September 23, 2007


Over the last weekend a group of us attended the conference in San Francisco California.  Being in the residential design and construction space we each had individual as well as mutual goals.  I think we can all agree that the publicity in Green Building has been overwhelming.  My primary goal in attending the conference was to dive in and really see what is up with this “Green thing”.  After attending a few days and coming home to ponder what we experienced it’s safe to say that we as a planet are on the cusp of something special.  Although there are many different specific outcomes, thoughts, and ideas out of attending there appears to be a handful that really stood out for me. An un-expected force In attending numerous educational seminars a theme throughout the conference was not necessarily what products are green but how, we, as a connected force and tenants of this planet can make a difference.  When attending an event like this with an open mind the odds of you coming away inspired to change, no matter what it is, are in your favor and just maybe out of your control.  As I experienced the events and the multitudes of people attending the conference a parallel came to mind.  As this country developed settlers began eyeing the west as the new frontier.  Some for monetary reasons others for a new way of life.  As they packed up and prepared for the long journey many opinions were formed, some explorers set out early to blaze the trails, some immediately followed, others much later, while many never made the trek.  This conference felt like the town meeting as settlers prepared to make the journey.  A handful of the explorers returned to speak to the multitudes explaining the experiences and essentially which trails to take.  We, that have made the choice to make the journey and settle into a new territory, are packing up!  The journey is about to begin.   Momentum It was very interesting the momentum that appears to be taking shape.  Green Design, Green Building, etc. is just one small piece of what seems to be a larger puzzle.  Listening to Sarah Susanka (author of The Not So Big House and The Not So Big Life) brought this forward.  It may be fuzzy right now but something is occurring in the world that is fostering a more responsible, collaborative worldwide society.  At the Google room they were displaying some of their tools that have been developed and although this does not directly align with the green movement their presence reminded us that their technology such as Google earth, and I am sure many others to follow, will enable others to fulfill the calling.  A phrase I heard from one of the presenters in the Google room was “Design like you give a damn”.  Within our own little world of design and construction we can make a difference and contribute rather than go the opposite direction.  Why not?  Some may feel this is a fad, may fade away, and is not a reality.  I would argue that this is not true.  Why, because how we design, build and care for our buildings and planet is illogical in many ways and as Eric Corey Freed, Architect stated is “just stupid”.  It’s right in front of our face.  A wave is building; some picked up on it early, others are jumping in and many are standing on the beach waiting.  Regardless it feels like all are simply responding to a force that can’t be stopped.     Common sense…or just plain stupid. I am about as new to the Green Building movement as you can get but realize that something is taking shape.  I also, now, understand something of this magnitude takes millions collaborating as one, that the trek has begun, and the profession I am in can contribute!  When you look at yourself it’s likely you thought about how can I “make a difference” or “give back”.  It can be difficult to believe one building, one material selection, or walking to work can make a difference but when you see twelve thousand people coming together to make difference you begin to see the possibilities.  As individuals you may be forming an opinion on global warming, green building etc. etc.  The first question to ask is what have you done in order to form an educated opinion on this issue? And regardless of your opinion do you feel smart in how you use the resources of this planet day in and day out?   No duh….breaking it down.Ok now that you may realize that the Green Building movement is here to stay and will just gain momentum every day lets realize a few things and bring it back down to earth.  In our residential remodeling design/build business what we are NOT talking about is completely re-inventing our business model, restructuring, and a lot of change.  What we ARE talking about is taking one step at a time as we follow the movement.  It’s about how we approach our projects and clients.  Yes in that order.  In our market we are already seeing the affects of “The hype”. Our competitors are marketing themselves as green this and that, clients are now walking in the door asking for information on how our company accomplishes green design and our suppliers are bringing materials to the market.  Because of this “hype” we need to take a careful approach and as one attendee stated in a seminar the “Stealth” approach to green design and construction, all dependant on the client and their receptivity to the concept.  With the “hype” comes all kinds of outcomes some positive and some negative but here is an important point that should govern our decisions as a company.  The fact of the matter is this, if we move from what we are doing now to designing and building more responsible sustainable structures then we are ahead.  It simple and logical.  The wagon train is heading out….from the gut. So what does this mean to our company, how will we approach this new responsible way to manage our business?    ·         We are realizing every day that consumers are coming to us with more information than ever, more educated on products and design ideas.  How many times have you been in a situation where a client proposes an idea, product, or material to you and you have no clue what it is all about.  This is a sign! A bad sign!  Regardless of the level of interest or opinion in green and sustainable design here is what I DO know.  With the attention it is getting you better know.   ·         As a design and construction professional it is your duty to bring creativity, knowledge and value to our clients.  This takes effort and commitment to explore, challenge yourself, learn and then return with your knowledge to your clients and your company.  This is what makes YOU valuable.  If you are “too busy”, “already have it figured out” or just plain not interested then think…why am I in this profession and/or why am I part of this company? ·          Embracing the philosophy and values in progressing may not be for everybody but understand this is the path we are on.  Regardless of you position in our company there is room for EVERYONE to explore further learning opportunities.  Once experiencing this approach you will not got back.·         My belief.  Silently waiting on the sidelines for the coach to tell you what to do “aint gonna cut it”.  You take charge of your profession and career by taking the imitative.  Bring your knowledge, thoughts, a plan and strategy to implement that plan to your coach.  It can and should be simple.·         You commonly hear the acronym ROI in business which means return on investment.  How about ROE…Return on Effort?  Here is something to think about.  How much does effort cost?  It doesn’t matter because we are already expelling the effort to design and build our projects.  We are talking about replacing what we already do with a different value system with practically no additional investment.  It may be where we dispose of demolition materials, they type of flooring we specify, how we recycle, or products we use.  Seem logical?  ·         We’ll follow.  We’ll take a humble subtle approach one step at a time, introduce materials into our studio/projects and take a look at construction ops.  We’ll pursue further education and contribute.  In Closing No, I haven’t gone off the deep end (maybe teetering a little) but am inspired in the things that are occurring within our industry that align with the bigger picture. Bill
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