It’s Not Easy Being Green – I THINK NOT!

One of the industry buzzwords for the 21st Century is, “Green.”  Want to sound cool, forward-thinking, and ahead of the times?  Tell your client you specialize in “green” architecture.  Tell them you are a LEED accredited professional.  Tell them you aim to build to the recently approved LEED for Healthcare Rating System.

I am a huge proponent of environmentally protective construction, and I have implemented it from the start of my career, when USGBC was just being created.  With good planning, sustainability can easily be applied.  For example, a gray water system that uses “clean” waste water to irrigate the surrounding landscape is as simple to install as a standard water system.  Or designs that take advantage of natural light and lighting systems that are specified to save energy are easily accessed and put into operation.  It does not take additional manpower to separate materials during demolition, only the forethought to provide workers with an extra container.

My quibble is with planners, architects, and builders who use green technology as a devious means of increasing their fees.  I have seen some deceitful professionals promote green architecture as vital, but hike their fees when the client chooses environmentally friendly alternatives.

With the introduction of Green Guidelines for Healthcare and the specific hospital designation within the LEED rating system comes another opportunity for profiteering.  Design and construction professionals who have acquired LEED accreditation are demanding increased fees.  Granted that a LEED certified building requires additional project records, but to what extent?  If green is so important to these individuals and firms, they ought to provide the service at a modest profit, instead of price gouging their well-intentioned healthcare institutions.

All of these practices are dishonest, and they provide a disservice to green architecture.  “It’s not easy being green” no longer holds true.  Nowadays, green building can be just as economical as standard building.  There should be virtually no price premiums for environmentally friendly installations.   Designing a corridor which ends in natural light is no more difficult than the traditional “dark-ended” corridors.  Specifying low VOC emitting adhesives is no more expensive than regular glue, it just takes some research and a conscious mind.

Merchants who raise prices for greener products are also at fault.  The products do not intrinsically cost more to produce.  Those merchants are just taking advantage of greater demand, and ignoring the greater good.

If we want a sustainable, non-wasteful world, manufacturers, merchants, planners and contractors should all get on board.  Price should not become a disincentive for creating green buildings.

Greener hospitals are important, but our goal is to achieve that without ANY additional costs.  Green materials should be cheaper, and professionals should include their skills for free.

As Rick Fedrizzi, President, CEO and founding chairman of the US Green Building Council wrote in his Foreword to Sustainable Healthcare Architecture by Robin Guenther and Gail Vittori (an absolute must read!), “In the end, green building comes down to people.  Every green building, every LEED rating system, every new technology, happens because a passionate, committed person makes it happen.”

We need to infuse our industry with the passion to build green; we need to allow our passion to inspire our clients to build green.  Most importantly, we need to focus this passion to influence our bottom-line and not have our bottom-line curtail our passion to do what’s right and just by society.  Willing to pay, or not, our clients should receive greener hospitals.  Simply because it’s the right thing to do.

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