In recent years, the Green phenomenon has reached nearly every sector of American culture. Being Green means different things to different industries, and often times, it means nothing at all. In the construction industry, however, Green Building has become an increasingly well defined (yet frequently misunderstood) movement.
Architects, designers, contractors, government agencies and independent researchers are coming to discover the benefits of sustainable building practices. Sustainability is the aim to meet current building needs while working with the environment to meet those needs in the indefinite future. The emphasis is on the working life of the structure as the building sector currently accounts for 76% of the electricity generated by US power plants and is responsible for 48% of all greenhouse gas emissions. The industry has responded by creating several organizations dedicated to promoting and accelerating Green Building practices.
The benefits of Green Building designs range from profitability and aesthetics to health benefits for the occupants. As with any cultural force, Green Building comes loaded with stereotypes and misconceptions. These are certainly fueled by the practice of “Green Washing” – the use of the Green label as little more than a superficial buzz word. This memo aims to help define what Green Building is and how Brock White will take advantage of this growing trend.
What is Green Building?
In general, the Green Building movement is an awareness of the environmental impact of the construction and use of a structure over its lifetime. Green Building is very much dependent on the site chosen for construction, as it is fundamentally a respect for the land and the willingness to work with the natural landscape to produce a structure that is both functional and environmentally conscious. In practice, Green Building is a design and construction strategy which seeks to promote economic sensibility as well as positive social and environmental ramifications in the constructing and use of the structure.
Green Building is not simply about adding solar panels and low-flow plumbing fixtures. It is about exercising a level of scrutiny in every step of the building process – to choose the basic building blocks of each structure to work with the surrounding environment.
The State of the Industry: Why build Green? Why is Green Building knowledge important?
Even in a down housing market, the demand for Green buildings and remodeling is higher than supply. According to the NAHB, the number of Green-certified homes doubled between 2004 and 2007. This can be somewhat attributed to skyrocketing energy costs in homes that are 50% higher in volume than 30 years ago. In part, the Green Building movement is a response to these high costs – aiming to reduce the structure’s environmental impact while also being economically viable both initially and over the life of the building.
Meeting LEED or similar Green Building standards can add up to 10% or more to the initial building costs. However, most consumers building Green expect to recoup these costs in energy savings and, in the case of businesses, in human benefits. LEED certified buildings typically have better indoor air quality with more daylight. Workers in these environments have been proven to increase labor productivity and decrease sick days. Retail spaces in such buildings have been shown to experience increased sales. Green Building projects also have a track record of extremely high customer satisfaction as well as an estimated higher resale value.
Understood properly or not, Green Building is a cultural force with a life of its own and is one of the few upward trends in a currently struggling market. Green Building construction starts exceeded $12 Billion in 2007 and the demand for Green construction is rising. A recent McGraw Hill Construction survey estimates that this year’s Green Building totals will double over the next five years – reaching a 12-20% share of the US housing market and between 40 and $70 Billion in sales in 2012. Since many of Brock White’s vendors and suppliers are promoting their products as Green, it is important that we recognize a growing trend and be prepared to present Green product information when asked.