The first time I heard the term “sustainable” in regards to building, was in the last part of my college career. Eventually I had found myself working in the recycling programs of the Urban Studies Department at Portland State University, Doug McKenzie-Mohr and his book “Fostering Sustainable Behavior” was the hot topic for us academic types. It was an exciting time but peppered with the though, can we ever get the general population to discuss sustainable practices. Fast forward an undisclosed amount of time (let’s leave my age out of this), enough time to go by and be able to say; “Back in the Day”. Here we are in 2009 and “sustainable” is a buzz-word, along with “recycle” and “conservation”; for someone who started out her adult eduction and career with an idealistic environmental thought, it’s truly a good time to be living in. The fruits of our labors and all that.
LEED™ Certifications are helping architects, designers, and building owners make smarter more sustainable decisions about their properties. Which in turn has spawned new “green” products to help attain higher LEED™ Certifications on buildings. Pop the banners, light the fireworks, we made it.......wait, let’s not turn the music up yet. I admit, we have come a very long way in social consciousness that would lead us to today and our greater understanding of how we are all connected on the Earth. But what are we missing?
We are missing one of the key components in my mind, which is also a key item that the US Green Building Council and LEED™ wish to leave out of the equation. The components themselves are left out of the program. Meaning, for those who are not aware, LEED™ Certification is for the buildings and awarded to a building for how well certain practices were employed to have created or have in an existing building. It’s a huge jump in conservation as commercial buildings, for example, are one of the largest bleeders of energy we have on the planet.
So why then is it a big deal to leave the products or components out of the certification process? Let’s look at paints and coatings for example, points are awarded towards the overall certification level of a building by how low a coating is in Volatile Organic Content (VOC’s) once it is in place in the building. A manufacturer could attack this in many ways; create a no VOC coating, a low VOC coating, or even a coating that the VOC’s leave Über quickly and won’t evolve off any more than minutes after application (this one is a bit far fetched but you get the point). Let’s take the best example, a No VOC coating, points could be awarded because no VOC’s left the paint in the building that could have led to inhabitants getting sick from the fumes. That’s a sweet deal, I’ve smelled paint fumes, not fun.
I then ask you, why do we not care how green or healthy the manufacturing of that product was? That No VOC coating might have been nasty to make and not only the process could harm the environment but could be putting the workers who made it in danger. But since there wasn’t a provision for ensuring that part of the process was Green, we will never know.
(I know that there are product certification processes out there, none of which tie into or help one decide what to use in a building, sounds like a novel idea, no?)
PICTURE: The picture in the post is of The Casey, a luxury Condo project in Portland, Oregon. Which is in the process of attaining a Platinum certification, they can enjoy not only a coating on the glass to help them attain points but they can rest assured that the manufacturing of that paint (OPACI-COAT-300® Water Based Silicone Spandrel for Glass) was made with the greatest care for the environment and worker alike.
This is a web log (blog), it is simply the opinions and thoughts of the Author and not necessarily those of her employer. Although, she would strive to not anger or misrepresent her employer or her customers for that matter. But again, this is an online blog and the opinions are all hers. You might want to prepare your grain of salt. :P