Growing up in Iowa, there were things I could count on each day: reports about hog and soybean futures, farmers discussing the weather and Paul Harvey’s broadcast. Everyone I knew listened to and trusted Harvey. During nearly 60 years as a national radio personality, Harvey’s grandfatherly voice, dramatic pauses and unique tone inflections established him as a trusted friend to many devoted listeners. I didn’t always agree with Harvey’s banter, but in one of his final shows he highlighted how he saw the best innovations and ideas emerge during difficult times.

Green building certainly seems to be one of those ideas that continues to gain momentum even as the design and construction industry struggles in today’s harsh economic climate. Some of sustainability’s success can be attributed to the influence of federal, state and local governments going green. As talk about mandating green-building guidelines grows, the Washington, D.C.-based U.S. General Services Administration studied whether high-performance buildings actually provide benefits to the environment and building owners and occupants. A post-occupancy evaluation of 12 green GSA buildings yielded encouraging findings; read a summary of the report in “ecommercial,” page 30.

The rate of new construction is decreasing, but the potential to green our nation’s current building stock is enormous. The “feature,” page 20, highlights a GSA build-to-suit property in Chicago occupied by a regional branch of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Washington. The building earned a Washington-based U.S. Green Building Council LEED for Existing Buildings: Operations & Maintenance Platinum rating through retrofits and tweaks of existing systems.

Government programs also are turning Americans' attention toward sustainability. For example, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 contains spending that is designed to create green-collar jobs and develop a more sustainable economy. The green-building industry is well positioned to take advantage of these jobs and become a major part of the economy as you’ll read in the “special,” page 52.

If Paul Harvey were still with us, he might say we created today’s economic slump with our greed. Seeking the fastest way to earn a dollar was not the basis of the American dream. Instead, early settlers came to America to carve out a better life for themselves and their families— a life in which freedoms and hard work resulted in the achievement of any goal. The green-building industry certainly will become a dominant aspect of the next iteration of the American dream. I, for one, am looking forward to “the rest of the story.”

Christina Koch
Christina Koch