Nowhere is the opportunity for environmental gain higher than in the stupendously resource intensive construction sector. Buildings are demonstrably inefficient and yet this quantifiability is the key to the solutions to the problem. If you know where the draft is coming from, you can plug the hole. Architects, with their intimate knowledge of products, methods, and systems necessarily have a duty to lead the charge towards a more balanced built environment. But each of the many players in the realm; owners, developers, regulators, lenders, product manufacturers, contractors, and end users share the responsibility.
The green atmosphere is, however, an unnecessarily foggy one. While many of the key solutions are simple, they are lost in the mists of both the status quo and corporate frenzy. America's building culture, formed in a time of apparently unlimited resources and inexpensive energy has led to a culture of waste. These luxuries led to a laissez-faire approach to building and an attitude of expectation that set the standards for both houses and commercial buildings well above the threshold of sustainability. It has taken only about a decade for this imbalance to become apparent. Yet entrenched thinking and fixed modes of construction (from material supply to construction methodology to building operation) have combined into formidable resistance to recognizably critical change. Add to this the typical owner's expectations of cost per unit of volume which leads to exceptionally large inefficient spaces. The barrier against change is reinforced by an information overload that drowns both the problems and real solutions in a sea of hype and marketing obfuscation.
In the next post we will look at the basic problems and some simple solutions home and building owners can learn from.