Green or Greenwashed?
by Christine MacDonald
What would you call a green building standard that, on balance, tends to interfere with environmental reform more than help?
In March 2009, ABC's Extreme Makeover: Home Edition television show featured the first house in the country to win certification under the new green building standard from the National Association of Home Builders.
Considering that so-called "green" homebuilding is a relative bright spot in a generally dismal housing market, the show was a public relations coup for the NAHB, the giant industry association of U.S. homebuilders.
The TV episode effectively threw down a gauntlet at LEED, the prestigious, more rigorous green building certification system from the U.S. Green Building Council that has been growing dramatically over the last few years.
Michael Luzier, president of the NAHB Research Center, a subsidiary of the homebuilders trade association, says his organization was responding to concern among homebuilders that LEED was gaining too much momentum.
"It was creating cachet at the legislative level. Builders felt it wasn't fair" that they hadn't had more of a say in developing the LEED standard, Luzier says.
But for Jason Grant, a green building consultant in Sebastopol, California, and others who have spent years cultivating in the blossoming green building market, the NAHB's "green" forays are part of a wider effort by mainstream builders to confuse consumers and co-opt the movement.
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Clearcutting of established old-growth and second-growth forests can cause ecological damage well beyond the clearcut site.
Photo: Mikeal Béland
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Photo: © Kim Jones Photography
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