As the manager for DuPont’s Building Knowledge Center, it’s Laura Dwyer’s job to have a good handle on where the building industry is moving, and, in her opinion, that’s straight toward sustainability. “I am a passionate believer that we do need to build more sustainable construction,” she says. “Change is coming.”
And while Dwyer feels DuPont’s building envelope systems and solid surface solutions have a lot to offer to the green building industry, she is the first to admit that the manufacturer’s efforts are just part of a much bigger equation. “As much as I love my products and as much I feel like they are an official part of a solution for sustainable structures moving forward, we know we can’t solve this alone,” she says.
Dwyer sees three key critical components—education, collaboration, and innovation—that will need to come together if we want to reach a more sustainable future.
Echoing the thoughts of many Vision 2020 research contributors, Dwyer feels education is the most critical part of the equation. “It’s great to get thought leaders together, but sometimes we are talking to ourselves,” she says. “We need to focus on how we get that into the hands of the users.”
One of the key challenges, she says, is teaching builders and homeowners the proper way to use products that are available today. “There are some great products in the marketplace today that if they were just used properly ... we could actually move a long way toward building more sustainable structures,” she says. “Don’t put PV on your house until you can actually make it tighter so that you are conserving the energy that you are using. Once you can conserve that energy, then figure out how you can reduce demand even further. I am very passionate around how do we help the industry understand that.”
That’s exactly why Dwyer is serving on the board of the Energy & Environmental Building Alliance (EEBA), a leading resource for information and education for sustainable building. By collaborating with organizations like EEBA, Dwyer believes that DuPont, as well as other manufacturers, can rally around sustainable construction in a way that is very productive. That’s also why DuPont decided to be a part of Vision 2020.
“The reality is we need to be doing these together,” Dwyer says. “All of these things need to happen now and into the future, but the collaboration—the purpose of Vision 2020—is so key because you bring together great thought leaders to say what is it we need to know and how can we get that message into the marketplace.”
The last component, Dwyer says, is innovation. She believes that will require research initiatives like DOE’s Building America program, but more important, it will require manufacturers and builders to evolve beyond what we already know today. “The reality is that houses have been built the way houses have been built for a really long time,” Dwyer says. “I think there is some good opportunity overall to figure out ways to build differently so that the solutions make our houses sustainable and energy efficient, and improve indoor air quality. Ultimately, wall design may change, and we will evolve with that.”
For builders, innovation also means building above code. Codes will continue to get more stringent, and they will catch up. But in order to lead codes in that direction, Dwyer feels the construction industry needs to reach beyond codes and be much more aspirational.
“The key challenges we have today are understanding how it works and doing it properly,” Dwyer says. “Then over time, innovating in the space and collaborating with like-minded folks to deliver above and beyond where code is driving us so that we truly are creating the most sustainable structures that we can.”