Volume 8, Issue 8 - September 2007

WDMA opens up

Testing Your Green I.Q.
by Joel Hoiland

If you’re talking about green intelligence, expect to be confused. Green may be the talk today, but few people fully understand what it means, or how and where to start. Bringing green into the mainstream is building momentum in North America and around the world. There are at least 80 different local and state green building organizations creating green building programs, hundreds of websites touting green, and two major players in the national arena vying for certification recognition. 

Why Go Green? 
The Department of Energy says conventional buildings in the U.S. consume 71 percent of the country’s electricity and are responsible for 38 percent of carbon dioxide emissions. Builders say green homes are more durable, sell faster and the savings can be substantial. The Massachusetts Technology Council found that buildings credited with LEED status use on average 25-30 percent less energy than conventional buildings, and on average cost only 2 percent more to build.

However, Currently there are no public policies or national standards for green building; it is being performed voluntarily by independent certification systems.

Who are the Influential Groups? 
Perhaps the best-known national organization is the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC). Founded in 1993, it promotes the development and implementation of green building policies, programs, technologies, standards and design. Today, the organization includes more than 10,000 member companies with a mission to transform the building marketplace to sustainability. Best known for its LEED certification program, the USGBC projects certification of 1 million homes by 2010.

In 2004, the Green Building Initiative (GBI) introduced the Green Globes environmental assessment and rating system to the U.S. market. Their mission is to accelerate the adoption of building practices that result in environmentally sustainable buildings. The GBI’s Green Globes is currently working with homebuilder associations to develop green building programs based on The National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) Model Green Home Building Standards. NAHB is working with the International Code Council (ICC) to develop a national green building standard that will be certified and accredited by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI). 

Is Independent Research Available?
The University of Minnesota conducted a comparative study on the LEED and Green Globes rating systems for the Western Council of Industrial Workers. This study summarized the introduction of assessment programs as follows: The first environmental certification system was the 1990 United Kingdom’s Building Research Environmental Assessment Method (BREEAM). In 1998, the USGBC introduced LEED, which was based in large part on the BREEAM system. Then, in 2005, the GBI launched Green Globes by adapting the Canadian version of BREEAM and bringing it to the U.S. market. The study concludes that both organizations share the common goal of greening the building and design process, but each organization deploys different assessment and certification strategies. It is difficult to compare directly the two rating systems, but the study notes that Green Globes emphasizes its ease-of-use and integration of green principles and best practices, while LEED emphasizes its historical leadership and “consensus-based” process for standard development. 

How Can You Keep up With it All?
All of this information can be overwhelming. At WDMA, we’ve recently rolled-out GreenZone for Sustainable Information on our website. This portal contains information on current programs related to sustainable building construction, building products and links to resource sites. It will remain a “work in progress” and act as a clearinghouse for environmental issues via associations, programs, governmental organizations and regulatory agencies. Our goal at WDMA is to alleviate some of the confusion and serve as a neutral resource for education and information on sustainability and green building research. 

Joel Hoiland is the president of the Window and Door Manufacturers Association based in Des Plaines, Ill. He can be reached at jhoiland@wdma.com. Mr. Hoiland’s opinions are solely his own and not necessarily those of this magazine.


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