Poll: Should Green Building be Mandated?

Green buildingHome builders tend to be pro choice when it comes to green building. And who can blame them? I know I don’t like to be told what to do, especially if it’s going to cost me time, effort and/or money.

Still, what would our housing be like if current building codes were voluntary? What if structural safety and fire resistance were optional? There was a time when houses were advertised as being built according to code. Those days are long past, and code compliance is now required by law.

So what about water- and energy-efficiency, and the impact that resource-wasting homes have on our pocketbooks, economy, environment and even national security?

What about nontoxic interiors? While each product or material in a home may be regulated by the government for toxicity, laws do not generally require the cumulative outgassing in a new home to be tested and mitigated. Do you care about that? Is it a case of buyer beware? Should you pay to have the air tested for formaldehyde before you buy a new home?

So what do you think? Should building green (which means homes that are water- and energy-efficient, with good indoor air quality and that are resource-efficient) be an option or a requirement?

16 Comments on Poll: Should Green Building be Mandated?

  1. Warren Ducharme Foster RI

    NO More Fascist Rules need be applied
    Green is the first 30 pages of graphic standards that everyon forgot existed and LEED pats you on the back says you did the right thing and PICKS YOUR POCKET at the same time (wish I’d thouth of that first) but NO MOR LAWS %#@*&!

  2. David Velderman

    I DON’T Believe that Green should be MANDATED by government. Mandating has NEVER acheived cooperation by all parties.
    However, I do believe that Green Building should be STRONGLY encouraged by insentives and rebates (tax or credits, via taxes, utility rebates etc.) Having the general public become AWARE of these incentives and initiatives SHOULD be the only responsibility of the government. Penalizing individuals never creates solutions for the long run. Also NO government run function (due to it’s inherent bureacracy) has effectively run anything for the public’s best interest. Examples include the IRS — “not” a public government — they do relatively well, Social Security — very poorly run, educational systems — local and national any many many other examples.
    Leave green building to being DESIRED ” Lead a horse to get a Drink”, don’t shove their face in it; always produces better results.

  3. Jerry O

    I believe building green and sustainability are separate from LEED. While LEED applies sustainability, it is a business. It has the right direction and right ideals but…..
    I believe building green should be mandated. I also believe it should be carefully applied using a sound consensus based decision process similar to all the other code systems. Maybe it should be performance based. Most people do not make sound decisions with respect to sustainability but rather just costs. They have little understanding of the true costs as in say health, future of the next generations, environment. The list goes on and on. We often look to the now and not to the future. By making the future part of the cost equation and code mandate maybe we have a chance to at least make informed decisions. It is not about the money, but more about the future. Unfortunately money truly does make the world go round, let us see if we can change it.

  4. Kathy Price-Robinson

    Thanks, Paul R.
    Will you please post a link to the audit comparing energy usages of two LEED-certified federal buildings with two non-LEED-certified buildings so we can all see it?
    And if you don’t provide that link, I’m going to assume there is no such energy audit.

  5. Paul R

    I voted no on this question because LEED is not a consensus standard as developed through the ICC process. By including legal mandates at local and state government levels it forces something like LEED into “the applicable code” without following this same ICC process for developing items for inclusion into the International Building Code. A standard is needed including a new “green/energy efficiency” standard but it should be developed through the consensus process rather than a specialty group based in, no less Washington DC. A recent energy audit of two LEED-Gold Federal office buildings revealed that those two buildings have higher energy consumptions than non-LEED buildings. That is not to say that LEED is bad but we think that by having a consenus LEED Program it can help close the “loop holes” that currently exist in the Program.

  6. sheila

    yes! soooooo much poison is used, and energy/money/resources wasted due to poor planning.
    although i agree with michael snyder in one sense, it is a bit naive to think that all people are as responsible and civic minded as he is, so both the carrot, the stick, and ethics will be required to get the planet back onto a quasi-sustainable program.
    the first step will have to come from the government, which pays MASSIVE subsidies to Big Power Corporations, even when they are highly profitable. how about diverting that money into affordable power generation on OUR ROOFS and guaranteeing us decent buy-back rates for 100% of energy we feed to the grid. that way, conservation could equal CASH, and we could hit our “renewable portfolio” much, much sooner.
    The LADWP is one of the worst offenders, and they are currently plotting to destroy the Joshua Tree area with massive 500kV power lines on 200+ foot towers, and giant wind and solar arrays, including covering the only flat-topped buttes in CA with windmills, instead of giving us the chance to both earn that money and have our beautiful wilderness. for more on that:

  7. Nancy Wilson

    I think green building should be mandated, although I don’t know much about what that would entail.
    Surely the simple kind of things, like positioning structures for sun and shade control should be automatic thinking for builders. I now live back in the east, and sadly, I see housing developments going up all the time with absolutely no thought to solar exposure, and energy consumption. Obviously, the homes will likely outlive everyone involved with the planning and building, and so every thought to future situations should try to be anticipated.
    Of perhaps more impact than individual homes may be the building of apartment communities that are lasting nice places to live. I was always impressed with the “Leisure World” retirement community in Orange County, and I’ve hoped for years that apartment communities could steal a page, or an idea or two from some place like that.
    Parking could be central and away from the abodes themselves, , or on the perimeters, and shuttle vehicles available to be used for hauling could be a part of the community. Noise ordinances and awareness should be more of a concern in a world that gets noisier all the time.
    Eliminating nearby parking, and constant trash collecting or street sweeping would help, and more pleasant grren spaces and gardens would only encourrage more of the same elsewhere.
    I guess I’m for more planning and implementing, whatever that entails, as opposed to speculation and get-rich-quick deals that lead to sub-standard housing, or housing that is not then maintained well afterwards.

  8. matt

    How many of you people drive SUV’s? I like the idea of green building but we need to be careful on how the rules are implemented.

  9. Cynthia

    I worked in Construction Clean-up on both newly built and old houses being remodeled.
    Most people will never see the guts of the houses they live in. I have seen the most disgusting use of highly toxic materials used in both. And whether they are just freshly applying it, or busting it up to replace it with more of the same, it is a hazard to the people using it, around it, or living with it.
    If only the walls, ceilings and the floor could talk! And, by the way, going green will cost less the more it’s in demand — end of story.

  10. Ron Grube

    The savings far outweighs the cost of making a building energy efficient. Over the lifetime of the average structure the saveings in heating and cooling will recover the extra money spent in it’s construction many times over, and is a lot more cost efficient than making an old structure green as I did my house.

  11. Bob

    Energy saved is money in our pockets to spend on something else, most likely in the local economy. Since California doesn’t have coal, oil, gas, what are we waiting for? We are most abundant in the alternative energies like sunshine. In coming years it’s going to be a forced move as we hit peaks in oil and natural gas, as much as i believe in freedom of choice it makes sense to get ahead of the game or else figure out what to do when people on fixed incomes and the poor can no longer afford to stay warm in winter.

  12. jim

    Michael Synder, nice post.
    The true meaning of life is to plant trees, under whose shade you do not expect to sit. ~Nelson Henderson

  13. Dan

    Yes. We bought our 4,300 sq foot home in 2006 from an award-winning builder of energy-efficient homes — not because of the eco-friendly upgrades, but because we loved the house and the location (in the Southeastern U.S.). The unexpected reward: a $40/month gas bill (we have gas heating, cooking and two gas fireplaces we love to use) and a $125/month electric bill — we watch WAY too much TV and have a spa we keep at a frothy 103 degrees). We stay warm in the chilly winter and cool in the hot and humid summer.
    The experience makes me a believer in the payoff for energy efficient homes. The Builder’s mantra is “Live Abundantly Green.” We definitely don’t feel we’re sacrificing “the good life.” Remember, California set the standard for clean air in the 1960s — Come on, California, do it again in energy management standards.
    Now, if we could only find a distraction from the TV…

  14. Michael Snyder

    Government mandates are inheirantly fraught with peril. Typically written to support whatever lobby is seeking the legislation, they tend to stifle innovation rather than encourage it. I’d submit “encouraging” green building through broad based tax incentives & expedited permit and inspection procedures would be a step in the right direction.
    Having installed several solar systems I can tell you the requirements are set up to be as difficult as possible. From reluctant clerks in the Palmdale Building Dept. to inspectors from multiple agencies who contradict each other, the system says one thing and does another. The DWP thinks the rebates paid to homeowners for installing solar systems would be better spent on their own solar facilities. SCE will put you off for as long as they can (typically 6 months) before they send you your rebate check.
    So the next time you see a solar installer putting water-proof wire nuts on a connection in a water-tight enclosure on a roof in Palmdale you’ll understand their frustration.
    Simply mandating change will not produce change. It is the hight of arrogance to think the changes necessary to insure our survival as a species would happen with the wave of a political wand. When our children’s future becomes more important than our own, we’ll do the right thing. Until then…

  15. Abigail Dotson

    As a licensed Realtor with particular concern about sustainability in homes– not just because I believe in a global responsibility to minimize our footprints, but because we are clearly poisoning ourselves and our families with the abundance of toxic chemicals used in the design, construction and furnishing of our homes these days– I firmly believe that green building should be mandated. Currently, the majority of ‘Green” homes are only accessible to people of a certain income range. It is my believe that a safe and healthy home should be a right, not a privilege, and it is because of this believe that I am committed to helping people find affordable ways to reduce toxicity in their living spaces.

  16. Igor Kagan

    Green building should absolutely be mandated by law. The built environment obviously plays a very important role in the health of its inhabitants and neighbors.
    But it also important to remember the larger role buildings play in society. The energy they consume has to be generated somewhere(and often pollutes somewhere else). The water they require must be pumped and considering the impact global warming is already having on our water supply will pose great challenges worldwide. The site and characteristics of buildings often have a significant impact on regional transportation strategies. The materials they use have to be taken from the earth and cannot always be replaced. The greenhouse gases and other pollutants they emit have consequences far beyond any city, state, or country.
    So instead of considering the greening of buildings a burden or chore, look at it as the right and moral course of action not only for those alive today, but for those that will follow us in the future.

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