Green Building Blog: The Green Way Out?

About the author: Ken Sandler is Co-Chair of EPA’s Green Building Workgroup.  He has worked for EPA since 1991 on sustainability issues including green building, recycling and indoor air quality. 

Downturn. Recession. Even putting aside the practical implications of these terms, the very words are depressing.

So it was uplifting for me to spend a recent week in Boston at the largest green building conference, Greenbuild. Large as in 30,000 people in attendance. As Michelle Moore, the US Green Building Council’s Senior Vice President for Policy and Public Affairs pointed out, it was more than the population of the entire county where she grew up.

And an especially surprising number when you consider that the building sector is among the hardest hit industries in our current economic crisis. Yet as a developer that I spoke with at the conference noted, financiers are now actually beginning to favor green building projects as a better bet – as opposed to just an extravagant cost center. It makes sense, since as conference speaker Van Jones of the organization Green for All noted, green is what your grandma used to call “Don’t be a fool!” It’s about common sense – don’t foul your own nest, don’t waste water or materials or energy (including free energy, like sunlight and wind) – or money, to which all these other resources ultimately equate.

Green as the favored approach to building is new, and it was also the theme of the conference – green building not as a boutique trend anymore, but as a solution. Green building creating jobs, as a stimulus that can create value not only for the economy but also for the long term health of both people and the planet. It’s the kind of solution that allows us to explore the hard-to-define concept of sustainability. Sustainability requires looking beyond the bounds of categories like economics, environment and society, to find the largest long-term context that makes sense across all these categories.

And it’s a ray of hope to keep your eye on amidst all the current economic gloom. Which in itself is worth a lot.

For more information about Green Jobs, see the U.S. Conference of Mayors’ report, “Current and Potential Green Jobs in the U.S. Economy” at