Barriers to Building Green
by Adam Davis
Exemplary "green" building projects worldwide are proving the viability of resource-efficient, health-conscious design. Increasingly, governments and the public perceive the need for more sustainable building products and practices. So why isn't "green" more mainstream?
This is the question tackled in a recent study sponsored by the California Integrated Waste Management Board, and conducted by Natural Strategies Inc. and VITETTA — Public Management Consulting. Based on extensive research and focus group discussions involving California state and local regulators, architects, planners, designers, contractors, and developers, the study identifies three main barriers to building green and proposes wide-ranging solutions for dismantling them.
Barrier 1: Builder Incentives
The benefits of green buildings, especially in energy savings and worker productivity, accrue over the long term. While agreement is nearly unanimous that green buildings are cost-effective, the benefits accrue to the final owners and users of the building, and not to the builder. Additional costs incurred by developers cannot be easily passed on to owners.
The study identifies this financial disincentive to builders as the single most important obstacle to the "mainstreaming" of green building. The challenge is to create a structure that allows some of the value of the long-term benefits to be transferred to the builder to offset first-time costs.
The Real Goods Solar Living Center designed by Van der Ryn Architects, Sausalito, California, a firm that has been building green for decades, and that participated in the study.
Photo: Richard Barnes
Aerial view of the Real Goods Solar Living Center in Hopland, California.
Photo: Charles C. Benton, Aerial Kite Photography
Click on thumbnail images
to view full-size pictures.