Despite my previous suggestion that the USGBC’s Greening the Codes could have done without the history of building codes, I do think it offers an interesting history lesson. This paragraph caught my attention:
The energy crisis of the 1970s brought yet another topic to the national stage. The soaring costs of energy and a growing concern about pollution and natural resource conservation caused Congress to pass the Energy Policy and Conservation Act that in 1978 would require states receiving federal funds to initiate energy conservation standards for new buildings. That same year, the State of California led the nation by adopting the California Energy Code, recognizing that energy consumption gone unchecked yields societal costs to consumers, to the economy, to the environment and ultimately to public health. It would take a number of compounding factors in the 1990s to revive this interest in building energy efficiency that ended up otherwise largely lost to other priorities in the 1980s.
The more recent surge in support for green building looks eerily similar to the 1970s.
I have always thought that the most recent green building trend really took hold in 2008, just as gas prices skyrocketed.
Congress then included billions of dollars for the green building and renewable energy industries in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act that passed in February 2009. In order to receive some of the stimulus funds, Governors had to make promises to improve state building codes. At the state level, California became the first state to adopt a mandatory, state-wide green building code in January 2010.
History teaches us that this combination – the federal government and then California push green building codes forward – tends to repeat itself.
If history repeats itself, what lessons can we learn from the last cycle of green building support? The 1970s saw a wave of sick building syndrome cases. After building envelopes were tightened — but ventilation remained the same — the occupants grew ill from the indoor environment. Concerns are already starting to emerge about indoor air quality in this cycle’s green buildings.
Any other lessons I missed?
Photo Credit: Stuck In Customs