Green Gold

October 17, 2008
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It’s been fascinating watching the world turn green, i.e. “environmentally sensitive.” Because BNP Media has published Environmental Design + Construction magazine since 1997, we’ve been able to watch the recent “green rush” from a position of insight.

Today, some marketers are resorting to extreme tactics in an effort to paint themselves green. It seems every manufacturer now promotes a product or attribute that will help save the planet. If a product is not inherently green, savvy marketers can always trot out life-cycle analysis data showing their product to outlast others, thereby qualifying as “sustainable.”

If that doesn’t work, marketers might focus on their product’s low-energy or localized manufacturing, thereby touting how it saves oil, coal and other fossil fuels.

And if that doesn’t work, marketers can promote the lack of lead, petroleum, VOCs or other nasty ingredients in their product, thereby making it a healthy choice.

And if none of those apply, marketers still might have a case if their product can be recycled, no matter how energy intensive or harmful the ingredients used during manufacturing.

There are so many ways to be green that consumers are skeptical of these claims, and justifiably so. “Green washing,” the tendency for marketers to overstate or exaggerate their product’s true environmental pureness, is a big problem and getting worse.

And yet, construction pros are making real progress bringing science and reason to the greening of America. Standards are being adopted, performance data collected, and ratings developed. Nearly every week, more associations, code bodies and certification groups are raising the bar for product and system design and performance.

Earlier this week I received a press release from the International Facility Management Association (IFMA). These are the folks who build, remodel and maintain commercial, industrial and institutional buildings. IFMA’s press release stated that its “Green Practices 2008” survey of 573 professionals worldwide indicates the vast majority of respondents are taking a strategic approach to implementing green measures in their facilities. Specifically:
  • 92% of respondents are working to make their facilities more sustainable and have measurable goals related to sustainability.
  • 79% of respondents indicate the goals are tied to their organization’s business strategy.
  • 82% have either a master plan to implement green concepts or have implemented selected green building concepts.
  • 5% say they have no plans to do anything green.
When green was nothing more than a feel-good buzzword, there was little reason for those engaged in the design, construction, or maintenance of buildings to embrace change. Why alter a system that was working just fine?

But measurable goals indicate the game has changed. If building managers are held accountable for greening their facilities, that means architects, contractors, engineers, consultants and distributors better increase their green acumen. If not, they’ll be stuck working with the 5% of facility managers who have no plans to do anything green.

There’s green gold in “them there” buildings. It’s time to prospect.

For more information on IFMA, visit www.worldworkplace.org.

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