Strolling the aisles of the AHR Expo last month, I sensed a great deal of optimism that the HVAC market is coming back. For many exhibitors, revenues were up in 2004, and once skyrocketing steel and energy prices have stabilized. Engineering staffs are lean, but busy and getting busier.
No matter whom I talk to or where I am, there is tremendous interest in the green-buildings market. Manufacturers want to know how to position their products. This is pretty easy — the more of the following a manufacturer can claim of its product the better: promotes energy efficiency; improves indoor-air quality; saves water; reduces emissions; is recyclable and/or made of recycled or recovered materials; weighs less; operates longer; requires less maintenance; is produced using processes that are resource-efficient, close to the point of use, and minimize waste and emissions. (Alex Wilson, publisher of Environmental Building News, provides great insight on green products on his Website [www.buildinggreen.com].)
At a recent ASHRAE meeting in Cleveland, I moderated a panel discussion on green buildings. For more than an hour, the discussion revolved around two topics: economics and communications. That bodes well for our March 16 Webcast, “The Dollars and Sense of LEED and Green Buildings.” To register, go to www.engineeringgreenbuildings.com. Engineers and architects want solid information on the performance of green buildings (i.e., economic costs and benefits), and they want to know how they can get owners over any first-cost hurdles.
During the meeting, one engineer gave his opinion on the matter: “All this talk about proving this and regulating that. Just make green fashionable, and people will buy it.” His statement resonated with something I had written in a letter to the editor of a local newspaper. I wrote that consumerism, not regulation, ultimately will be the deciding factor in environmentalism. I still hold this to be true — it's the millions of small decisions that drive the economy. I know a woman who is saving to buy a pink Honda Insight. She thinks the other hybrids look too much like normal cars. A pink Insight, she says, would be cool and desired by other women. Can buildings be made the objects of such desire and envy?