Thousands Will See Energy, Water Conservation

We’re pleased that Chicago’s Museum of Science & Industry had the foresight to slate an exhibit on green homes. As we’re reporting on page 1 of this issue, a green home — designed by architect Michelle Kaufmann and factory built by a manufactured housing firm — is being assembled on the east lawn of the Museum grounds. The exhibit opens May 8.

Bob Mader, Editor-in-Chief
We’re pleased that Chicago’s Museum of Science & Industry had the foresight to slate an exhibit on green homes. As we’re reporting on page 1 of this issue, a green home — designed by architect Michelle Kaufmann and factory built by a manufactured housing firm — is being assembled on the east lawn of the Museum grounds. The exhibit opens May 8.

The exhibit will expose thousands of Chicagoans and others (Chicago's museums attract a lot of tourists) to what green construction really means. They'll to see a solar thermal system, low-consumption plumbing products and radiant floor heat. Larry Drake, executive director of the Radiant Panel Association, has always said that radiant is green. This reinforces his assertion.

Exposing all these consumers to green construction will go a long way toward achieving critical mass in the adoption of green building.

I had the pleasure of hearing one of my favorite authors, Jerry Yudelson, speak at the Mechanical Contractors Association of America convention in Palm Desert, Calif. Engineer and author Yudelson has penned books such as Green Buildings A to Z, The Green Building Revolution and Marketing Green Buildings.

In his talk, Yudelson listed some of the statistics associated with green building: The U.S. Green Building Council had 13,600 members when Yudelson spoke in early March, up 60% in 2007 and up 36% just since July 2007. There are now 46,000 LEED-APs, practitioners who had passed the certification test to become a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design Accredited Professional. About 67,000 have attended a LEED-AP workshop. By comparison, there are only 80,000 members of the American Institute of Architects. Approximately 10,000 projects were registered with USGBC in 2007, up 75% from the year before.

In his book Marketing Green Buildings, Yudelson talks about the “diffusion of innovation.” The innovators pick up something new, experiment with it and integrate it into their businesses. Considering some of the numbers that Yudelson cited at MCAA — 67,000 LEED APs — we've gotten past the stage where only the “geeks” are involved in green construction.

According to the diffusion of innovation theory, when the innovators have achieved a 2.5% market share, the early adopters start to take notice. Early adopters are more averse to risk than the innovators, but they see the economic advantages of the new way. Once innovators and early adopters combined penetrate about 16% of the market, the early majority, 34%, picks up a new technology. From what we're hearing from the experts, the green building market should hit 10% by 2010, so now we're still in the early adopter phase.

According to “Yudelson's Law,” an innovation has to have an advantage of 25% or greater over existing methods, if cost alone is the criterion. Green building, in other words, not only has to make economic sense, it has to make so much sense that it overcomes inertia, the effort to learn something new and the business risk of investing in new processes. In that vein, the business case for green building is becoming compelling.

Green buildings can be built on a conventional budget because of high oil prices, federal and state tax credits and local property tax abatements. One hundred cities now have ordinances that favor green buildings.

Green buildings have higher resale value. Although there haven't been enough sales of LEED certified buildings to be statistically valid, a study of 2,000 buildings, of which 200 were Energy Star rated buildings, showed the Energy Star buildings rented for $2/sq.ft. more and sold for a 30% premium. International real estate developer Hines sold two LEED buildings last year, noted Yudelson, for the highest price per square foot ever for commercial office buildings.

On top of all that, savvy lenders are insisting on green construction. Would you want to be the owner of a conventional building 10 or 20 years from now?

So what have you done to join the green revolution? Have you installed a 1-pint per flush or waterless urinal in your office yet? A high-efficiency or dual-flush toilet? A condensing boiler? Tankless water heater? If you haven't experimented with these green technologies, how will you make recommendations to your customers? Time to reach critical mass.