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The timeless green argument

By Paul Snyder

I’m professionally too young to remember the pre-green building days.

When I started at The Daily Reporter in 2005, terms like “LEED” and “energy efficiency” were already out there and providing nice backdrops for stories about new construction projects. I learned “LEED” stood for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, and I learned what kind of things owners, architects and builders were doing to make projects more environmentally friendly. I also learned about the awards and certifications such projects would subsequently receive.

Then during an editorial staff shift in 2007, a temporary editor here asked me exactly what the awards meant. He wasn’t asking about windows and cooling systems.

He was asking questions such as: Is a LEED certification better than a Green Globes certification? If every building association is handing out annual awards for being green, does one somehow gain more value than another? At what point does the industry just build responsibly and stop congratulating itself with trophies and plaques for the building?

Five years later, I seldom hear about a public project where designers aren’t considering various green features. But with thousands of dollars still attached to certification, maybe it’s not as surprising more people bypass the plaques.

It also creates an inherent contradiction for a bill by state Rep. Louis Molepske Jr., D-Stevens Point, that would require all public building projects — state, local, school district — be built to and certified as LEED silver.

On one hand, the industry has already been conditioned to think green. On the other hand, the financial motivation to prove its being green isn’t really there.

Supporters and opponents will voice their opinion Wednesday on whether it’s the state place to mandate greenness at a public hearing on the bill. Molepske says he wants accountability. Owners say they’d like to make their own financial decisions.

In another five years’ time, the economy could be in better or worse shape than it is right now. I certainly don’t know. With or without Molepske’s bill, I expect more green buildings, but as long as thousands of dollars are attached to certification, I also expect that to continue to be the crux of how green builders want or have to be.

Paul Snyder is a staff writer at The Daily Reporter. Green was just a color when he was born.

One comment

  1. I’m too old to not forget the pre-green days. Green is just the current buzzword for the environmental effort rooted in the 60’s and 70’s. Back then we just called green buildings environmentally sensitive or ecologically friendly. The hip and trendy was found in Mother Jones Whole Earth Catalog and the likes.

    A focal point then and now continues to be Earth Day, founded on April 22, 1970 by our very own former Governor & U.S. Senator Gaylord Nelson, has served as a national call to arms for the environment. 1970 was also the year the EPA was created and began publishing the ‘EQ Index’ to inform us on energy resources, use & effects of fossil fuel on the environment.

    For a primer on early environment policy ref Nelson’s ‘Beyond Earth Day Fulfilling the Promise’:

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