Green Building Matters Even More

It has been a long and ugly recession, especially in the building construction industry. Happily, there are finally some indications of a mild revival. In most areas of the U.S., new construction — particularly in the residential sector — is contending with a significant but diminishing backlog of foreclosed or otherwise distressed properties for sale at well below 2013 new construction costs. So, some homebuilders are differentiating on energy efficiency, like the small subdivision pictured below:

Solar House
The property pictured offers Energy Star [1] rated energy efficient appliances and LEED rated building materials, along with enough solar energy to substantially reduce power bills. The small difference in construction costs are rolled into the mortgage at today’s low rates. The essentially fixed monthly out-of-pocket cost for mortgage payment + energy costs presents an attractive deal, especially for the 55+ year olds this development targets.

New construction joins building renovation in emphasizing energy efficiency. Below, a post from May, 2012 looks at energy efficiency in renovated buildings.


Why Green Building Matters

From 17 May 2012

Green Building

In November 2009, the American building construction industry was at dead slow, in the jaws of the Great Recession. I was surprised — make that flabbergasted — to see over 24,000 people at the U.S. Green Building Council’s GreenBuild conference and expo in Phoenix. Why, I wondered, were all of these people at a conference and trade show during an industry melt-down? Why? Because, as a cold fact, Green Building is the hottest thing going in the building construction industry.

I’m told that the average American is indoors — inside a building — about 87% of the time. The buildings we live in, work in and do almost everything else in consume 72% of the electricity used in this country and 34% of the directly used natural gas. In total, we spend over $400 billion annually to heat, cool and power buildings. Further, it has been demonstrated that the power consumption in buildings can be reduced by an average of at least 38%, using existing technologies, applied at rational rates of return.[2]

Empire State BuildingFor example, New York’s Empire State Building was built in 1931. Over the past several years, the building has been extensively refurbished, including applying Green Building concepts. One result is that the building’s annual power cost has been reduced by $4.4 million (38%) with a three year pay-back on associated costs.[3]

An economically viable way to reduce a $400 billion annual national expenditure by 38% is a pretty good start. But wait: it gets better. The U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) standards, practically speaking, define Green Building. The LEED standards “promote a whole-building approach to sustainability” that includes power consumption, water utilization efficiency, building materials, indoor air quality and more.[4]

Adherence to the LEED requirements translates to healthier indoor environments for working and living, along with reduced impacts on the natural world, to the benefit of everyone. People prefer to live and work in Green buildings.

Consequently, there are now over two billion square feet of LEED certified floor space. The first billion square feet took nine years, the second only three years — never mind the Great Recession![5]

What This Means for Smaller Manufacturers

Green building is clearly on a roll. As long as substantial power cost savings continue, that momentum is likely to continue. Expect to see Green building products increasingly specified in future building contracts.

NIST BEEs ModelThe National Institute for Standards and Technology (NIST — part of the U.S. Department of Commerce) has established a database of product attributes for over 230 building materials. The Building for Environmental and Economic Sustainability (BEES) software, again practically speaking, defines the attributes that qualify specific products as “Green”. BEES links specific building products to LEED.[6]

The LEED / BEES materials requirements encompass health, environmental and human aspects of every link in the entire building product value chain. Consequently, these requirements offer many channels for product differentiation. Manufacturers can benefit by offering building products that conform to — or surpass — the LEED / BEES materials product attributes requirements.

Special thanks to Paolo Scardina, Green Building Designer and LEED AP (Accredited Professional) for taking time to brief me on part of this discussion of LEED. Paolo is at Sustainable Sedona,


High power costs make energy efficiency really important — and very saleable — in today’s reviving building construction and renovation markets. Smaller manufacturers can participate — and benefit — by providing innovative Green products that promote energy efficiency.

Chuck - AsilomarThoughtful comments and experience reports are always appreciated.

…  Chuck Harrington

: Contact me when your organization is serious about pursuing Sustainability … CH

This blog and associated website ( are intended as a resource for smaller manufacturers in the pursuit of Sustainability. While editorial focus is on smaller manufacturers, all interested readers are welcome. New blog posts are published on Wednesday evenings.

Energy Efficient Home Photo: Jera

Empire State Building Photo: Dreamstime,

BEES Graphic: NIST,

[1] Energy Star is an E.P.A. program for energy efficiency improvements. There are several aspects to the Energy Star program, including energy efficient appliances and buildings. Learn more at

[2] Lovins, Amory, Reinventing Fire, Chelsea Green Publishing, White River Junction VT (2011). This book studies buildings and energy consumption in great depth, devoting an entire chapter to Buildings: Designs for Better Living, pp. 76 – 121

[3] Lovins, ibid, pp 78 – 79. For additional information, see the Empire State Building’s website at

[4] For more on the LEED standards, see the U.S. Green Building Council’s website at

[5] Watson, Rob, et al, Green Building Market and Impact Report 2011, p. 9. The Market and Impact Report is produced by GreenBiz Group, Inc. and available on-line at

[6] The BEES database and software is available for free access online at