Human beings are creatures of routine. For most of us, change is not only unpleasant, it’s downright scary. We’re wired to seek familiarity. The more complex our lives become, the less willing we are to shake up the status quo—even if the status quo isn’t doing us much good. For proof of concept, you don’t have to look any further than the current debate about healthcare. Although most Americans seem to agree the system needs fixing, the idea of actually changing anything has inspired fits of screaming and rancor normally reserved for cable installers and airport gate attendants.
But the fire being stirred up about healthcare is a mere votive candle compared to the inferno that surely awaits the Waxman-Markey climate bill. While healthcare represents a large portion of our economy, our entire way of life is based on the use of carbon-based fuels. Both sides of the argument will claim dire, world-ending consequences. No matter the outcome of that bill, change will come to us. We can squabble all we want about whether or not climate change is real and whether or not instituting emissions controls will put us at a competitive disadvantage to China and India. If even the moderate estimates prove to be correct, the costs to make proactive adjustments now are going to be rather small compared to the costs of adapting to new economic and climatic realities 10, 20, or 50 years from now.
The debate will likely rage on for years, if not decades. So be it. Change is like a building; to stand strong, it has to be built from the ground up. (Most architects will agree it doesn't really work the other way around.) While government policy is important—find out more about federal, state, and local incentives for green building and energy-efficient retrofits in “Deep Green,” —the building industry is finding ways to make a real impact today by making buildings more efficient, more pleasant, and just plain better.
There are several exciting examples of forward progress in this issue of eco-structure. The march to net-zero energy buildings is getting a boost from Boulder, Colo.–based National Renewable Energy Laboratories. In “Nothing but Net-Zero,” p. 32, see how NREL’s new facility will use renewable energy and innovative efficiency techniques to not only achieve net-zero for itself, but create repeatable examples for others to follow. In “Sea Change,” p. 20, learn how Ohlone College’s Newark Center for Health Sciences and Technology in Newark, Calif., was built to tread lightly on the land.
We’re proud to share just a taste of what’s happening in the building community today. As you go forward, strive for something greater on your next project. Innovate. Try something new and be part of the change. You may inspire the person next to you to do the same. I’ll close by quoting Leslie Nielson in Airplane!: “Good luck. We’re all counting on you.”