Hpac 652 Jeffferenc

What Does It Mean to Be Green?

April 1, 2008
Green by any other name still says energy efficiency. That is my conclusion after HPAC Engineering conducted a reader survey on the present and near future

Green by any other name still says “energy efficiency.” That is my conclusion after HPAC Engineering conducted a reader survey on the present and near future of green buildings and products in February. That also is my conclusion after listening to presentations on green buildings and sustainability at an Air Movement & Controls Association (AMCA) International meeting in Las Vegas last month.

At that meeting — during which I gave a presentation based on the results of the survey — a couple of speakers nearly performed verbal contortions about whether the term “green” is preferable to “sustainability” and what those words really mean. There were more questions: Is Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) truly green? Can a building be green without being LEED-certified? Talk about paralysis through analysis.

It seems that the green-buildings initiative needs a healthy dose of “KISS,” as in, “Keep it simple, stupid.” There seems to be a tendency to make things more complicated than they need to be, such as needlessly wrestling with terminology.

But despite the occasional silliness that mucks up a green-buildings discussion, the good news is that more companies and people in the HVAC, engineering, and construction industries are getting involved in the initiative. They are trying to learn more about it, as is AMCA and its member companies. People are talking, and that's a start.

That is why I found the results of our recent survey so gratifying. Asked questions about what is driving the green-buildings initiative and what makes a building green, the majority of respondents repeatedly said that the No. 1 factor is energy efficiency, pure and simple.

That is not exactly a new idea. Engineers and building owners and managers have been trying to find ways to cut energy use for at least a couple of decades. If calling the concept “green” gives it renewed impetus and makes people feel good, there is no harm in that. Actually, that is a good thing.

I realize that LEED certification takes into account important factors, such as indoor-air quality, the best use of a building's site, and water conservation. But at the end of the day, the cost to heat and cool buildings — or more precisely how to design and apply technology in ways to reduce costs — largely is driving the green initiative. You can bank on it.

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