Delving ‘Deep’ into Green

June 28, 2006
David Gottfried stresses the need for change toward the preservation and enhancement of life and life sustainment and restoration - at EnvironDesign10.

In this changing world of climate shifts, temperature spikes, and energy crises, it’s time to thrust aside the status quo and start going green.

During a keynote presentation at the recent EnvironDesign 10 conference, held April 25-27 in Toronto, green guru David Gottfried, founder of the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) and World Green Building Council (WGBC) and founder/president at WorldBuild in Oakland, CA, stressed the crucial need for an intense paradigm shift in the facilities industry. “If people stick to status quo, then they aren’t getting into the game,” Gottfried says.

In his keynote address, “The New World of Green,” Gottfried stressed the need for change - change centered on the “preservation and enhancement of life, and life [sustainment] and restoration.”

“Corporate leaders today understand the importance of stewardship,” Gottfried says. “It’s moving to the bottom line and starting to impact rent and occupancy rates, capitalization rates for building value, as well as such expenses as water and energy.” Gottfried urges all members of the facilities industry, from planning and design to management and maintenance, to embrace this fundamental change.

Further contemplation of this concept took place during the follow-up roundtable seminar, “Stepping Up to DEEP Green.” More than 70 participants shared fears, hopes, and plans with one another in this standing-room-only presentation, where Gottfried didn’t lecture to the group, but guided them to consider (both individually and collectively) the concept and details of stepping up to “deep” green.

The notion of deep green moves beyond LEED and environmental-compliance issues and revamps the entire human lifestyle - affecting both life at work in commercial buildings and life at home in the residential setting. It’s about reducing reliance on automobiles and buildings becoming self-sufficient power plants, generating the power they need rather than turning to suppliers for generation.

Deep green, Gottfried says, is a “climate-neutral community or, even further, one that has a zero ecological footprint.” It’s a complete shift in the way you live and work in the facilities you own, manage, and operate, and at home. Moving toward the “greening of life” is now Gottfried’s main focus.

“It’s all about breaking down the barriers of work, life, and home,” Gottfried says. “The principles of deep green apply to all assets, whether it is a school, hotel, an office building, a healthcare facility, or our homes. Everyone is looking at LEED and where we are today as the end point; it’s not. LEED is a measurement tool and benchmark, and it also serves as a system to define green building and guide collaborative team brainstorms on how to best green a project.”

According to Gottfried, the roundtable attendees were the session. “We asked them to define where they [thought we were] and to dream of the future [in terms] of where we need to be. People couldn’t stop raising their hands. The energy and creativity in the room was inspirational,” Gottfried says.

At the end of the session, Gottfried polled participants on a scale of 1 to 10 as to where they thought the green-building movement was in relationship to the concept of deep green; the consensus was at about 2.5.

Gottfried then asked some of the attendees to estimate how many years they thought society had left until a significant era of continual environmental crisis emerged. Three people said up to 10 years, 11 said up to 20 years, eight said up to 40 years, and two said 40 years or more.

Gottfried says that people are hungry to make a difference and integrate green into the future. And, the buildings industry is at the heart of it all, he says. “Everyone lives and works in a building. Green is the greatest transformation tool for our lives,” he points out.

Of course, there has to be a business sensibility involved, too. The move to deep green in the buildings industry and beyond will become a core determinate for monetary returns, Gottfried notes. According to 2004 figures from the USGBC, the annual market for green building in products and services is $7 billion, representing a 37-percent growth over the prior year. Green has already begun to make a business impact, “and we’re just [getting started],” according to Gottfried.

“It’s not about cost,” Gottfried stresses. “That’s just one element of a profit and loss statement. You also have to look at gross and net income, internal rates of return on the investment, and ultimate value. As you understand that and go through the balance sheet, income statement, and project pro forma for any asset, you will see [that] almost every line is impacted by green.”

Robin Suttell ([email protected]), based in Cleveland, is contributing editor at Buildings magazine.

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