The Importance of Working in Concert to Green Buildings

The Importance of Working in Concert to Green Buildings

"The Art of Possibility” by Rosamund and Benjamin Zander. Ben is the conductor of the Boston Philharmonic Orchestra and he writes about how the energy from any one of the musicians in the orchestra -- it doesn’t have to be the “star” such as the first violin -- can inspire others to step up and perform their best, simply by doing it themselves. Hence the name of the book’s chapter and the theme for this piece: “Leading from Any Chair.”

Leadership can spring up in surprising places if it chooses to. For example, a new report prepared for the U.S. Green Building Council by the law firm Van Ness Feldman shows that the federal government has the possibility to direct or leverage $72 billion in stimulus funds toward green buildings through at least 30 programs for which legal and/or budget authority already exists. As USGBC noted in a report released last year, $380 of economic activity and over 5 million jobs are expected to be created through already-forecast green building growth. Imagine what could be accomplished with $72 billion of additional, directed stimulus finding! Here’s hoping the Obama Administration sees the full Art of this Possibility.

{related_content}More on the green stimulus: Evan Smith argues that $50 billion in cost-effective energy savings (a very conservative figure IMO, probably closer to $80 billion to $90 billion) could retire a lot of obsolete power generating capacity and be re-circulated in the economy, providing local economic multipliers and making us more globally competitive. Smith invokes and repeats Thomas Friedman’s urging that green investment be significantly ramped up in this country so that we do not lose our historic innovation leadership to China. Well, I can tell you, as a monthly visitor to China, that they are serious about cleantech investment and that they are poised to clean our clock.

Similar to the hapless character in Monty Python’s “Holy Grail” who objects while being carted away to the morgue, “I’m not dead, yet,” it’s too early to count out good ol’ American ingenuity as witnessed by the inspiring range of Edison Awards. There is a lot of genuine achievement here, but while virtue is its own reward blahblahblah: “Money talks and . . .  you know the rest. And right now, at over $220 billion to the U.S.’s $110 billion of green stimulus, China’s doing all the talking and our private sector investment is nowhere near plugging the gap. Edison’s rewarding carbon neutral wineries while China and Singapore are collaborating on a carbon neutral Eco-City in Tianjin -- for tens of thousands of people. The Brammo electric motorcycle is very cool, but take the hourly 217 mph bullet train between Beijing and Tianjin for a real thrill-ride.

Far from being threatened by China’s surge in green technology -- particularly when it succeeds in China’s low-cost economy -- I’m thrilled: It’s good for the planet and I hope will eventually spur some kind of Sputnik-like response here. EPA continues its leadership on the building energy front with its newly released Building Performance with Energy Star program (BPES). BPES partners with states and utilities to fine tune financial incentives and technical support to promote comprehensive whole-building energy upgrades. This is very welcome news because so-called “cream-skimming,” or capturing only the highest-payback energy measures, can render more comprehensive packages of efficiency investment non- cost-effective for many years.

Finally, one healthy chair/seat to lead from on a personal level is that of a bicycle. In Copenhagen, bikes comprise up to 55 percent of total daily transportation trips. Caitlyn Dorsey shares 10 tips for businesses to be more bicycle friendly -- many of which are covered by LEED’s much-maligned bicycle-friendly infrastructure credit.

This week’s Look-Grandpa-I-picked-up-the-$20-bill-you-said-was-fake-but-it's-real! award goes to JCPenney, which leads from its corporate leadership “chair.” The company has set a fairly ambitious goal to reduce by 20 percent the energy consumption per square foot of its real estate in less than five years. JCPenney already has reduced its carbon footprint by 80 million pounds per year, one of the byproducts of its $130 million investment in green upgrades.

Rob Watson is the executive editor of You can reach Rob at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @KilrWat

Images CC licensed by Flickr user asluthier and eflon.