Today, in the age of population explosion and shortage of resources, professionals in architecture have to ask themselves what they have contributed in the last four decades toward protecting the environment. Apart from the introduction of world-wide energy saving standards, the development of the architecture industry has been merely reduced to going through various architectural styles. The roots for environmental concern have been marginalized, and therefore opportunities for environmental protection have been missed...
Recently the building industry has responded with a strong solution: sustainability. Two years ago the German Sustainable Building Council was founded with the goal to actively protect the environment and to provide a catalyst for sustainability. However, 15 years ago, the American real estate developer David Gottfried has already created a rating system for evaluating environmentally friendly buildings, with the goal of changing the well-established and influential building industry and to fight its immense environmental pollution. The rating system and the corresponding LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification was created, representing energy and environmentally-friendly building planning and design and is awarded by the parallel founded USGBC (United States Green Building Council). Ecological and "healthy" buildings which are awarded with this certification almost always increase their value in the real estate market.
Today the LEED rating certificate, available in the categories Silver, Gold and Platinum, is a worldwide-known label for sustainable buildings. Noteworthy is that Gottfried did not only invent the USGBC, but is also the founder of the umbrella organization World Green Building Council with headquarters in Toronto. Gottfried is still chair of the organization which also leads the German Sustainable Building Council.
In Germany's social-democratic, free-market economy, it is the legislators who have decided how pollution free the building industry should be. In the USA, this movement began from the grassroots level. The last presidential election in the USA has shown how influential grass root movements can be. Obama's victory to become to the most powerful man in the West showed clearly how an individual and grass roots support can change the basic attitude of the USA—"Yes we can!" This transformative ability could help to enable the USA in aligning its current energy-gulping, resources-devouring building industry oriented on the free market. The solely voluntary LEED label alone is not capable of bringing about this transformation.
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Images: Kristina Hahn