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"Building" a Better Future

Encourage building of green buildings. We can save - and generate - a lot of energy if we think about how we design our structures before we physically create them. If designs are conscious of energy-saving techniques, the structures themselves, not just what goes on inside them, can be more sustainable.

Photo of Michael Kolakowski

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Need help for ideas of how precisely to encourage better building.
Tax breaks for those doing the building construction/those using the building?
Simply spread awareness of environmental concerns and how buildings can be created to be more eco-friendly, and hope people will be motivated by that?

What community does this idea benefit and who are the main players?

This idea benefits any community where a structure is built (so basically, every community). The "main players" are those who design the structure and those who build it, those who will use it, and most importantly, the community that benefits from it.

How does your idea specifically help your community rapidly transition to renewables?

When a community's buildings are designed with sustainability in mind, this includes making structures that would be optimally compatible with renewable energy practices and technologies. This idea is meant to facilitate and encourage the use of energy-saving and energy-harnessing ideas already available, specifically those whose main obstacle to widespread adoption is the impracticality of integrating them with structures that are not very conducive to energy-saving/harnessing measures.

What early, lightweight experiment can you try out in your own community to find out if the idea will meet your expectations?

A "lightweight experiment" in my own community may be difficult, as designing and building a new structure isn't easy or cheap. I do have a previous example that comes to mind: several years ago in my community (Troy, MI) there was a designing contest for a house that would be completely self-sustaining as far as energy, and the winning design was actually built (I think Solar energy was a main part, but the house itself was meant to maximize efficiency), and used to teach the community about renewable energy and environmentally sound styles of living. That's my proof: it already was done. Since it is clearly possible, we simply need to encourage wide-spread adoption of such environmentally friendly designs.

What skills, input or guidance are you keen to connect with from the OpenIDEO community to help you build out or refine your idea further?

Any suggestions on how to encourage eco-friendly designing/building practices? Any idea of specific obstacles to overcome, other than people not knowing how necessary and practical renewable energy is?

Please indicate which type of energy is most relevant to this post:

  • A combination of various types of renewable energy

This idea emerged from:

  • An Individual


Join the conversation:

Photo of Natalie Lake

Hi Michael,

This is a really neat idea. It is similar to the LEED certification here in the US. Here is a link in case you haven't heard of it.

Would you want this to be a universal system for how to design better, more sustainable systems? It would be great to see LEED expand to other countries and communities. Looking forward to learning more about your idea!

Photo of Michael Kolakowski

Hi Natalie,
Thanks for the link. I followed it and read up on USGBC and what they are doing to promote more intelligent building designs with their LEED certification, and it seems like they are already doing a good enough job to warrant an award from the U.N. environment group. In fact, they appear so successful, I'm not sure how to go further with this idea than they already have.
I think perhaps the best thing to do as far as this idea goes would be figuring out how to spread knowledge of why what they are doing is important and how to encourage people to get LEED certifications. Perhaps advertise (celebrity endorsement?) and use media to make building green buildings popular: for those who aren't convinced when told it's the right thing to do, convince them it's the "in" thing to do.
I think the key to all environmental hope is education: there are people out there who are still convinced climate change is a ridiculous hoax (or, in my grandmother's absurd view, an evil government plot). If we can stop the spread of misinformation and counter it with true info about climate change and danger to the environment, people will be more eager to take action. Social media would be vital, especially in convincing those who are children/adolescents/young adults, who need to get on board as a group if the movement for renewable energy is going to thrive.
Perhaps we could also encourage construction companies to get a certification of a type by having LEED certification available not just for individual buildings, but entire companies: the companies receiving such certification could promote themselves as being better building contractors on the forefront of global change. This should have great benefits in that suddenly, instead of each building's owners needing to decide that they want to go green, it happens automatically by the company hired to build.

Photo of lee wallace

It seems that those who build green are future proofing their assets and super -annuation funds are more likely to purchase green buildings because they are cheaper to run and more likely to be rented. I think it is the tenants who need to require the tenancy to be green. It is a bit chicken and egg, where is the demand derived from, owner or tenant. I think there is increasing pressure on banks from customers requiring bank loans to be in sustainable projects, so that may be another avenue to focus from? Lee

Photo of Natalie Lake

Hi Michael and Lee,

I think these are two really great points. I was actually discussing Solar City's model with a friend recently and we decided that in SF, not many people are able to adopt their panels (while paying less than they pay their currently utility company) because they do not own and would have to go through their landlords. It would be nice if we could get more landlords on board with renewable energies. But I agree that it might be our responsibility to ask these things of the buildings.

Also, Michael, while I do think LEED has a pretty great model, and they actually do have some celebrity endorsements (see below article) I think that there is room for improvement on tips for how to make existing homes LEED certified easily through upgrades, and lowering the cost of certifying your home.

Photo of Joanna Spoth

Loving the conversation here and I definitely think there's a way to twist the current success of the LEED certification process, especially when we think about the community focus of this challenge.

Photo of Nancy ElHelbawi

Hi Michael,

I like your idea to built with sustainable material a step forward to building then adding it on. The attached photo gives a very good visual explanation and is convincing, some resistance to the idea of sustainability is simply for visual reasons. I think creating a few additional photos and examples of building designs balancing sustainability and visual looks will be successful.

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