Election Day 2014 in which Republicans made big gains in Congress and statehouses across the country portends huge business opportunities for green building.
As more conservative legislative bodies look to enact environmental and energy policies while driving up growth without enacting new mandates or imposing new taxes, enabling voluntary green building is positioned to be part of the new legislative agendas.
The newly elected Republicans are not 1960s Barry Goldwater environmentalists who favored “federal intervention with regards to the environment.” To the contrary, most of today’s newly elected conservatives believe that a voluntary, non-mandatory approach to environmental protection is the best hope for stewardship of our planet. And that is the same belief that has led to the broad brand and wide market share acceptance of LEED. Many believe that burdening business and land owners with yet more government mandates is wrong and will not be efficacious.
The broad failure of the IgCC to be enacted anywhere suggests a building code that goes far beyond life safety is going too far. Further, the fact that ASHRAE 189.1 has only been implemented by the U.S. military is equally damning. Mandatory green codes and green standards will not be popular in conservative legislative bodies.
Additionally, attempting to mandate that a private land owner must build a LEED or Green Globes certified structure misuses the voluntary rating systems. David Gottfried, the USGBC co-founder who unabashedly believes “all building should be green” said in a recent interview, “LEED was designed as a voluntary standard” acknowledging that “some governments have grabbed onto it.” And Jerry Yudelson, the President of GBI (the Green Globes folks), makes clear he does not advocate mandatory green building laws for private building and he sees “a benefit of allowing the freedom of the marketplace to control this rapidly changing field, where performance counts.”
As transition teams for newly elected officials look for environmental and energy policies that will be no cost to government and not burden business, the environmental industrial complex needs to advocate for government policies that allow and incentivize sustainability and green building (including the resultant reduced electricity use, savings in potable water, less solid waste, eliminating toxics, and more). It is time to stop ridiculing people, who are now in control of Congress and many state legislatures, as climate change deniers (making it a moral issue equating them with Holocaust deniers). And it is time to reconsider the abject failure to of the green building community to articulate the advantages of building sustainability that has resulted in green building no longer being the cool kid.
Not only is green building a solution to many of the environmental impacts arising from human activity, but from an economic perspective it is clear that green building is profitable. There is nothing wrong with making a profit while saving the planet.
These elections have presented an opportunity for the green building industry to thrive.
Green building policies that promote innovation and create an environment rich for investment in real estate can save both mankind and its current way of life; and we all can get wealthy building green.