Last week, the Los Angeles Times published an article about a home builder’s efforts to construct “green” homes that produce as much energy as they consume. This seemed like a great idea, appealing to my sense of social consciousness and innovation, but leaving serious questions in my mind about the economics of going green. For quite some time, I have been mildly interested in concepts of energy conservation, particularly as it is applied to commercial real estate. I have finally decided to “take the bull by the horns” and write about all that I know about Green Buildings. Sure, I have heard about LEEDS certification, recycling waste, wind turbines and solar cells, but what about practical economics and concepts such as “carbon footprint”? Doesn’t there have to be some consideration for the cost of going green?
With my interest heightened, I decided to write an Opus on the subject. How odd to use the term opus, but it seemed most fitting under the circumstances. An Opus is a “creative work,” a greater “whole,” if you will, comprised of individual pieces, numbered to designate the order of the composition. The term is often used to describe larger works of music that are comprised of individual movements, when put together in an organized fashion become a masterpiece. I think of Isaac Asimov’s Foundation Trilogy to be an Opus. Each chapter being separately written as short stories and published in newspapers and then combined into books that later became a trilogy. Actually, Asimov continued the “Foundation” story with many more books, well beyond the initial trilogy, the total sum of which should be considered an opus. It’s another way of making the “whole, greater than the sum of its parts”.
Why an Opus, you ask? Well, if the truth be told, I do not feel knowledgeable enough to be qualified to write on the subject at this time. But, I do intend to learn through research and interviews and discuss what I have learned, as I learn it, in articles, columns and on CRE Radio. What better way to teach than to do so while you learn. What better way to learn than to teach? This may require a little explanation.
One of my best teaching experiences was when my son asked me to help him with Algebra. A cold chill ran up my spine. I looked at him, wondering what he would think of me when I told him that I studied algebra with an abacus. This was not fair. I thought I had escaped algebra with a “C”. Sheepishly hiding my ignorance, (I didn’t want to blow his admiration of me as the “all knowing Oz” of the family), I sat down with him and suggested that we review the chapter together and “learn it as we go”. Feeling like I was back in grade school, we spent the next 2 ½ hours, reviewing the entire chapter and working on the problems. Both bleary eyed, we called it a night at 10:30 pm. It was an incredibly effective, father and son experience. One in which I think I learned as much as he did. I realized that what I was teaching to him was not Algebra, but how to learn. In retrospect, that was a far better lesson to teach. By the way, as it turns out, I really remembered far more than I thought and it seemed much easier than it did 50 years earlier.
The content of the opus will include a combination of technology, economics, financial feasibility, opinions and social responsibility. What and when I write will depend upon what and when I learn it. I intend to take a “green” journey and take my audience with me as an interactive passenger. Learn as I learn and participate in the discussion.
While I can’t give you details yet on each stop that we make along the way, I can give you a general direction of where I am going. I don’t want to just learn about energy savings or alternatives. My goal is to learn and report on green building initiatives that make economic sense, such as how a shopping center owner can convert the center to a “green” center and save money, in addition to being a good social citizen. While I appreciate the value and responsibility of being a good citizen, I do not think that green buildings will gain widespread acceptance until they make economic sense.
I intend to ask the hard questions with a healthy amount of cynicism regarding a property owners use of the phrase, “Green Buildings.” Are building owners using the term “green” merely as a marketing ploy or are their buildings, truly “green” as the term implies. As an example, last week, it was reported that The Total Tour building in Berlin was recently completed and turned over to the tenant, the Total Oil Company. The building was touted as a “green building,” with 90 spaces for bicycles, 240 parking spaces for cars and conveniently located opposite the main railway station. I am not suggesting that this building is not a “green building,” but it would be nice to know what else went into it being a “green building,” other than 90 bicycle spaces and being opposite the main railway station. These are the questions that I intend to ask and answer as part of the opus.
This Opus will include at least two Green Building shows on CRE Radio, numerous blog posts on my website, www.creradio.com and video specials. Ideas and contributions are encouraged and you can email me at email@example.com.
Finally, for those of you who might be curious, my son no longer thinks of me as the “all knowing Oz”. He is a teenager now, of course.