A Look Back at 15 years of Green Building, a Look Forward to the Work Ahead

Nov 29, 2016 | Member Network

By George Fujii, 2016 USGBC-Missouri Gateway Chapter Board Chair (originally published November 29, 2016)

15 years ago, 15 dedicated volunteers came together to form an organization dedicated to green building education and advocacy, to making every building a green building, because they knew that Green Buildings Are Better.

In honor of this milestone, the U.S. Green Building Council – Missouri Gateway Chapter’s interactive Green Buildings Are Better display has been traveling throughout the region collecting your comments about how green buildings are better for living, working, learning, and playing. I thought I’d share a few highlights with you today.

Green buildings are better because “45% of U.S. emissions come from residential and commercial building operation – every green building counts!”

Green buildings use less energy, and consequently produce fewer greenhouse gas emissions and contribute less to global climate change. Nationally, energy used in buildings is responsible for almost half of our greenhouse gas emissions, and in the City of St. Louis commercial and residential buildings are the source of almost 70% of emissions (according to their 2010 greenhouse gas inventory). Buildings are an important piece of any effective climate action. Though reducing greenhouse gas emissions from buildings may seem like a challenge, in reality it is a huge opportunity!

Green buildings are better because “they cost less to operate”

All buildings, no matter how they were originally built, can become greener by pursuing energy efficiency strategies. The average building wastes 30% of the energy it consumes due to inefficiencies, according to the EPA, and many energy efficiency measures are possible through low and no cost operational improvements. Both Ameren Missouri and Laclede Gas offer financial incentives for energy efficiency measures, making improvements even more cost effective. No matter where you start, there are energy and cost savings to realize.

Green buildings are better for business and the bottom line beyond just their low operating costs. LEED buildings consistently demand competitive real estate prices, according to a 2014 peer-reviewed study published in Environmental Science and Technology.

And green construction creates jobs. A 2015 Green Building Economic Impact study prepared by Booz Allen Hamilton for the U.S. Green Building Council found that green construction in Missouri will account for more than 190,000 jobs and will generate over $11 billion in labor earnings by 2018.

Green buildings are better because “green buildings are healthy buildings”

As Americans, we spend 90% of our time indoors, and the indoor environmental quality of the buildings we inhabit has a big impact on our health. According to a recent study from the Harvard School of Public Health, people that work in green certified buildings have higher cognitive function scores, better quality sleep, and fewer health symptoms than workers in other buildings. They also reported a higher sense of satisfaction with their work environment. The greatest cognitive function differences were seen in crisis response, the ability to make decisions with overall goals in mind, the ability to focus on the situation at hand, and strategizing. Pretty important functions for all employees, no matter their industry.

Once you consider that 90% of the costs of operating a building are associated with the people inside of it, the benefit of pursuing the positive productivity impacts of green building start to make a lot of sense. Building owners are paying attention; a recent SmartMarket report by Dodge Data & Analytics revealed that 67% of building owners are interested in creating healthier buildings for people.

Green buildings are better because “They help build a sustainable future”

As we look forward to the next 15 years, I hope you join us as we strive to make every building a green building. For the sake of our economy, for the sake of our health, for the sake of our future, I encourage you to consider making a donation to support this important work this holiday season.

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Wishing you the best,

George Fujii

2016 USGBC-Missouri Gateway Chapter Board Chair

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