The Green (R)evolution?

Nov. 2, 2006

As freshmen at a liberal-arts college in Autumn 1970, my friends and I sang the praises of “zero population growth” and “becoming one with nature” while debating our need to find a sense of purpose in the world. Overzealous and idealistic? Decidedly so. But, somewhere in the midst of our fervent naiveté, we were also the conscientious caretakers of Mother Earth, admonishing previous generations about their disregard and disinterest of our precious resources. Or, so we thought - until complacency and the reality of day-to-day living became the basis (and bane) of our existence.

During this time - and throughout Buildings’ 100 years of existence - the editorial staff has focused on environmental strategies. Yes, it’s true, emphasis was placed (and remains today) on energy-related solutions for the facilities professional; surprisingly, some of the hot topics from long ago remain at the top of readers’ lists of concerns today.

For instance, the January 1970 issue of Buildings discussed the “New Decade in Lighting.” “Higher lamp efficiency will make new lighting levels easier to attain. Due mostly to better quality control and production techniques, output of fluorescent lamps should increase by about 20 percent.” In May 1970, the editorial staff asked readers whether their “Heating Dollars [Were] Going Up in Smoke.” Advertisers throughout the year focused on energy-management strategies as well, offering such products as replacement windows, building controls, standby power, elevators, and more.

Fast-forward 20 years, and Baby Boomers were redirecting their attention to the environmental movement as their children learned about “green” and “recycling” in their K-12 studies. Energy in the 1990s became a hurdle for families and building professionals alike, and Buildings covered the “Power Struggle: Energy in the 1990s” in its February 1990 issue, along with a focus on topics that delved into other areas of ecosystem concern: “HCFC-123 Compatibility” and “Asbestos Policy Report for Corporate America.”

Today, sustainability and green design have become commonplace terms ... and, yet, they are not common operating practices. Voluntary programs, such as the U.S. EPA’s ENERGY STAR® and U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED® programs, are springboards for a multitude of significant buildings now dotting the skylines of major cities. Still, industry spokespeople complain that green design is just too expensive and, therefore, not truly viable.

The bottom line is the bottom line, some say. But, consider the words of James Cramer, chairman of The Greenway Group Inc., Norcross, GA, and central to this month’s story on sustainability: “If we don’t want to move forward into a world of population chaos, we need to find ways to create policies that can create wise use of our planet’s resources. That’s a pretty tall order, but building owners should see themselves in this picture. Once they understand the importance of shelter and wise stewardship of our resources, they will recognize it’s not just about building buildings, but it’s about making the world a better place.”

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