Host Intro: As our "Building Green" series continues, correspondent Mary Hawkins explores ways that the construction industry is changing from the inside out. Listen here.
Mary Hawkins: This week I spoke with Jason Peschel from WSU’s School of Architecture and Construction Management. While Jason Peschel believes that we need to be mapping carbon and other emissions, and we strongly need criteria for environmentally-friendly materials and practices, there is no definitive sustainable building culture.
Jason Peschel: There is not a good, solid definition of what truly is green, what truly is sustainable, how the carbon footprint ties into that let alone how that impacts the aesthetic or the style that somebody really desires for their home.
Hawkins: While we are only just now learning what our construction impact is - a number of organizations are helping builders and owners to design, plan and construct responsibly. LEED, or the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design Green Building Rating System, is the standard that builders and institutions aspire to. Managed by the U.S. Green Building Council, LEED is concerned with sustainable site development, water savings, energy efficiency, materials selection and indoor environmental quality.
According to Jason Peschel, LEED is not just about efficiency and smart materials. It's helping us think about how we use our institutions - our schools, hospitals and municipal buildings...
Peschel: What LEED is trying to implement is not just building greener buildings or more sustainable buildings- its about changing a lifestyle.
Hawkins: That lifestyle has to do with making very different choices at the beginning of the building process. To make the mental exercise a bit more manageable, let's consider a project that any one of us might take on - the building of a doghouse. We get a plan together - a blueprint that has been used for doghouses from Maine to California. We go to our local building supplier, we pick up nails, wood, glue, hinges, roofing. While this SEEMS the obvious choice, it doesn't consider your climate. It doesn't consider using local, sustainable products. You probably are plunking the house down somewhere convenient - but will it be the most comfortable spot for your pet?
Say you live in Kennewick where summertime temperatures reach well into the hundreds. You might build your dog a place out of thick stone you find nearby - or maybe recycled concrete from a home project - & place it in a well-ventilated site with a way for air to flow through in the summer and a door that can be closed against cold nights.
It’s this kind of thinking that Jason Peschel would like us to employ when we build our own homes, and that’s going to mean some big changes in the design and construction industry.
Peschel: It goes back to people's ingenuity and their creativity; you start thinking about what's there around you, your gonna figure out a way to do it & you start to realize that it's not the technology that you need in order to do the best job or to have the best impact. What you need is an understanding of what your impact's going to be, the responsibility to do something and the ingenuity and creativity to find - reasonably close, reasonably local - the products and the materials you need to get the job done.
Hawkins: Just like your new doghouse, sustainable houses of the future will have small footprints. They will be made of local materials and have energy efficiencies and water recycling built into their designs. You will have a way to calculate the embodied carbon of all your materials, installation and maintenance. Offsetting fees for CO2 emissions are being advocated by nonprofits such as “Carbon Fund” and “Live Neutral”.
Municipalities are starting to add environmental concerns to building permit processes. Tax incentives for sustainable materials and renewable energy systems are already in place. For more information about all of this and smart choices for your home, go to Our Northwest at N-W-P-R dot org.