Raising sustainable building awareness in the U.S.

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Getting America up to Speed on Sustainable Architecture

Contractors and architects are recognizing that green design is no longer just a trend; it is quickly becoming the norm across building sectors around the world. Despite this global movement and the growing number of green-conscious Americans, sustainability efforts in the U.S. remain behind other countries. While American architects are eager to incorporate eco-friendly products and practices into designs, product awareness remains the greatest road block. In a marketplace saturated with conventional materials, architects and contractors can struggle to find green materials that are both recognizable and available. For example, American consumers seeking new hardwood exterior decking are more likely to explore tropical hardwoods than sustainable alternatives, because that has long been the choice product. However, most consumers are unaware that tropical hardwoods, like Ipe, are not only produced in endangered rainforests, they also take 80 to 100 years to mature, leading to a long-term negative impact on the environment. In comparison, modified pine, such as Kebony, takes only 30 years to mature and three days to modify.

The green building phenomenon has reached global success and is quickly becoming the norm in the building industry. But despite its popularity and benefits to the environment, adoption of this global movement remains slow in some countries, including the United States.

Although many American architects are in favor of green building, they lack access to green building materials that are recognizable and available.

Awareness

While the demand for sustainable building materials continues to grow, market awareness in the United States does not. Without knowledge of green options many Americans will turn to popular materials they are already familiar with.

A good example of this is interior flooring. Many Americans are quick to turn to long-time favorites like Ipe when choosing a flooring material, without knowing that there are sustainable alternatives available, like Kebony. Not only are modified woods grown in responsibly sourced forests instead of endangered rainforests, they also take significantly less time to mature and modify than tropical hardwoods.
In order for green materials like Kebony to gain momentum in the U.S., they must first find exposure through industry resources and architectural presentation.

Accessibility

Access to sustainable alternatives is another roadblock for American architects. For the sake of time and budget, many architects seek local materials for new building projects. Since many green materials are not yet available in all locations, they losing out on opportunities to prove their value in the industry.

The small group of architects who chose to adopt the use of green building materials when they first entered the market have recognized their benefits, including durability and a longer lifecycle. However, without regional availability it is difficult for these architects to help raise awareness of these benefits. Greater access to green building materials can be accomplished by investing in more U.S.- based production facilities. However, in order for these facilities to open sales must first increase, an issue that ties back to market awareness.

Although adoption of green building materials has been slow in the U.S., if all industry players recognize their shared responsibility to increase sustainable efforts there is still time for growth in awareness and accessibility.

 

Photography © Rob Hansen

Project: Landmark Construction built the Martial Cottle Park in San Jose, CA as a Design-Bid-Build project in collaboration with O.C. Jones & Sons Inc. of Berkeley, CA. The green building project was designed by architects Page & Turnbull to qualify as Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design (LEED) Silver certified. Cladding in sustainable Kebony wood.

 

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