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Community and Q&A

Where is the outrage? What is the green community doing to combat the ignorance of the majority of builders and homebuyers?

GBA Editor | Posted in General Questions on

Yes in an ideal world renovating existing structures would be the better choice over new construction. But in the real world the majority of home buyers would rather live in a new home than spend their money on fixer uppers. Most Builders continue to build plop houses where all the windows face the street no matter what where the sun is. They clear cut the land and destroy the eco-system in the process. They may be downsizing the floor plans but its just a smaller replica of the larger houses they were building a few years ago when the market dictated it.

These builders do not take into account sun orientation, land conservation, sustainable design/build construction methods & materials. Smaller mcmansion subdivisions are going up at an alarming pace.

My feeling is that if it can’t be stopped than why don’t we as a green community come together and build eco-friendly homes where people can enjoy where they live and know that their home is truly healthy for themselves, their family and their environment?

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  1. GBA Editor
    Martin Holladay | | #1

    You raise many questions. If you are looking for a group of outraged environmentalists to join, they are out there and you can join them. Plenty of environmental activists are outraged by, and actively working to oppose, suburban sprawl, inappropriate logging, habitat destruction, and coal-fired power plants. So sign up and join them.

    As for combating ignorance, that's one of the roles of this Web site. Journalists, educators, and those conducting workshops at conferences are all working on the "combating ignorance" issue.

    As for building green communities, people are doing that too.

  2. user-757117 | | #2

    Where is the outrage?

    As someone who ocasionally experiences outrage at what they see around them, I agree with your concerns. However, I have learned that despite the urgency with which a problem needs to be dealt with, there is nothing to be gained by communicating in a state of outrage. If anything it is counter-productive to progress to be overly-confrontational in a moderate environment like the one here at GBA.
    Besides, depending on your point of view, all this energy efficiency stuff is great but it doesn't really address the real issues threatening life on planet earth anyway. To borrow an analogy from someone else:

    Making an unsustainable lifestyle, economy and culture more efficient only slows down the train racing toward the cliff. It creates an illusion of progress by forestalling the consequences of our choices.

  3. Maria Hars | | #3

    I'm not saying this in anger towards GBA or finger pointing. This is not a screaming match on who is right and who is wrong. What's wonderful about this country is that we are all entitled to our opinion without fear of punishment. Sometimes we need to go out on the limb and out of our comfort zone to get things done - Outrage can be a strong motivator.

    On a personal and professional level I do my part for the environment. Recycling, re-using and reducing has always been a part of my life and I do join eco-friendly groups that I am passionate about. As a sustainable designer I educate my clients about the importance and the benefits of living in a healhy home and I incorporate it into my projects.

    I'm raising a valid point about what is happening in our country (past, present and future). If new construction is going to happen which it is, and it won't stop until the appetite of homebuyers has had its fill; then wouldn't it be best for all, if the new homes were Green?

  4. user-723121 | | #4

    A truly sustainable home is a cave in mountainside and then only if currently available. There are many shades of green but as long as you are using materials that use fossil fuels in the manufacture or shipping, it is not sustainable. If the end product uses fossil fuels in any way, this is not sustainable. If you are really interested in promoting sustainability, at least include in the purchase price carbon offsets for the embodied energy of the building materials used.

  5. Riversong | | #5

    Doug: hear, hear! The truth is that we have gone only downhill as a species since paleolithic times.

    And Lucas: that's a great quote. Must have come from a truly wise one ;-)

  6. Armando Cobo | | #6

    One needs to be fair before making a blanket accusation like that. True, must builders in the US need to be better educated about green building, but so architects, designers, developers, engineers, HVAC contractors and a whole bunch of trades. Lets also include the bankers, appraisers, real estate salespersons, building inspectors and probably the must important, the consumer.

    Most people spend more time researching a car or a HDTV than they spend researching a good builder and/or GREEN TEAM to design/build the right home for them. On this day and age, anyone buying a home that is not green is pretty dumb and ignorant. Green homes do not have to cost more money or be more complicated. It’s just good building.

    The NAHB, USGBC, Energy Star, green building programs around the country and the internet have been doing a pretty good job educating the building community and the consumer… but there is an old saying, “you can lead a horse…. Yada, yada, yada”

    And where does anyone begin or stop social conscience on green building or anything else for that matter. Does anyone NEEDS to spend $100+ on a bottle of wine, $400+ on a pair of shoes, $1,000 in jewelry, $100,000 on a car while there is people starving in our own country or without basic needs. Who makes those decisions?

    I knew I shouldn’t have opened the GBA tonight!!!

  7. Riversong | | #7

    Who makes those decisions?

    The "consumer" of course!

    As long as we think of ourselves and our customers as equivalent to a plague of locusts whose purpose in life is to consume the earth's gifts rather than be gifts to the earth's community, then nothing will change and all our dreams will end in a pitiful whimper.

  8. scott | | #8

    Ouch Mr. Riversong,

    That is an uplifing thought. But to some extent you are correct as is Armando and Maria and everyone else. As the old saying goes "you eat an elephant one bite at a time" so if we collectively can make small changes then things can change. Most people will only do things that are easy or in their own interests so using honey instead of vinegar makes more sense-incentives make more sense than some type of tax or fee. I think for once the Gov't is on the right track with the rebates and tax breaks for energy efficiency. Armando is right everyone needs to be part of the process but I think the 3rd party raters and certifiers are mostly in it for a money grab. You have to be certified by them and pay them, of course at this point since there are no national standards or codes it is what it is but if in a few years the codes change then it will not be an option to "build green." I for one am going to keep hoping that the Human Race will get it right, if we can put a man on the Moon we surely can overcome some energy issues.

  9. Riversong | | #9


    You can eat an elephant "one bite at a time" only if it's dead. Try those incremental bites on a charging elephant that's trampling everything that you're growing to support life. Western civilization (sic) is a rampaging elephant that has trampled the earth almost to death. Regulating and reforming the rogue elephant or offering it honey isn't going to do anything except create the illusion of intervention.

    Many years ago a journalist asked Mahatma Gandhi what he though of western civilization. His answer was "I think it would be a good idea." At this point, it needs to be much more than merely a good idea. We need an entirely new story to live by. The one we have is designed to fail and cannot be fixed. That's the simple truth. But we live in a swamp of denial and refuse to see what's right in front of our eyes because it might inconvenience us.

  10. user-757117 | | #10

    I think what Robert is saying is that humanity needs to do some serious soul searching. As a whole, we're a morbidly obese, chain-smoking, alchoholic headed for an early grave.
    Too bad we're too busy playing with our new iphone to notice.

  11. scott | | #11

    Both Robert and Lucas make good points, I love those analogies, but I am hoping that humanity can rise above if not I guess we will be looking forward to Planet of the Apes or Soylent Green.

    But the real truth is that the many of the "movers and shakers" who are trying to push certain agendas are all about a money and power grab and could really care less about you and me. They are too busy flying around in their private jets spewing pollution, eating and drinking like gluttons and wasting other resources. The sad truth is most are hypocrites, do as I say not as I do.

    I don't have my head in the sand but I will be a bit more optimistic than you guys.

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