By Cathy Boone
With 90% of our lives spent indoors (either at work or at home), the buildings we live in really matter. That was the theme of the WCS Greener Buildings and Your Health event where over fifty people gathered to hear about the latest trends and opportunities in green building.
The event centered on a panel of experts from a cross-section of the green building industry including Mia Brondum (Business Development, WindowMaster Control Systems), Halie Colbourne (Assistant Sustainability Manager, BCCI), Christina Weber (Regional VP, Interface), and Alexandra Lichtenberg, (Executive Director of Same Drop). The panel was moderated by Lauren Elasik Goodwin (Project Manager, U.S. Green Building Council) who kept the conversation lively with questions for the panelists about their personal journeys into sustainability as well as their predictions for the future of the industry.
Christina Weber, from Interface, reminded the group that the building industry itself is responsible for 25% of the world’s greenhouse gases and almost 40% of the CO₂ emissions in the US. Here are a few other stunning stats from the US Green Building Council:
The upfront cost of choosing green building materials and products remains a challenge, but several panelists suggested that the costs of greener, healthier solutions for natural airflow, carpeting, and other building essentials is on the decline. Combining these improved economics with compelling health benefits/risks data makes the return on investment for going green increasingly compelling.
Perhaps the most compelling part of the discussion centered around what we can all do to improve our buildings’ health. We all have a role to play. When we face a new build opportunity, it’s important to focus on both the process of building and the materials used to maximize health benefits. There are various rating systems for buildings including LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design), the Well Building Standard (which focuses on the health and wellness of building inhabitants), Energy Star (an EPA-backed voluntary labeling program to promote energy-efficient products and reduce greenhouse gas emissions), and the Living Building Challenge (which promotes net zero energy, net zero water, beauty, and more). You can learn more about all these here.
The panelists stressed that we can all get involved in making our living spaces healthier. Here are few ideas for immediate engagement:
Thanks to the NRDC for hosting the event in its beautiful U.S. Green Building Council's LEED Gold rated space in downtown San Francisco.
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