewer who recognize that in order for the “Green” movement to become main-stream, which it struggles to do even now, that practical cost vs. value added decisions have to be made. I mean who is going to put in a building system that has an 80 year payback? It may be the right thing to do, but the reality is not everyone can afford what is right.
Somewhere along the line, we have to accept a new standard for evaluating buildings. We have to leave behind the thought that Initial Cost is the primary consideration of judging a building or home. We have to begin to look at “The initial cost plus the occupancy/operational costs over the course of a buildings life” is the true cost of a building. Investors in multi-family and commercial buildings have long looked at a building in these terms. Let’s all join the party.