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Defining "Green" Standards

Posted by pcbasentry on February 19, 2009

Building Industry Green Debate Shifts from Acceptance to Defining Standards

Blue ribbon panel analyzes how builders lare ooking for new business strategies to transform to the “greener” landscape.

San Diego, CA, February 13, 2009 –(PR.com)– Although the debate regarding the movement towards a greener building industry has ended, the discussion of what is meant by green or how certain standards are defined and applied continues to evolve according to a recent expert roundtable.

“The building industry has moved beyond whether or not ‘green’ is a viable and long term business strategy. They are now looking for ways to practically incorporate its best practices, standardize the measurements and galvanize the existing demand.” said Steve Fabry CEO of information services firm Compendia and moderator of The Green Mega Trend and Its Impact on Your Business.

But despite political and consumer will for all things green, there are still “kinks in the machinery” to work out. Fabry added, “We can’t yet agree on what it means to be green. There are multiple standards, vague policy goals, competing certification programs, and evolving technologies. But we all agree that the trend has transcended mainstream culture and builders must incorporate green as an overarching strategy to achieve superior long term success.”

Panelist Brian Gitt, Executive Director of Build It Green added, “We truly have a perfect storm; this unprecedented convergence of market drivers: policies, soaring energy costs, consumer demand and builders need to understand and adapt to these policies that continue to transform how buildings are being built.”

According to Gitt, a builder’s biggest obstacle is the flexibility to build in multiple jurisdictions using the local or regional codes to measure “greenness.” He suggested using one of the three certification programs (Build It Green, USGBC LEED for Homes or California Green Builder) to create benchmarks as they are typically cited by local governments or exceed the existing codes.

Builders must also be careful what they promise as the specter of unfulfilled expectations often sparks litigation. According to panelist Tim Corbett, president of the risk management consultancy SmartRisk said, “As soon as one thing is wrong, owners start pointing fingers.” He indicated that most on the newly inherited risk from green building is a result of misaligning homeowner expectations when it comes to building cost, performance and savings.

“For many people green building is a new concept and they come to the table with many faulty notions and expecting perfection. They may expect significant and immediate cost savings which, in reality, may not be realized for several years,” he said.

Corbett pointed out that builders must educate, create realistic, obtainable strategies and clearly identify responsibilities for inspection, maintenance and operation. He listed several risk mitigating tactics including avoid express warranties and guarantees, maintain a qualified project team, ensure project certification and keep updated with the latest materials and technologies.
Mark Johnson, Director of Customer Service for leading green developer Gerding Edlen agreed that education is a key component missing from most builders. “A lot of builders who are doing all the right things on the construction side are not carrying the message through to the sales staff.” One of the most important responsibilities a builder can undertake is to articulate and teach the consumer that sustainability promotes a better quality of life and reduces the cost of home ownership.

“The big myth of green building is about protecting the environment. Whereas this is a great side benefit, the reason to build green; the reason to be a green builder is to create a direct benefit to your life. Green is about building better and bringing those tangible benefits to that owner.” he said.

Johnson also addressed the perceived cost differential between building green versus non-green. Johnson countered, “This is another oversimplification. Teams are building green with little or no added cost. There are low and high cost green buildings just as there are low and high cost non-green buildings.” He pointed out the higher costs typically occur when applying to the highest green standards such as LEED’s platinum rating. “As contractors gain experience building green their costs go down.” The US Green Building Council notes that the additional costs average for a green building is 1.84%.

“The debate is over. Whether you believe in the reasons or causes it really doesn’t matter,” Gitt said. Mandates in states like California have rendered the argument moot. Public utilities, building standards commissions, trade organizations, the air resources boards and even state legislatures have already passed statutes and/or adopted several initiatives that require environmentally responsible considerations for any new residential construction. And the day is coming when these considerations will be applied to commercial construction, remodel and renovation.

Fabry added “It’s an exciting time; an important time: builders must transform or die. Soon there will be no green standards code. There will just be a code that simply assumes inclusion of what we today interpret as green.”

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