Each time I hit the road, which is pretty often, I am always interested in the ways that sustainable building and design have affected a place, if at all, and how sustainability has been implemented there. It seems like a herculean task to keep track of the various residential green building programs all over the country, and with USGBC’s LEED for Homes and Energy Star Homes taking a strong hold nationally, I wonder…will we have one comprehensive set of guidelines for residential sustainability (for new home and remodels), or will the guidelines tend to be hyper-local and scattered, creating a splintered affect among building and design practitioners?
States like Oregon, Washington, Colorado, and California have been “building green” for decades now, and while it wasn’t quite mainstream 20 years ago, the interest level of the common consumer in these states was much higher than in other parts of the country. Because of that, many of the green building programs that have taken hold locally are comprehensive and elevated strategies for the residential sector in many of the cities there, like Portland, Seattle, Boulder, and all of California. Add to the list progressive places like Chicago and Austin, and you will find a pool of Architects, builders, and developers who have been practicing sustainability long before Al Gore hit the road with his Inconvenient Truths.
Yesterday, the NAHB launched their National Green Building Program, “an education, verification and certification program that will allow builders anywhere to build green homes”. While this is, on the surface, a positive move towards sustainable building practices becoming the norm rather than the exception, there must be concern for the rigidity of the guidelines and the level at which NAHB considers a building sustainable. While there are many conscientious builders, builders along with developers are the two entities dragging their feet on “green” building, at least in my experience here in the Southeast. Institutions don’t often embrace change, even if that change is good for them. Logistically, it is difficult, and many times, we humans prefer easy. 2008 may turn out to be the year of change, and our ability to embrace it seems the test of our continued success.
Over the course of this year, Project Green Spot will be taking an in-depth look at various residential green building programs, and examine further how the NAHB program has impacted the residential home sector. PGS also intends to examine how the third party verification entities evolve, and how they remain objective in an industry rife with “incentives”. Stay tuned…