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Fritz Albert (left); Audobon Society
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Editor's Note: Has the Green Building Movement Already Won?

Dec. 5, 2018
From our December issue... With all the sustainability efforts ongoing, our editor suggests the tide has already turned in this industry. But in light of still more ominous research, the bigger question is "How can we all do more?"

To be honest, I had not planned to write about sustainability yet again in this space this month. After all, our November print edition was our “Green Issue”, targeted towards the annual Greenbuild International Convention and Exhibition, held last month in Chicago.

So, I really did not want to get too preachy or serious in this, what is essentially our holiday issue. Year-end letters from the editor are historically ideal for warm expressions of thanks to our readers, renewed commitments for the year ahead and sometimes even pitches for particular charitable causes. Not surprisingly, all those thoughts were pulsing through my head over Thanksgiving weekend, when the Fourth National Climate Assessment (NCA4) quietly fell from the sky on “Black Friday.” 

Last month, I noted here the dire new United Nations report on Climate Change that was just released in October. That’s the one that said we Earthlings had better get our global act together by 2030, or else. A galvanizing wake-up call, as our own Larry Clark observed, as well.

But then, as if to make sure we didn’t ignore the U.N. warning, NCA4 arrived to underscore its direct implications for the U.S. Mandated by law to be updated every four years, the latest, 1,600-page study is the combined work of 13 federal agencies, led by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and including the U.S. Dept. of Defense. More than 300 federal and non-federal experts contributed research from over 40 U.S. cities. 

One eye-popping, bottom-line conclusion: 

Climate change is expected to cause growing losses to American infrastructure and property and impede the rate of economic growth over this century... With continued growth in emissions at historic rates, annual losses in some economic sectors are projected to reach hundreds of billions of dollars by the end of the century—more than the current gross domestic product (GDP) of many U.S. states. 

Folks, this is the official position of the U.S. government, the same entity that only last year formally renounced the Paris Climate Accords. Asked after Thanksgiving about the new NCA4 report, President Trump said simply, “I don’t believe it.” 

Okay… Well, be that as it may, where does that leave us and our industry? 

Surprisingly, I think we are on the right course. My intentionally provocative headline above alludes to a realization that I came to at Greenbuild this year. After hearing more than a few vendors grumble about light traffic on the exhibit floor, something I had also heard last year at Greenbuild in Boston, it occurred to me that attendance actually may be down because the message has worked. USGBC has succeeded. 

Think about it. No matter what product you use in whatever aspect of your work, the manufacturer now is trumpeting its efficiency, reliability and quite often its sustainability. Whether they exhibit at certain trade shows or not, all vendors seem to care about this now, and that’s a good thing. Indeed, colleagues who work for other media, covering other sectors of U.S. industry, have told me the same thing about the products they see and the projects they write about. 

In other words, “Message received.” 

Which now begs the question: 

What next? 

In light of all this alarming new research – which actually confirms that we are all on the right path, for the right reasons – the new mandate now seems to be: 

How can we do more? 

That’s actually not a bad thought with which to end this exhausting year. 

How can we ALL do more to truly help each other in 2019? 


To comment on this article, e-mail the editor at [email protected]

For our archives of my prior editorials, click here.

About the Author

Rob McManamy | Editor in Chief

An industry reporter and editor since 1987, McManamy joined HPAC Engineering in September 2017, after three years with, a Chicago-based media startup focused on tech innovation in the built environment. He has been covering design and construction issues for more than 30 years, having started at Engineering News-Record (ENR) in New York, before becoming its Midwest Bureau Chief in 1990. In 1998, McManamy was named Editor-in-Chief of Design-Build magazine, where he served for four years. He subsequently worked as an editor and freelance writer for Building Design + Construction and Public Works magazines.

A native of Bronx, NY, he is a graduate of both the University of Virginia, and The John Marshall Law School in Chicago.

Contact him at [email protected].