Resolutions to Build Green in 2019

Industry leaders see “la vie en rose” as building efforts become more green

By JULIA EDINGER

A new year always signals a time to reflect on progress and plans for the future. It is the season of New Year’s resolutions and, as an industry, it is more important than ever that builders resolve to go green this year.

Startling, evidence-backed research has surfaced in the past year that informs of the encroaching dangers of climate change. In October, a report released by the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change stressed the urgency of taking action to combat climate change. The report emphasizes that, without major and immediate changes, the disastrous climate consequences will be irreversible.

While many human behaviors influence climate change, the built environment is inevitably one of the largest factors. From infrastructure to skyscrapers, it is clear that these things shape the state of the environment. According to Stacy Sinclair of USGBC, buildings presently account for around 40 percent of energy consumption in the United States. However, change is on its way.

In November 2018, builders gathered in Chicago for the internationally renowned Greenbuild conference. This November, builders will gather again in Atlanta. At conferences like this, builders can learn strategies from experts in the industry for building sustainable homes. Through extensive dialogue and debate, new solutions will be reached, setting the stage for new approaches to be effected.

This year is slated to be transformative for the industry. California is taking large strides to increase green building efforts through Title 24. This year, the California Energy Commission will develop the update for its Energy Commission’s 2030 Energy Efficiency Action Plan. According to Commissioner Andrew McAllister, “This plan will be the state’s primary road map for energy efficiency for the coming decade.” It is likely, and would be in the nation’s benefit, if a similar set of federally mandated standards is implemented in the near future.

This year’s updated energy-efficiency standards for California builders mandate solar photovoltaic systems for new homes, and new thermal envelope, ventilation, and lighting standards. Builders in California have successfully incorporated these building standards into their design strategies despite initial challenges with the transition.

Other states are recognizing the importance of these changes. A number of states have considered legislation requiring new buildings to be solar-ready. Some places mandate energy efficiency features or provide incentives to encourage them. However, California is the first state to require solar panels for all new homes, which is a big turning point for the industry. Many experts anticipate that these standards will progressively transition to being the norm.

According to Dan Rendler, Director of Customer Programs and Assistance for SoCalGas, “Public policy can encourage people to reduce their personal carbon footprint, but preserving choice, providing options, and minimizing disruption to people’s daily lives are all important strategies to inspire rapid consumer adoption.” This important distinction emphasizes that a carbon footprint reduction is possible, but that it should be executed in a way that does not excessively impose on the consumer’s individual freedoms.

Smart home technology is one of the ways builders can allow residents to maintain their choice while increasing their home’s energy efficiency. It is through deliberate design choices like this that builders who have not yet begun the transition to green building can do so without imposing on homebuyers. Smart home technology provides options for users that can improve their daily lives; it simultaneously reduces negative consequences to the environment.

According to a study published in the journal Nature Communications, immediate fossil fuel phase-out could limit warming to keep it under 1.5?C, while waiting until 2030 cuts those odds in half, from 66 percent to 33 percent. The evidence is straightforward; the consequences of not making a transition to sustainability will be manifested through floods, drought, heat waves, and poverty. Attempts to combat these rising temperatures, however, could have a drastically more significant, positive effect on climate than many industry leaders may have initially believed.

With great research comes great responsibility. In light of the knowledge that has surfaced in the last year, builders have an obligation to their buyers – and to society – to build in a way that does not threaten the state of the environment. Through careful design, integration of new technologies, and new building standard policies that move towards net-zero buildings, a greener future is possible in 2019. Resolve to make it happen.

Julia Edinger is an Editorial Assistant for Green Home Builder Magazine. She can be reached at julia@penpubinc.com