Are We Afraid Of Green Buildings?

This week, I watched a TED talk, titled “Are We Afraid of Green Buildings?”, by Lindsay Kindrat,  hoping to get a better understanding as to why green buildings are catching on so slowly overseas and require legislation before they became commonplace in Singapore. The link to the video is as follows,

The video started by giving summaries on what green buildings are and the benefits of green technology. The main part of the introduction that I found to be particularly interesting was on the need to integrate science to help increase building sustainability, in particular physics and thermodynamics. For instance, dark objects absorb heat and lightly coloured objects reflect heat or cold air sinks and hot air rises. Taking into account these basic scientific principles would definitely ensure that our buildings are greener in the future.

I also found some of the statistics to be extremely interesting. Kindrat claims that green buildings reduce the number of sick days taken is 80% lower than for conventional buildings and solid waste is reduced by 90%. These statistics were not substantiated and I find them rather dubious and hard to believe. Even though I do see the good points of green buildings and that they indeed have a large role to play in our futures, these statistics just seem too good to be true and are dependent on other external factors, not just the “green-ness” of the building.

Kindrat gave a total of four excuses that people commonly given when they choose to build a conventional building over a green building in the US. Green features are optional there, unlike Singapore and hence many building developers still do not see the value. Looking at and addressing these excuses is extremely important to change mind-sets and improve public awareness to make a larger impact in the future. The first excuse was that it was too expensive as building developers only take into account the up-front costs and do not factor in long-term maintenance and operational costs. This is prevalent not just in green buildings, but also in many climate change related issues. Mind-sets of the public need to be changed and for people to think long-term rather than short-term.

The second excuse would be that these green buildings are just some “left-wing hippie crap”. However, one does not have to be a hippie to be concerned about his or her health and well-being. Nobody would rationally want to be exposed to more toxic and harmful chemicals on a daily basis.

Thirdly, people do not like being told what they should do or what to do. Extreme ultimatums do not work and people do not like being portrayed as the bad guy. People respond that they need to be encouraged to make positive changes instead of being told they are criminals or villains for ruining the environment. This point can be noted by governments and other parties during their education campaigns to increase their effectiveness.

Lastly, many do not see the need to save water or energy now. Many people are not worried that they will not have power to turn on the lights or have water to drink as the media tends to portray these resources to be abundant and unlimited. However this is definitely not the case. Every little bit counts and everyone has to do their part to improve building sustainability in the future.

We should not be afraid of green buildings. It will not change the way we work, eat or act. It will be a part of our environment. We are part of this complex environment and we need to know our place and role in this system. We need to embrace this new technology instead of constantly nit-picking its flaws and giving excuses. We cannot be afraid of making small changes to the way we live to reap the benefits now and in the future.

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