A year in review of sustainable building
By SCOTT HARRIS
As 2019 comes to a close, and 2020 is on the horizon, many of us have put down our bi-focal glasses arnd are visualizing for the first time, how to make our future truly sustainable with corrected 20/20 vision.
I had to ask myself, “With regard to building practices, will 2019 be known as the year of the ‘Hundredth Monkey Effect’”? If you aren’t familiar with this term, it’s a phenomenon in which a new idea is said to spread rapidly by unexplained means from one group, to all-related groups once a critical number of members of the group exhibit the new behavior and acknowledge the new idea.
While it’s unclear how this anomaly happens in the animal kingdom, it may be easier to explain this phenomenon in our human population. We have seen social media and the internet revolutionize the speed at which we’ve been transferring information, especially in the green building sector. Posts labeled #greenconstruction have soared, young adults are now hitting millions by creating videos on green building, and by picking up this magazine and reading this article, you are now one of the results of this effect.
For evolutionary years prior, our species inhabited this planet living symbiotically within our means. Prior to the last century, being dependent on others to provide us with our energy and resources; being gas, electricity, oil, and water wasn’t an option. As we thought our planet was becoming more evolved, we were actually rolling backwards with regard to our dependency on energy sources that are ultimately setting our larger home, our earth, backwards. One small step for mankind, has meant three large steps backwards for our planet until the 2019 ‘Hundredth Monkey Effect’.
As we are now being asked to return to more primal ways of living on the earth again, one of the most notable changes we have seen in 2019, at least in California, is many preparing for the California Energy Efficiency Strategic Plan. These ambitious goals set the stage for the development of Zero Net Energy (ZNE) buildings for all new residential construction in 2020.
In 2019, conversations about HOW to achieve ZNE are popular new water cooler topics and the how is easy! The first law of thermodynamics, also known as Law of Conservation of Energy, states that energy can neither be created nor destroyed; energy can only be transferred or changed from one form to another. To simplify, we are finding that on our plots of land we develop on, the earth has enough natural and clean reserves to now self-power our homes.
What’s happening in California and other states is now spreading like wildfire globally. In September 2019, world leaders will be gathering at the United Nations for a series of summits and high-level meetings to move forward action and to accelerate progress on sustainable development.
Our planet is not short of energy, or resources by any means, but we are more recently perfecting how to manufacture materials for the construction industry, using renewable resources vs. ones that may be harming our environment. In 2019, we are seeing a steep rise in companies, such as roofing and siding companies focused on how to incorporate bioplastics into their future construction product lines. While these bioplastics are not yet biodegradable, they can be broken down by 2018’s highlight discovery of plastic eating bacterium. 2019 has undeniably been another year of epic change, but equally, it’s become the gateway of the epic, 20/20 vision about to come.
Globally, we are learning at exponential speed, if we want to sustain ourselves, we have to embrace how to live and build in a sustainable manor. We expect that 2019 may be forever marked as the year of the ‘Hundredth Monkey Effect’. This year, we have truly taken one large step for sustainability, and set the stage for one giant leap for greenkind in 2020!
Scott Harris is the Cofounder and COO of the Building Construction Group. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.