Sunday, December 30, 2007

Making 80% of your progress on 20% of your problems

As I look towards 2008, I have been reflecting on the importance of the green building movement--where are we, where are we going. There is no question that buildings contribute to environmental damage--the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency reports that up to 48 percent of the greenhouse gas emissions contributing to global climate change are a result of building construction and maintenance projects. In addition, there has obviously been a lot of growth in the Green Building sector--for example, the GreenBuild conference in Chicago had 18,000 attendees, up from 4,200 just five years ago, and some estimates put the growth of LEED-registered and LEED-certified green building projects at rates approaching 70-80% year-over-year. A new study from the American Institute of Architects (AIA) found that since 2003, the number of American cities with green building programs has increased more than 400%.

However, public transit cuts in cities like Chicago, Philadelphia and others threaten to break down essential components of sustainable development. As recently as November, the Bush administration reiterated its opposition to the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, saying that it would damage the U.S. economy. Energy bills at the state and federal levels failed to implement real changes to our energy consumption infrastructure.

Based on the theory, therefore, that you make 80% of your progress on 20% of your problems, I recommend the following areas of focus for the coming year:

1. Integration of green building standards into municipal codes--As I have stated on the blog before, I believe that green building practices need to be like requirements for fire safety--an integral part of the regulaiton that municpalities provide. The completion of the ASHRAE/USGBC/IESNA Standard 189 code project will hopefully provide a set of materials which can be easily integrated into municipal codes.

2. National leadership on public transportation--Without steady and reliable sources of funding and commitment to public transportation, building and growing sustainable development will be very difficult. National figures, including the presidential candidates, need to provide clear, coherent and strong leadership on this issue in the coming year.

3. Acceptance of international climate change protocols--The environment is a global issue which requires a global agenda. The United States needs not just to join, but to lead the world in pursuing an environmental agenda.

Here's to a Happy and Green New Year!

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