The Green Building Story

NREL Net Zero Platinum Laboratory, Golden Colorado

NREL Net Zero Platinum Laboratory, Golden Colorado

A troubling economy found many companies turning to green buildings as a hedge against risk and stiff competition. Ten years earlier, no such market even existed. The story of green building’s sudden rise in the United States, and in a sprawling industry notoriously hard to change, reflects the timely convergence of technology, expertise, and leadership to tackle compelling needs. But two catalysts proved vital in quickly building the critical mass that had ripple effects globally. The U.S. Green Building Council offered common ground to help integrate a fragmented industry, and its flagship program, the LEED green building rating system, found clever ways to enlist the mainstream market while engaging the leading edge. A broad set of business, social, and environmental drivers is now accelerating the market and triggering broad changes throughout the supply chain.

Challenges remain, such as the too-frequent divergence between designed and actual energy performance. Likewise, numerous market adjustments are needed to ensure that market transformation is commensurate with the speed, scale, and scope of global challenges. But the momentum behind this transformative wave is inexorable. International markets are heating up; elected officials are embracing green buildings to create jobs and cut greenhouse gas emissions; and new green building codes are redefining acceptable practice, even as “living” buildings are lifting expectations for what sustainability looks like in the built environment.

This is a chapter in The Business of Sustainability:  Trends, Policies, Practices and Stories of Success, by Scott G. McNall, James C. Hershauer, and George Basile, Praeger, 2011. 

RecentChristine Ervin