U.S. Green Building Council research finds limited recognition among the general public on the significance of issues at the core of the green building community’s mission—sustainability, the environment, and energy efficient, occupant-friendly space—and their connection to resource conservation and climate change.
“When people think about emissions, they think about cars, power plants and industries. They rarely think about buildings, leaving the green building community with a messaging mountain to climb,” says USGBC CEO Mahesh Ramanujam. “We are not reaching the broader population effectively enough to change their behavior or decisions on the scale necessary to combat climate-related risks.”
Findings in the premier “Standard Issue” report are compelling the Council to identify key areas to drive a message of how green buildings can help, who they help and why they are necessary. Promoting healthy built environment and community outcomes, for one, stresses how “Sustainable cities improve people’s lives and better designed spaces help people live longer, healthier and happier lives. Toxin-free materials, good air ventilation and air-purifying plants, all together in a home or workplace, can improve physical health and comfort.”
The report weighs feedback or perspective from focus groups with millennials, community opinion formers, young parents, and commercial and residential developers, plus a survey of the general public at large. While three-quarters of participants or respondents say environmental problems are very or somewhat important to them, they do very little to address the problems in their own lives, considering it too daunting a task. The report also shows that people want to live in a healthy environment, but don’t typically associate green buildings with being part of the solution. When asked which terms most strongly relate to the environment and being green, only 11 percent of “Standard Issue” subjects cite green buildings.
“We know green buildings are only part of the solution to lengthening and bettering the lives of every person on the planet,” Ramanujam contends. “That’s why the heart of the green building community’s efforts must go beyond construction or efficiency. Instead, our focus must be on what matters most within our buildings: people. This research questions our conventional wisdom and experience and helps inform our strategy for the future.”
“Standard Issue” is the first of a quarterly series to be released through the Living Standard campaign, launched at the 2018 Greenbuild International Conference and Expo in Chicago, and focused on the belief that storytelling can lead to a more sustainable world. The Council commissioned ClearPath Strategies, a global public opinion research company, to conduct qualitative and quantitative research across five regions of the U.S. for the report.
TURNER HALVES SITE EMISSIONS, WATER USE
One of the top North American general contractors plans to clip present levels of greenhouse gas emissions and water consumption at construction sites by 50 percent through 2030. Since it made a formal commitment to becoming a green builder in 2004, New York-based Turner Construction Co. has logged more than $60 billion of related projects. Along the way, crews have diverted 3 million tons of construction waste from landfills and further reduced environmental impact through a range of sustainability measures in job site and corporate operations.
“These efforts alone are not enough,” says Turner Construction Director of Sustainability Julia Gisewite. “Extreme weather events, climate change and their impact on people and the built environment are calling for us to seek new and enhanced ways to utilize our technical expertise to create a healthy, prosperous and sustainable future for our people, clients and the environment.” The Green program, she adds, has three prongs:
Environmental Efficiency. The company commits to reduce the greenhouse gas emissions and water consumption of on-site construction operations by 50 percent by 2030. By taking a deeper look into the aspects of construction that the company can control—the building process itself—Turner has the opportunity to make a direct, measurable impact on the environment.
Resiliency. Mindful of the range of extreme weather conditions, Turner has a clear focus on providing for the safety and welfare of people during the construction process and will actively promote their well-being. The contractor will also increase its technical expertise to support critical decision-making to provide for the long-term comfort, livability and sustainability of buildings and communities.
Green Building. Turner will continue to achieve the environmental goals of its projects. Staff will continue to learn and grow their knowledge and experience in innovative green technologies and processes.