Some time ago the “Zits” Daily Comic Strip showed the main character, a teenager, sitting in a chair contemplating equations, calculus, formula’s and other examples of our fixation with complicated solutions to all problems. The last scene is the same teenager asking how to make toast, with the toaster in front of him. It is analogous to the fact that we, the United States has become fixated on arriving at complicated solutions to simple issues.
Daily we in the “Green” building business are inundated with messages invoking Green principles. So much so that a normal layman having minimal knowledge of the purpose of “Green” building, or as I call it, Energy Efficient-Sustainable Building, would be hard pressed to understand what this movement or trend is about. Everything all of a sudden is Green. It’s kind of like a pendulum where one day we are minimally aware of Green Building and the next day it has swung 180 degrees to the point of everyone being aware with a proliferation of experts. In this day of Green expertise, you can be a shoe salesman one day and a solar expert the next. The real problem is who do you believe or what do you believe?
One of the greatest sources of confusion is the lack of a recognized, all-encompassing standard to begin with and venture from there.
If you work in the residential field, you have Energy Star for New Homes, Home Performance by Energy Star, Department of Energy’s Build America and Builder’s Challenge, LEED for Homes, the National Association of Home Builders Green Building Program, EarthCraft House, Passive House, along with many other local and regional Green Residential Building programs. This does not even include the new program working its way through Congress–the jobs/energy efficient homes bill called HomeStar.
If you work in the commercial field, the 1000 lb Gorilla in the field is the United States Green Building Council’s(USGBC) Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design(LEED). Now under LEED, you have LEED for New Construction and Major Renovations, LEED for Core and Shell, LEED for Schools, LEED for Existing Buildings: Operations and Maintenance, LEED for Commercial Interiors, LEED for Retail, and LEED for Healthcare.
Besides LEED in the commercial field you have Standard 189 or 189.1 shortly, GBI America’s National Standard for Commercial Green Buildings and Energy Star’s Commercial Building Design. These are just a few.
To tell you the truth, I am confused–I get overwhelmed. I spend hours daily trying to keep up. Thinking that maybe someone has discovered the missing link, but whoa, it is usually just a spin on what we already know.
I got involved in this energy efficiency business back in the 70’s. To me, it was about improving energy efficiency in buildings. Then I expanded to Solar thinking– this was an alternative path to weaning the US off of foreign oil or oil period, over a period of time, kind of like going to the moon. Then I started thinking about buildings that last without substantial yearly maintenance. Now I look and see a rush for designations by some third-party standard, that costs additional money, but at times adds no overall benefit, just the designation and I lose sight of why I am involved.
To get my bearings and focus back I have to constantly reread an article by the superhero of buildings scientists, my idol, the highly respected, practical, irreverent, tell it like it is, Dr. Joe Lstiburek of Building Science Corporation entitled “Prioritizing Green, It’s the Energy Stupid!” He credits the quote to Edward Mazria, the noted architect. But reading that article by Dr. Joe brings me back to reality and why I am involved. Frankly, we are losing the practically minded people by not focusing on the real issues that started this: Energy Efficiency and Building Buildings that are healthier, operate better and don’t fall apart in a few years.