Green is the New Green

In architecture today, Sustainable, Green Building, and LEED are the catchphrases that signify that you or your company “gets it” and has the street credibility to woo a new client.   While no one will argue that being wasteful is the way of the future, our clients have come to demand that we critically evaluate anything that costs money.  And Green costs money.  So what does Green building mean when you pull back from the shelter magazines and HGTV promotions?

A few weeks back, I attended a presentation for Italian Porcelain tile.  The representative went through all the usual technical and performance issues, and then came to the part, nowadays the inevitable part, of the conversation that all reps have to include in their presentations:

“And we would like you to know that our product is Very Green.  Nothing is more sustainable than a product that comes from the earth, and lasts a lifetime!”

True statement, but let’s think about this for a minute.  First off, we use very little extraterrestrial material in our building products, so of the earth can best be described as relative.  Secondly, last time I checked, there is a tremendous amount of energy necessary to fire these tiles, and that should be accounted for somewhere.  Last, but certainly not least, once these tiles are created 3000 miles away, they must be crated and shipped to our project site.

The real question here is what does this product, or any product, do for the bottom line?  Tile is durable, so that’s a plus.  Does it help get a LEED certificate on the wall?  Maybe, but it’s a very small part of that.  Do your guests know that its “Green”?  Probably not.  Does using this product make the building better than using some other product?  Maybe.

When you get down to it, what does make a Green Building?  That answer is easy:  If it can fulfill its use for a long period of time and be cost effective to operate, you pretty much are Green.  Good mechanical systems, a solid exterior envelope, and a form that can be easily adapted to changing needs will trump certificates and snappy materials.  Why?  Because it saves money.  And that’s the green that will never go out of style.

The FRCH offices are as good example of Green building.  Take a building built over 100 years ago, put in new mechanical systems, double glazed windows, and refit for use for another 100 years.  Efficient, Effective, and affordable.

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