One of the problems we encounter today when defining sustainability initiatives is that most everything associated with the environment, from energy efficiency to social responsibility, is in a fundamental state of flux – constantly changing, ever evolving. While expanding our knowledge and, consequently, our concerns associated with environmental stewardship, we witness organizations and corporations vying for a sense of place arrive by the busloads, and they also leave by the busloads. The boundaries and parameters become blurred, often with conflicting messaging. With the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC), as well as other organizations, promoting smart growth and social responsibility, a heightened awareness will be focused toward building technology and automation. As we assimilate the data and establish our goals, this emerging technology will become a more relevant and active participant in the way we will provide sustainable buildings that integrate into sustainable communities.
However, in order to provide truly sustainable buildings, we should ask the question: is being green enough? Is a green building the same as a sustainable building? Although the terms are generally accepted as being interchangeable, one could legitimately argue they are not the same. On one side, according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA):
“Green, or sustainable, building is the practice of creating and using healthier and more resource-efficient models of construction, renovation, operation, maintenance and demolition.”
On the other side, consider the fact that we’ve been successfully creating green buildings for some time now and though we’ve made great strides, for a multitude of reasons, we’ve also fallen short of our expectations. To meet the above stated goals, as sustainable professionals we need to embrace a well-coordinated and expanded process. The state of the art of buildings is that they aren’t just green, but “smart” structures that go beyond simple resource efficiency and indoor air quality, built with the latest technology for building controls and automation.