Volume 47, Issue 11- November 2012
Fifty Shades of Green
No, I didn’t read the book, but I have sure heard about it. And it seemed appropriate to use the title here because, as you will see in this issue, “being green” means different things to different people. The green movement, which began as a trickle in the late 1940s, is today a raging river of commitment and activity.
The move toward environmentally-responsible construction came to prominence in the last decade with the adoption of Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) and other environmentally-friendly practices.
Supporting green is akin to supporting motherhood and apple pie. Everyone professes to do so; how could you not? But if you talk candidly with many in the construction industry, you’ll learn the same dirty little secret I did: there’s a lot of disdain for green practices as they currently exist. This disdain is not coming from the glass industry alone; it is consistent across most building trades.
Most people cite four major concerns with green building practices.
They are: Inconsistencies between the goals of the program and their practices. Let me give you just one example for one program. In general, LEED provides credit for locally-sourced materials. The closer to home the materials are made, the less shipping, gas and resources are used to get them into place. Yet we all know that most types of energy-efficient glasses are not made locally; they are manufactured in one, two, maybe three, places in the country. “The specs call for performance that can be met by only two types of glass,” one glazing contractor from Oklahoma City told me. “One is made on the East Coast and one on the West. So which qualification do I sacrifice? Some materials such as concrete, brick, etc. are easy to find locally. The right type of glass is not.” Rules in programs that result in dilemmas like this must be fixed.
Squabbles, snipes, competition and territorialism among green programs. It’s also no secret that the major green programs and the codes they promulgate compete against each other. For an excellent report on the current state of green codes, please see Megan Headley’s in-depth article on page 36. It details some of the struggles that contractors face in trying to unravel what each means.
Lack of accountability for green claims. Everyone says they are green, but there is really no way to know. The word “green” is following the same trajectory as the word “diet” did in the 1960s. First, everyone claimed their foods are diet, then no one could really define “diet” or “low calorie,” then the government got involved. The recent “Green Guide” by the Federal Trade Commission details such updated guidelines. And, in this day and age, when a glass manufacturer can be slapped on the hand merely for saying its product can provide “up to” a certain level of energy savings, you better believe the government is watching. In fact, we have an excellent report on the new FTC guidelines on our website Be sure to get your copy at http://bitly.com/Vfdp6T.
Increased liability for green compliance. A whole new level of legal liability comes with green compliance. Glazing contractors, who already carry the burden for so many things will now also carry the legal burden for such compliance. This, in many ways, is the most wearisome of burdens for contractors and also leads to the greatest amount of concern about green programs. Critics say that until and unless these four issues are addressed, the true greening of the construction industry will never take place.
This issue should reach you right around the Thanksgiving holiday in
the United States. I am very thankful for you, our readers, who teach
me new things each day and whom I appreciate beyond words. And I am thankful
for advertisers and customers, who are great partners and supporters in
our effort to bring you the latest news and information every day. Happy