Let's Learn Our Lessons

Many lessons were taught from the events surrounding Hurricane Katrina in August. We were taught about the effectiveness of the government’s emergency response system, and once again, that man can’t beat Mother Nature, especially when living below sea level.

The hurricane also taught lessons about construction standards, this country’s energy supply, and that in Texas, where they make everything bigger, Texans’ hearts come in XL, too.

The effect Katrina had on this country’s gasoline supply, including price spikes and even some shortages, is one of the more important issues raised by the hurricane. But most likely, we won’t learn our lesson. Gasoline prices will creep down, consumers will continue to buy inefficient vehicles, and this country will forget, again, how dependent it is on oil.

Thankfully, oil is not our sole source of energy. However, energy prices in general are on the rise. This will weigh more heavily on many Americans’ minds as we enter the heating season, for which heating costs are expected to again be high.

So what about the homes you create? Will they retain their heat? Are they adequately insulated? Are they as efficient as they can be? As residential architects and builders, you are critically positioned to positively influence the quality of housing in the United States; and you should.

It’s not necessary to go so far as marketing yourself as a green builder, but why not? Green is in, and plenty of green-thinking architects and builders are doing profitable business.

Interest in green is on the rise, so much so that the U.S. Green Building Council launched a pilot residential version of its successful Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design program, called LEED for Homes. LEED-built homes will use less energy and water, fewer materials, and will provide improved indoor air quality compared to code-built homes.

As further evidence that green is golden, the Green Building Initiative’s website points out that there are 29 local residential green building programs in the United States today, compared to only one program 14 years ago. As further evidence, consider that between 1990 and 2001, there were 18,887 green homes constructed in the country, compared to 13,224 green homes built in 2002 alone. Lesson learned: green is growing.

The GBI group knows that green consumers lack green knowledge, but want to learn. Green consumers also tend to be younger, with more money to spend than many older home buyers, GBI states. So it can pay to educate green customers.

Of course, one first must become educated before educating others. So where can you get green education? Several resources are available. For starters, see the list on page 37 of this issue. Good luck, much success, and remember to think green.