Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Green Buildings for Peace & Prosperity

I wrote a short introductory note to our newsletter yesterday [click on "April Newsletter"] and got a lot of comments in return. My basic thing is that green buildings are examples of reduced violence and can help psychologically reduce violence in our society. Some commented that it was too soon to connect the Marathon Bombings to our industry or any industry. Many said they thought I was right on, though I missed a couple of things. One is the connection of imported energy to human rights abuses, and the other of imported energy to terrorist-sponsoring states. I think both those thoughts merit further exploration.

I hope you will stay energized and alert to improve our building stock and the ecological, health & safety, security and human rights issues relevant to our real estate and built environment. We have a lot of work to do!

[please also see the comment from Ben Myers below, just under the "tags"]

Below is the piece:

It has been an eventful Spring in Massachusetts. We've had award contests, a membership drive, conferences, and state & municipal public policy issues. And of course I can't take the soapbox here without mentioning the Marathon Bombings. We all express our heartfelt condolences to those affected. I have not heard of anyone in our community directly, significantly, affected, though many of us have friends and colleagues who were part of the situation - as victims, helpers, or otherwise.

Let me go out on a limb and point out the relevance of green buildings to reducing dramatic violence. We are part of the solution. Our work helps to ensure that our society takes responsibility for waste products resulting from buildings. Green buildings embody less violence: reduced deleterious health effects, diminished negative effects of materials procurement and manufacturing, and they reduce projected damage estimates from long-term repercussions on the environment. This includes the reduced toxicity of green buildings and their materials, and reduced greenhouse gas emissions. 

Call me a peacenik or what you will, but I do believe the embodied negative effects of buildings are diminishing every time we "green" a building. This will have positive psychological implications for everyone. Certainly there wasn't much we could do about the events of 4/15, but over time, green buildings are norming a more peaceful society. Green buildings are better buildings - and we need to ensure strong codes not just for energy efficiency, but also to prevent loss of lives as seen in building failures in the Brazil club fire or more recently the Bangladesh garment factory collapse. I'm glad to be part of this community, all working for the good cause of better buildings.
Our community continues to grow and to make a difference in our industry. We recently achieved our goal of bringing on 100 new members before Earth Day - a quick drive at the beginning of the year which has grown our ranks significantly. Thank you to all the new Members, and thank you for participating in our efforts.

Grey Lee
Executive Director
USGBC MA Chapter


  1. Grey -

    I read the April Newsletter this evening after returning home from a day of work at Boston Properties. During the marathon, I was at the corner of Fairfield and Boylston, standing underneath a building I work in daily. I was with my wife and 1 yr old when the first blast interrupted an otherwise perfect Boston day. In a moment, we were all abruptly broken: some physically severed, from life and limb. Appart from the physical breaking, the community, runners and spectators alike, were broken. The ripple effect of those moments have now been felt for weeks... long weeks, across communities throughout the United States, and we are all searching together for causality.

    I suppose now, after significant attention paid, there is no piece of news media that will reveal a decent answer. Perhaps there isn't one answer; there are many answers!

    First and foremost, we should focus on the one before us, green buildings. I believe we can create a built environment that will improve our national security. How can we as practitioners be the stewards of a more sustainable built environment, and how does that relate to national security? Well, one of the strongest arguments for renewable energy I've found resounds with people of various political persuasions is fortified national security. The renewable energy community understands that we can become energy independent by reducing the demands of our existing building stock, and making a serious national investment in scaling up our commitment to two very mature markets: wind and solar energy generation.

    We know as green building people that improving the performance of our existing building stock will do the most to improve our odds of attaining energy independence - so this should be our primary objective. All of us, as we create more green buildings, are improving energy performance, and by proxy, our national security.

    The USGBC MA chapter is a kaizen (change for the better) organization for sure. This council chapter is the embodiment of a force in the direction of optimism and good... and good always prevails.

    Thanks for the words - and thank you for your hard work, continuing the pursuit of more green buildings.

  2. green/eco buildings should be preferred evereywhere... the government can have such an impact on this, when they have special funds or say a new building must have solarpanels or something like that.


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