Time for you to take green building seriously

On the day the latest UN report on global warming was released, my car refused to start when the wind chill dipped into double digits below zero in Chicago. I just knew someone somewhere was saying, "We could use a little global warming about now." Well, the Feb. 2 report from UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change states not only that we are experiencing a period of global warming right now,

On the day the latest UN report on global warming was released, my car refused to start when the wind chill dipped into double digits below zero in Chicago. I just knew someone somewhere was saying, "We could use a little global warming about now."

Well, the Feb. 2 report from UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change states not only that we are experiencing a period of global warming right now, but also that human activities are very likely to blame for it. As such, we can affect the potentially devastating impact of global warming if we change some of those activities, and that's encouraging.

As an industry, we can make the most difference on global warming by practicing various green building initiatives. We've discussed green construction before in this space, and we hope you're not getting tired of hearing about it. You'll be reading much more about it in CONTRACTOR and elsewhere, and we once again urge your participation in the green movement.

The UN's report states, "Warming of the planet is unequivocal, as is now evident from observations of global average air and ocean temperatures, widespread melting of snow and ice and rising global mean sea level." Global warming will result in floods, droughts and more extreme weather, and it could last 1,000 years.

Scientists who contributed to the report say they are 90% confident that humans cause global warming. In a 2001 report, they said they were 60% to 90% sure that humans are to blame.

Still, the true meaning of the report should be less on laying blame and more on what we can do about global warming. UN Environment Program Executive Director Achim Steiner says people should shift their focus away from the causes of global warming "to what on earth are we going to do about it. The public should not sit back and say, 'There's nothing we can do.'"

Every green group's biggest competitor is apathy.

The construction industry can't afford to do that either. In the last month, we've attended two significant events that suggest the mechanical segment of the industry is taking the problem of global warming seriously.

In Los Angeles, the Piping Industry Progress and Education Trust Fund provided a $25,000 grant to the local chapter of the U.S. Green Building Council. PIPE Executive Director Mike Massey told USGBC representatives, "We want you to know that unions and contractors in the plumbing, piping and HVAC industry are the people who want to, and will do, the 'green' plumbing, piping and HVAC work."

A water conservation official said the real significance of the event was in bringing work-force development into the green building initiative. "The biggest challenge is the work force to be able to do these jobs," she said.

Indeed, the United Association, which supports PIPE, played a role at the second event too. The new Green Mechanical Council conducted a press conference at the AHR Expo in Dallas, and UA is a founding member, along with HVAC Excellence, MCAA and its Education and Research Foundation, Watts Radiant, Legend Valve, Floor-Heat Co. and Ferris State University.

GreenMech, as the council calls itself, wants to provide green education and training to mechanical contractors and their employees as well as to develop a green rating system for mechanical systems. The group hopes to complement the work of other groups, such as USGBC, NAHB and ASHRAE.

GreenMech wants to raise the profile of mechanical systems, which frequently aren't given the attention they deserve by other groups or rating systems. Executive Director Tom Meyer says that GreenMech will not compete with other green organizations; he correctly points out that every green group's biggest competitor is apathy.

The UN's latest report on global warming makes it hard to be apathetic about green construction, especially for those in our industry who are in a position to do something about it. That probably means you, and you should take advantage of the opportunities to educate yourself and your employees about how you can help save the planet.