Hummingbird Nesting, British Columbia, copyright 2010 Lorraine Alexander, all rights reserved

June 19, 2010

Striving for Sustainability

Striving for Sustainability
By Lorraine Alexander
Lorraine Alexander Interior Design
USGBC–REC Education Chair
RERA Green Building Chair
Published by USGBC Chapter Summer News 2010

We watch the daily news and sorrowfully listen to the gloomy details of the worst environmental disaster in history, the Gulf oil leak. We take notice of reports related to health risks and dangers associated with lead paint, and the new EPA law requiring contractor certification for safe handling of this toxic contaminant. We witness continuous change in building codes, as cities raise the bar for higher standards in indoor air quality, energy savings, and water conservation. We see media attention on many sustainable issues, ultimately giving us a deeper and richer understanding of the choices we make and how it affects our global health.

The past few decades have brought accelerated growth and a rapid need for building, causing swift movement and hasty decisions in our built environment. In our haste, we have contributed to hazardous and unhealthy choices.

With this adverse reality comes hope. More than three decades ago the green movement was well underway; finally our awareness now begins. A long awaited turning point has arrived with the opportunity to craft positive future. We now understand the dire need to change the way we build. We recognize the consequences of poor choices and the need for thoughtful design, new improved systems, and sustainable materials for our buildings. Gradually, we have learned that we are all part of one huge ecosystem, the planet earth.

The global environmental movement, ridiculed by many for years, has now morphed into mainstream. Famous movie stars, politicians, and the media have pushed the green scene smack into the limelight. It’s now cool, hip, healthy, and simply smart to go green.

How to sell greener projects:
As building trade professionals how do we convince homeowners to go to greener projects? The flood of media attention on sustainable issues has already done a fine job of educating our clients. Consumer awareness is high. Our task is now simple.

First, become familiar with the 4 Elements of True Sustainability. From these essential elements learn 4 simple key selling points that will help you quickly sell and close your greener projects:

The 4 Elements of True Sustainability
True sustainability is achieved only when all areas are addressed.
Economic issues are met.
Environmental issues are addressed.
Health and wellness are prioritized.
Social and world views are considered.

Although some may say that achieving "true sustainability" is a lofty goal, most individuals will agree that at least one of these 4 elements is of essential value.

1. The first key element is economics. Show a homeowner how they will save money over time, and they will immediately perk up and listen.

2. The second element is our environment. Many individuals truly care about the environment, and subsequently make their choices with a greener planet in mind; patiently spending both time and money to find better eco-friendly solutions.

3. The third element, high on the priority list is health. All of us want a healthy, safe home with good air quality, and low VOC's for our family.

4. The fourth element is social equity. Choices we make in our built environment ultimately have an effect on individuals, our communities, and our global health.

In essence
All projects can't be pristinely green. Some of us take an all or nothing attitude. Instead, strive towards simply making better choices resulting in healthier greener projects. Take time to educate yourself and your client. Better choices can be made throughout any project phase. Look for ways to preserve and protect the natural environment during construction, recycle demolition materials when possible, select healthier low VOC materials that contain recycled content. Select and build for energy savings, water conservation, air quality, health, comfort, quality and longevity. Seek your own path and contribution, and you will in turn make a positive change in the future of our built environment.

Renew, Respect, Rethink, and Recycle.

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