Time Is Running

One answer is that change takes time. The problem—one of my mantras in this book—is that we don't have time. To stabilize atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations at twice preindustrial levels, we have to displace seven gigatons of CO2 a year. Buildings are a big part of that equation, and we have to cut those gigatons soon. In fact, we have to cut them now if we want to reduce emissions radically in the next decade. That's why the slow growth of the movement is alarming.

We must look for ways to speed up the adoption of green practices and ways to break down the barriers to a pervasively green construction industry. Some of the reasons for the slow adoption are obvious and well studied: up-front costs; the problems and cultural resistance associated with any new and different approach; lack of talent or expertise; lack of research, funding, and awareness; perceived tradeoffs between quality or security and sustainability; decades of ingrained practice with inefficient construction; bad building codes; and finally, people's unwillingness to admit mistakes.

One of the main reasons green building hasn't become mainstream faster is that the practice is often presented as a secret language, a form of Esperanto spoken only by William Shatner and a few weirdos in the Haight-Ashbury. Tell me you haven't heard the term "Green Mafia." It means that guy knows the secret handshake. And by definition, you don't.

I am repeatedly confronted with individuals, builders, even architects who clearly perceive green building as complex, even unknowable. It isn't. (Though it's not easy. But as a friend has said: "Nothing in business is easy. Should we be surprised?") Nonetheless, it seems like nobody's making an effort to discourage the perception that green building theory is a foreign language.

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