Signs of a green backlash, primarily at the consumer level, have been starting to surface. I suppose it was inevitable, considering we are deluged with confusing, sometimes paradoxical, information about green products and the “right” way to live green. Plus, it just gets plain complicated sometimes. If a product is green, but is made by a company that exploits or allows unsafe conditions for its workers, is it really green? Some would say, “No way.” SUVs are the bane of green freaks for their gas-guzzling ways. But what about hybrid models? Are those green?
Part of the problem is that green still is in its relative infancy, and the movement suffers from the actions of companies and marketers that smell an opportunity to cash in on a hot new trend, whether what they make is truly green or not. Green is not regulated, so it's sort of an anything-goes world right now.
Thankfully, that's what separates the green-buildings initiative from the consumer-level green movement. The U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) has specific criteria that must be met for a building to qualify as Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design- (LEED-) certified. Critics complain that LEED has its flaws. For example, certification doesn't ensure that a building is energy-efficient, a key factor for a green building, according to most engineers and building owners and managers.
Flawed or not, the fact is that the USGBC developed tangible criteria that a building needs to meet to become LEED-certified. You can't print a certificate and hang it on the wall just because you feel like it. Besides, LEED certification is a work in progress, and new, improved versions are under development by the USGBC.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA's) Energy Star program is another reason that the green-building movement is more than just a slogan or pipe dream. The EPA's program has specific criteria that must be met for a building to be Energy Star-qualified, and it provides the tools for engineers and building owners to make that happen.
For those who believe that designing and operating green buildings is the smart way to do business, I encourage you to attend the fifth annual Engineering Green Buildings Conference and Expo and first-ever Commissioning Green Buildings Conference and Expo Oct. 21 and 22 at Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino in Las Vegas. Visit www.egbconference.com or www.cgbconference.com for more information.
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