Get a Job as a Green Building Professional
(Page 4 of 8)
World of Gray
Paper or plastic? It is a common question at the grocery store. Often, however, there is no easy answer. Questions of raw materials extraction, packaging, transportation, associated water/ energy use, health implications of the materials, reuse, and a variety of other factors come into play. Even if you say no to paper or plastic bags, and you hoist your own bag onto the counter, questions remain: Where did your bag come from? What is it made out of? Who made it? How will it be cleaned? The dilemma over even this seemingly straightforward decision can become overwhelming.
But there is a simple solution. When faced with an issue that seems grayer than a crisp black or white, one way to move forward is to use the precautionary principle. A decision-making tool, in its most basic form, this principle means “better safe than sorry.” The precautionary principle helps one decide if an action should or should not be taken, when risks are unclear. This is a fundamental premise in the mindset of the green building professional. In other words, the precautionary principle maintains that if there is any suspicion of possible harm to the public or environment from taking a speciﬁc action or implementing a policy, the burden of proof falls on those taking the action to show that it is the least harm.
Taking all environmental issues into account, the built environment and the precautionary principle is where the nexus of green building occurs.
More Information on Green Building
So who in the United States is responsible for green building? From a federal government perspective, it’s the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the government agency begun in 1970 to create and enforce laws regarding human health and the natural environment.
The deﬁnition of “green building” from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is as follows:
Green building is not a new concept. For thousands of years, passive solar design (daylighting versus electrical lighting) and the use of local and regional materials have been incorporated into the creation of buildings, for practical reasons. More recently, what we know as the modern green building movement was instigated by the U.S. energy crisis in the 1970s, in which the cost of gasoline fuel dramatically spiked, calling attention to the need for energy-efﬁciency research and alternative fuels.
Thanks in large part to increased green building activity in recent years—both top-down (government requirements/corporate incentives) and bottom-up (consumer demand)—sustainability has become a pervasive notion in day-to-day life. For the most part, when people say “green” these days, it doesn’t indicate Crayola’s latest crayon color, but is instead recognized as referring to an environmental attribute.
As referenced in the historical “Timeline” feature, green building was mandated from the “top” by the federal government for their buildings, and many state and city governments followed suit. From the grassroots bottom, greater consumer awareness calls for eco-action in local neighborhood communities, buildings and homes—and corporations, manufacturers, and government ofﬁcials are taking note.
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