The green challenge

In the past few years, the term “green” has become a buzzword across many industries. The meaning of this word often is different for each person — including those in the housing industry. This is why regulations and third-party verifications are such a big deal. I remember a few years ago — when the term really started to take off — how often people cited things as green for the simplest reasons. There were many in the industry claiming products as green, but if you looked at the scope of the product or project, it wasn’t necessarily green.

The term has now become a pet peeve for many people. It’s almost to the point that if you say “green” people automatically think you are spinning something or hanging your hat on a buzzword for acknowledgment. New words have now taken over: environmentally friendly, sustainable, eco-friendly, building correctly. However, many consumers are still stuck with using the “green” word. This means you are still dealing with this buzzword, and educating your clients on what it really means to build green — not just because it’s cool.

RD+B’s monthly columnist John Wagner does a great job of exposing greenwashing as well as providing practical tips to build sustainably. Sure, your clients might want green, but ultimately they may not want to pay for it. And this is where John comes in with his practical and helpful advice.

In this month’s column (page 12), he writes about exactly this. He took the initiative and effort to remodel his home in the greenest way possible, and then hoped to sell it for a higher price because of all its green attributes. He learned quickly, though, the Realtor didn’t care to look at the green products, much less hear about them. This again is where third-party verification comes in.

The cover story in this issue (page 16) features so many incredible, nonmainstream green systems: solar water heating, gray water retrieval system, air purification, and more. When I interviewed the architect on the project, Tim Blonkvist, FAIA, LEED-AP, founding design principal, Overland Partners Architects in San Antonio, I knew there was one question I had to ask him: How did you get the homeowners to understand the value of these systems? Blonkvist admitted the clients asked for an environmentally friendly house but didn’t necessarily know what that meant. The key to eliminating their learning curve was the collaboration between every single person on the project — and explaining pros, cons and costs of each system. The homeowners then were able to make educated decisions regarding what to include in their new house.


As I said, this house is incredible, and it might raise your interest when you hear the size of it: 26,000 sq. ft. Many people say there is no way a house of this size can be considered “green.” But Blonkvist passionately argues that belief. I am very proud to showcase this house and team in this issue.