Pick up any publication or flip through the TV channels and you will find yourself on a collision course with information on “green” living, buildings and products. Is this merely a fad or the clear indicator of a cultural shift? A recent article in the mainstream USA Today described this time in history as experiencing “a perfect storm” with the intersection of public concern about global climate change, rising energy prices and a torrent of new products that deliver high efficiency, healthy, sustainable performance.
The U.S. Green Building Council’s (USGBC) Greenbuild 2007 conference was held Nov. 7-9 in the largest building in the U.S., Chicago’s McCormick Place. That 4.2-million-square-foot place was inundated with over 23,000 in attendance, over 500 exhibitors and more than a hundred educational sessions and events. And if the scale of the event was not enough, the passion, enthusiasm and ideas of the attendees, exhibitors and presenters was to the core inspirational.
In his keynote address, Bill Clinton made many powerful points about the transition from a carbon economy to a green economy. The green economy will put our best foot forward with innovation in products, practices and services that will create a whole new green-collar job sector and the next wave of global abundance. Sweden and Denmark, countries that chose to not just sign on to the Kyoto Protocol, but exceed the standards for emission reduction called for in that agreement, are enjoying a thriving economy with rising wages and employment.
Clinton went on to call for all newly constructed schools to be built to green standards and that all existing ones be retrofit. The value delivered by green-built schools is already being documented. The energy savings alone add up to two more teachers, or 250 computers, or 5,000 textbooks per school, per year. “This is a great economic opportunity, not a problem. The U.S. is the best in the world in the solutions business. Let’s get this show on the road.”
Net Zero Buildings
The educational sessions covered subjects from marketing psychology to the physics of building materials. Case studies were presented on occupant health and energy performance modeling. The diversity of choices was driven by the wholistic system approach that green brings to the creation of a building. A structure built to the USGBC LEED certification standards calls for not just energy and water efficiency, but great indoor air quality as well as site utilization and storm water management.
An immensely exciting topic dealt with Net Zero Buildings: buildings that create all their own power and operate carbon neutral. In 2009, the only building permits issued in Boulder, Colo., will be for buildings that meet this mark. Austin, Texas, has instituted a phasing-in of energy efficiency requirements culminating in Net Zero in 2015. California will be Net Zero in 2020. This is where green is heading and I am looking forward to building Net Zero here in Central Indiana.
The economic savings and emission reduction capacity of green is mighty, as our buildings consume 40 percent of our energy nationally and in a major urban area like Chicago, that number jumps to 80 percent. A well-designed new green structure or retrofit to an existing building can cut consumption in half and recoup the cost within a few years. Green has the capacity to create prosperity both now and for our kids’ great-grandkids. History will be made by choices we make now. n
David Kadlec is a partner in CasaVerde, a green development company based in Indianapolis.
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