A LOCAL commercial is the perfect example of what’s confusing about sustainability. During a spot for a Chicago limousine company, the announcer says the company’s cars are “spacious and clean— talk about green!”. He then explains that some of the vehicles can carry up to 40 passengers. So is the fleet green because the vehicles are spacious and clean? Or is it green because certain vehicles can carry multiple people? Can a vehicle designed to cruise around town and guzzle gas be considered green at all?
Today, everyone claims to be green. When it comes to designing and constructing a building, what does green mean? And how can you avoid product manufacturers that greenwash, which is defined as unjustified claims of sustainability that mislead customers? The best answer is you must do your research. To me, a green building is a system in which all parts work together to achieve optimum performance. That performance constantly must be monitored and all parts of the system must be maintained. Using materials that are durable and energy efficient will contribute to a sustainable building system. This issue of metalmag is focused on making sense of the growing green-building industry and demonstrating how metal can contribute to it. For example, “Architect’s Angle,” page 34, illustrates how Seattle-based Weber Thompson uses metal as part of its thoughtful design approach. Sustainability is deeply ingrained within the corporate culture; the firm’s new headquarters, which features steel wall panels and castellated beams, is cooled by passive strategies only.
The “Roofs” article, page 56, shows that you don’t have to build a new facility to reap sustainability’s benefits. Magco Inc., a Jessup, Md.-based roofing contracting company, retrofit its headquarters’ roof to demonstrate to clients how easy it is to go green. The headquarters now features photovoltaic laminates that are performance monitored, a rainwater-catchment system, vegetated roof and 30 light tubes that bathe the warehouse in daylight. The Washington, D.C.-based Center for Environmental Innovation in Roofing provides a forum to advance environmentally friendly roof systems. Learn about its goals in the “Last Word,” page 98. There are many organizations providing the ability to certify a building as sustainable. For a quick summary of three popular U.S. certification programs— Washington-based U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Energy Star; Portland, Ore.-based Green Building Initiative’s Green Globes; and Washington-based U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED—see “Building Green,” page 68. Speaking of USGBC, check out the “Special” on page 78. It provides a guide to the Greenbuild International Conference and Expo being held in Boston Nov. 19-21. It also showcases LEED-certified projects from Beantown that feature metal. Leaders of the design and construction industry don’t expect the green movement to disappear anytime soon. In fact, many are saying that in the near future sustainability will be innate to design and construction. Now is an exciting time to get involved with green building because there are so many questions yet to be answered and your input in these early years can help shape the industry and buildings of tomorrow.