Change is afoot in America. Not only are clients now demanding greener buildings but Oprah Winfrey has started handing out low energy light bulbs to her TV audience
There’s a noticeable momentum for environmental change emerging in the US. This may be starting from a low base but one shouldn’t underestimate it. When you have one of the country’s most influential figures, chat show host Oprah Winfrey, starting to extol the virtues of going green and handing out low energy light bulbs to audience members during her show, then you know something important is happening.
This is certainly the case for design and construction. The US Green Building Council has more than 8500 members and 75 regional chapters. “It’s a firestorm,” says Valentine of the swift growth experienced by the body and the take up of its LEED standard for green design and building (the equivalent to BREEAM).
This is matched by a raft of new websites extolling the virtues of environmentally responsible development, such as the Jetson Green blog site and a news site called Inhabit. A recent post on Post on Inhabit has what is claimed to be the greenest office in the US, an indication that the competitive nature of the US psyche could make change quicker than we expected.
Valentine gives a recent example as another positive sign. “A great example for me was an R&D facility we designed for Symantec. They leased part of it and the agent told us if you can make it LEED silver or gold we can get more rental value. I felt like giving him a big kiss - that was a real watershed moment for me.”
Valentine tempers his optimism somewhat given the challenge facing the US to radically change how it behaves and consumes. “To paraphrase Winston Churchill we are at the end of the beginning.”
- Zero-Carbon Challenge convened by Building and timber specialist Finnforest.
Issues that arose ranged from whether industry was fully on board behind the plans and the costs to industry.
Does industry have the right structures in place to implement the ambitious targets? How will this work alongside the need to dramatically increase the supply of new homes. Should local authorities set their own targets? And how on earth industry is going to get this done on time...
Read the digital edition to get the latest thinking on zero-carbon homes, and next week we will be focusing on one element of the debate.
This is the first in a series of sustainable blogs by Phil Clark the editor of Building's sister web site Zerochampion.com