How do green building programs and policies promote the three E-s of sustainability?

Green building programs are designed by companies and jurisdiction as opportunities for citizens and employees to find efficiencies, savings, and create responsibility for our actions. Such an approach may appear ineffective by the appearance of coercion, however, it is a necessary method to create innovation, understanding and new markets. Without an incentive and repercussive system, people are not necessarily moved to change their routine to become more equitable, economical, and environmental.
Initially we developed systems of living that were purely functional: sheltered us from the elements, provided differentiation use, and storage for the fruits implements of our labor. Over time, we perfected the technology to add creature comforts to increase the quality of our shelter, spatial identification, and efficient production space. Each successive generation would add to and improve that which had come before in order to leave the community better than they found it, and civilization advanced into ever more complex and interactive growth.
As rolls within society grew and became defined, the egalitarian nature of these societies broke down and became stratified. With stratification, society became less equable as resources were pushed to the limit to produce greater wealth. Such a process eventually depletes those resources, reduces quality and causes discontent amongst the populace. Without a stable equilibrium, society can fall from a market collapse, internal revolt or a change in environmental conditions. Such a situation forces society to change.
One means to avoid dire disasters are policy and rules changes. Green Building programs are just a means. Green Building programs are rooted in the idea that society can only succeed if the community, economy and environment are in balance, both in relationship with each other and within each silo. Each program was developed by enthusiasts for more healthy, more efficient and less resource intense structures.
Green building programs initially used a “carrot” approach to incentivize the adoption of green building practices. Many were adopted as a response the high energy prices following the 1970s energy crisis, but were dropped as fuel costs returned to more manageable levels. Well meaning people, communities and companies continued forward, refining and improving their practices to fit a market context. Simultaneously, they developed a “stick” approach, and worked with communities to adopt codes and policies that mandated improved practices.
As green building programs became a more widely used practice, the least of the practices became codified. Jurisdictions began to adopt the practices as part of their means of operations, and began to set policies that required certain baselines that had to be reach prior to a contract being signed or a project could start. Setting a program into code or policy marks a communities commitment to implementing those practices into daily life, not just a series of good deeds to hope to achieve. They also encourage the growth of new industries to meet the demand those policies created. It is well and good to intend to do something, but if there is not a means to meet those goals, they are simply intentions in a book on a shelf collecting dust.
By creating new markets, a community or business can create new means of revenue stream generation, increasing the bottom line for that organization. It will also create jobs, spreading more wealth about the community. The wealth will be more than monetary, since it will be an opportunity to feel good about making a positive impact on your community and business. And of course, it will mean healthier water to drink, air to breath and places to recreate. All in all, Green building programs are a boon to the people, economy and environment.
With a 2 pronged strategy, green building program enthusiast are developing market incentives and regulatory requirements to establish rewards and baselines for achieving a more equitable, economical and environmental society. People prefer to reach for rewards, but without the incentive of avoiding punishment, many would not change. Together, both means are needed to create effective programs. Regulation will always set the baseline for any project to begin, while the awards programs will encourage innovation, initiative and improvement, or how we achieve a more equitable, economic and environmental community.
Of course, I must quibble about the fourth E left out: Aesthetics. If practiced well, and beyond the baseline, green building programs can add to the beauty of a community. As mentioned, they will make the natural environment more pleasing, but they can also create places for community gathering and interaction, as well as, more pleasing place to work and live. Living in a more pleasing environment makes us more efficient and productive, therefore more profitable, giving us more time and money to enjoy the fruits of our labor. All in all, no one of the 4 Es can exist without the other, for each is intertwined.


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