To the environmentalist, “green” refers to something environmentally friendly. When manufacturers refer to green, they usually mean money. But with an increase in the demand for environmentally sound buildings, manufacturers have the opportunity to combine the two definitions. For those who see the possibility, retooling to meet the demand for green construction could mean a large payoff in a burgeoning industry. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Shula Neuman reports:
To the environmentalist, “green” refers to something environmentally friendly. When
manufacturers refer to green, they usually mean money. But with an increase in the demand for
environmentally sound buildings, manufacturers have the opportunity to combine the two
definitions. For those who see the possibility, retooling to meet the demand for green
construction could mean a large payoff in a burgeoning industry. The Great Lakes Radio
Consortium’s Shula Neuman filed this report:
There’s an 86-year old abandoned building in a Cleveland neighborhood that was left for dead a
few decades ago. It’s a shame because inside the building are 26-foot high ceilings with ornate
molding, original Tennessee marble walls and wood trim. But recently, the building, which was
once the Cleveland Trust Bank, was identified by a coalition of local environmental groups as the
ideal spot for their offices. The Cleveland Green Building Coalition spearheaded the task of
converting the old bank building into the new Environmental Center. Executive director Sadhu
Johnston explains, the project is not your average renovation.
“What we’re really trying to do is to demonstrate to people that you can do green while
preserving and that’s often they are seen to butt heads and this project is showing that the two
movements have a lot in common.”
While touring the mostly finished building, Johnston points out seemingly endless
environmentally friendly features. First, there’s a radiant floor heating and cooling system. Then
there are the geothermal wells under the parking lot. They use insulation made from recycled
paper and cardboard. And the roof is divided into three sections: one part has traditional black
tar, another has a white reflective coating and the third segment is a living roof, which looks like
Johnston says the layout is meant to demonstrate a more than 100-degree temperature variation
between the three surfaces. All of the different materials and methods used to construct the
Environmental Center, could signal a forward thinking manufacturer to see financial reward from
the burgeoning interest in green buildings. After all, green buildings tend to save money.
The Environmental Center is 67-percent more energy efficient than required by code. In fiscal
terms, that adds up to a half-million dollar savings over 20 years. This might make you wonder
why more people aren’t building green. Actually, according to U.S. Green Building Council
president and CEO Christine Ervin, interest in green construction has been increasing over the
past decade. Since the group established green certification standards three years ago, nearly 700
projects have registered to meet certification. And, Ervin adds, the increase in interest is not
exclusive to tree-huggers
“The diversity of the kinds of projects also is telling us that this is a serious trend that is moving
into the mainstream market. We have projects that are registered firehouses, small schools, FAA
stations. All the way up to manufacturing plants and convention centers.”
Several cities and government agencies are already mandating green construction on new
buildings, including the city of Portland, the General Services Administration and the U.S. Army.
David Goldstein is with the Natural Resources Defense Council and environmental group in San
Francisco. He says there’s a movement afoot to establish national incentives to build green. In
other words, the time is ripe for the construction industry to get with the green program.
“From the point of view of the manufacturers of the equipment and supplies, and of the expert
building designers who put all these things together, once these policies for green buildings are
there, that’s a new market opportunity for them. So it is in their interest to promote these kinds of
Goldstein adds green regulations also have a coincidental social benefit. With 35-percent of
pollution coming from the electricity and gas buildings use, requiring green buildings is as much
a public health issue as it is an economic one.
Some manufacturers in the great lakes region have caught on to the possibilities. The Cleveland
Based Garland Company manufactures and installs roofing systems all over the country and is
responsible for the Environmental Center’s roof—its first in-town green job. Garland
incorporates recycled materials into about 80 percent of its products. Nathan Schaus, project
manager at Garland, says about 15 percent of their business comes from their green product line.
Schaus says the market for green materials will continue to grow, especially with manufacturers
pushing its benefits.
“It’s a two-fold education. You need to educate the buyer, the end user that what they’re buying
is a building solution for the long term. So the initial investment, you have to explain that cost
over its life cycle. With the incentives, it’s changing the mindsets of the people that regulate
government and electricity today.”
Government regulators may work even faster on establishing incentives when they see the
increase in demand for residential green building on top of the commercial market. According to
the National Association of Homebuilders, about 13,000 green homes were built last year – a
huge increase over any single year before that. If demand continues to increase at such a rapid
pace, those business that go green now may be making plenty of green in the future.
For the Great Lakes Radio Consortium, I’m Shula Neuman.