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.

Bill Valentine, chairman of architects HOK, confirmed something of a sea change in an interview on my web site this week. “It’s now in the US psyche to be green,” he told me.

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.”

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