Finding the Green in the Green Building Movement

WEVE SUPPORTED the green building movement since, well, before it was identified as such. That is to say, weve advocated initiatives that would save water in plumbing systems and conserve fuel in heating systems for several years. Weve consistently been behind these measures for two reasons: Theyre the right thing to do. Designing, manufacturing and installing water-conserving plumbing products and

WE’VE SUPPORTED the green building movement since, well, before it was identified as such. That is to say, we’ve advocated initiatives that would save water in plumbing systems and conserve fuel in heating systems for several years.

We’ve consistently been behind these measures for two reasons:

  1. They’re the right thing to do. Designing, manufacturing and installing water-conserving plumbing products and energy-efficient heating and cooling equipment addresses not only our needs today but also safeguards natural resources for future generations.
  2. Contractors can make a buck by marketing and installing these products. Many plumbing contractors, for example, have seen significant business in changing out older model toilets with 1.6-gpf fixtures; also, a number of heating contractors have done a great job marketing the energy efficiency of radiant systems.

Still, we’ve spoken with more of you who would agree with point No. 1 above than would go along with No. 2. This seems to be particularly true on the nonresidential side of the business.

From what we’ve been hearing, the profits aren’t any better on so-called green buildings than they are on other projects. And the number of these green jobs hasn’t made a big impact on many of your businesses. When we’ve published stories on green construction issues in CONTRACTOR, the response from you hasn’t exactly been deafening.

That’s too bad, because here’s a third reason that we think you should support green building initiatives:

  1. Taking a leadership position in the green building movement would help to boost the image of our industry. Protecting our natural resources through the building systems that you design and install is an important issue where you have much to offer in the way of practical experience and advice.

This idea came up most recently in a conversation that we had with a plumbing contractor who belongs to the Mechanical Contractors Association of America. Like incoming MCAA President Stanley Berger, this contractor is perplexed by the poor image that many contractors seem to have — both of themselves and in the eyes of others.

Berger says that contractors should feel better about themselves and what they do for a living. Similarly, he says that people outside the industry should view contracting as a worthwhile endeavor with tremendous opportunities for individuals to grow.

The contractor we spoke with agrees with all that, and he sincerely believes that plumbing contractors protect the health and safety of the nation by providing clean water and helping to control the spread of disease. So, what’s the problem attracting people to our industry?

This is a critical question for contractors to answer. To meet their own projections for revenue growth, two-thirds of contractors in a recent survey of the construction industry say they would hire additional employees. At the same time, 65% say hiring quality employees is their greatest challenge.

Since contractors already possess the expertise to install systems that conserve water and fuel as well as utilize renewable energy sources such as solar, the question then becomes why don’t contractors take a leadership position on green building issues? It would be interesting to see if such advocacy would capture the imagination of people who otherwise might not pay attention to the PHCP business.

The green building movement now appears to be mostly in the hands of engineers, manufacturers and politicians in this country. The question that the plumbing contractor put to us is this: How do contractors get a place at the table? In other words, what do contractors have to offer that will make others pay attention to what they have to say?

That’s a good question, and the answer likely has to do with your real-world experience of what can be achieved by constructing more environmentally friendly buildings. What’s intriguing is the potential impact that you can have on yet another issue that affects the welfare of so many people.