March 27, 2010

Leading the Pack

by Lorraine Alexander
Lorraine Alexander Interior Design
U.S. Green Building Council-REC Regional Representative
published by US Green Building Council Chapter News, February 2011

As Shrek the friendly ogre knows, "it’s not easy being green".
Leading the pack in regards to sustainability is not an easy task; it takes time, focus, determination, and even some courage.

We find ourselves surrounded with media attention on greener alternatives. We are rapidly changing the way we build homes, with a focus on health, renewable materials, water conservation and energy efficiency. Homeowners are encouraged to build and select greener home improvements with offers of rebates, tax credits, and energy efficient government programs such as SCEIP (Sonoma County Energy Independence Program). And as of January 1, 2011, all new residential and commercial construction in California must comply with the new California Green Building Code (CALGreen). Although our direction is clearly defined by the marketplace, surprisingly many building professionals have little or no interest in building green.

When asked to fill out a survey on "sustainable building", one contractor stated "well, honestly not one single client has asked ever asked about greener alternatives, so I have no interest".

This poses a question; should we ignore the wealth of knowledge available to us simply because no one asks? So much education is at our fingertips. As building professionals, don't we have a responsibility to offer safer healthier options, and energy saving alternatives to our clients?

Conscientious designers, architects, contractors and trades-people should at least offer homeowners a choice. Our clients turn to us for advice, guidance and knowledge. Shouldn't we let them decide?

What you need to know:
There are four reasons consumers will seek greener choices for construction or remodel projects.

These are key selling points for any project:

1) Energy savings
2) Healthier environment
3) Comfort
4) A brighter future for our planet (through sustainable choices)

Riding the green wave…

To sum it up, being a leader in sustainability is not easy, but it’s noble. It’s like riding a wave; green building is constantly changing with new and improved knowledge and technology. We as building professionals are unable to anticipate the next turn. But being part of the metamorphic change in green consciousness is exciting, as we make a difference in our environment for future generations.

If you have a deep commitment to sustainability, and would like to be part of our Leadership Team in Sonoma County, contact the U.S. Green Building Council, Redwood Empire Chapter Coordinator at