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Building industry 'red-hot' for green projects
Americans are paying more attention to environmental issues, and as green building catches on across the country, southwest Missouri builders and developers are providing opportunities for and examples of environmentally friendly construction.
On Dec. 10 in Oslo, Norway, former Vice President Al Gore and the panel chief for the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change accepted the Nobel Peace Prize for their combined efforts on global climate-change research. Earlier this year, Gore won an Academy Award for his critically acclaimed documentary, “An Inconvenient Truth,” a film highlighting the global climate crisis.
The U.S. House of Representatives, on Dec. 6, passed the Energy Independence and Security Act, a measure that in part states: “Buildings shall be designed so that the fossil fuel-generated energy consumption of buildings is reduced, as compared with such energy consumption by a similar building in fiscal 2003 by percentages that start at 55 percent in 2010 and incrementally increase to 100 percent by 2030.
This piece of legislation is significant because it begins to address global climate change at the most fundamental level – buildings. The U.S. Energy Information Administration estimates that buildings are responsible for 48 percent of all energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions in the nation. Fortunately, progress toward meeting this challenge head-on is being made, as the construction industry is red-hot with a focus on green building. Interest is fueled from all angles, including savvy developers, conscientious architects and trade journals. Look at any trade journal, from Architectural Record to School Construction News and even This Old House, and you are guaranteed to find green building as a feature article or possibly the subject of an entirely new section.
Even movie stars are turning into sustainable developers. On Dec. 10, Springfield native Brad Pitt unveiled 13 plans from well-known architects as the initial step to rebuild a devastated neighborhood in New Orleans. Pitt’s Make It Right project seeks to rebuild 150 homes as sustainable dwellings.
Nobody is working the green building scene more than materials and product manufacturers. Fueled in part by the demands made by architects and engineers who specify their products, there are those, such as Interface – one of the world’s largest carpet manufacturers – leading by example. The key with manufacturers’ literature is being knowledgeable enough to know just how green it is.
The explosion in interest for green building may be due more in part to the market penetration of green building and product certification programs, such as Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, GreenGlobes, McDonough Braungart Design Chemistry LLC’s Cradle to Cradle Certification and Greenguard, than the recognition that buildings are the “hidden culprit” in the climate crisis. As an example, LEED’s impact during its short eight-year history has been staggering.
Currently, there are more than 9,000 projects registered to pursue LEED certification (roughly 2.7 billion square feet), with nearly 5,175 registered within the past year alone, according to Laura Walsh, education program planner with the U.S. Green Building Council. Also, the number of LEED-accredited professionals has grown to more than 42,000.
Springfield, once arguably indifferent to the opportunities that green building offers, now boasts a growing list of green building projects that may be setting the pace for the entire Ozarks region, if not Missouri.
Southwest Missouri’s first certified green building, Discovery Center of Springfield achieved LEED Gold certification in April. The number of projects seeking LEED certification has grown substantially to include Watershed Center, Botanical Center, Green Circle Shopping Center, Cycles Unlimited, White River Valley Electric, the Emerald Building and even a sustainable home for Habitat for Humanity being designed and built by Drury University. LEED for Schools certification is being sought for the new Hickory Hills Elementary/Middle School.
There are numerous additional projects that, while not officially seeking certification, are incorporating sustainable design strategies such as the Home Builders Association of Greater Springfield’s new offices, Terra Green, a new office park development, Askinosie Chocolate Factory and a number of private residences in the area. Companies such as Innoviro, which distributes only innovative environmentally responsible building products, and Meek’s, with the ability to supply Forest Stewardship Council-certified lumber, have increased the availability of green building products in the Springfield area.
The green building movement appears to be more than a seasonal fashion trend; rather, it is the future of our built environment.