Friday, October 31, 2008

Leveraging The Power Of Wholesale Change Through Governance

I spent yesterday afternoon at a board retreat for the Delaware Valley Green Building Council. Much of the discussion focused on the appropriate level of education/outreach to disseminate green building knowledge and transform our built environment. Should policy influencing bodies focus on wholesale change by targeting education/outreach to thought leaders, or retail change by targeting individuals or households?

One of the elements which has gotten lost in the discussion of small versus big government and government lobbying is government's role in transforming wholesale change into retail change. Policy influencing bodies like the DVGBC, USGBC, etc. can use their limited resources on education and outreach to policy makers, who in turn make laws which change the behavior of innumerable individuals.

Green building laws are an excellent example of this transformation. This election cycle, there are several green initiatives on the ballot. For example, a $17.9billion initiative in Washington for improvements to commuter rail and bus service

Additionally, Oregon and New Jersey have been developing comprehensive green building regulatory initiatives. Oregon--; New Jersey--

As a result of these laws, buildings in these states will be greener and the environment cleaner, of course. But builders in these states will develop knowledge and experience with green buildings, a market for green products will be enhanced, and consumers will have more green products and buildings to choose from. In short, the benefits will move from the thought leader level to the grassroots level. At its best, lobbying and government outreach is a tool for educating thought leaders who can change policy, thereby transforming the world for the better.

1 comment:

StrongWall Group said...

I think it government regulation and consumer education move toward different goals.

Government regulation of green building standards advance more of a public health and overall energy conservation standard.

Consumer education creates the demand and the will to carry out the regulations.

I think both are necessary.

Looking at the commercial office market is a good example; today it is rare that non-LEED office buildings are being constructed. Why? Because the office-tenant consumer demands LEED office space. Because the federal government wants leases in green buildings. Because office building owners want a product that will be competitive a decade from now.

Government regulation will get the green building ball rolling, but the consumer education/demand is what will make developers want to build green buildings.

It makes sense to make incremental, consistent changes to building standards so there is more product in the marketplace and there will be a conservation of resources. Once people see the impacts of green buildings the education will take over and create the will to push these changes further.