Greener than Green or Green Fatigue?

Hello, my name is Mike Loughery and I am Director, Corporate Marketing Communications for CertainTeed Corporation.

Copy of Michael low res picWe’ve seen tremendous promotion by all types of companies about how “green” they are. The “greenest this” and the “most environmentally friendly that.” It’s easy to get caught up in it all.  We see consumers jumping on the bandwagon and we all follow right along, hoping to tap into what we think is an insatiable appetite for green and sustainable products.

And here we are, several years later and what have we accomplished? At CertainTeed, we have reached inside our core selves and found that a lot of what gets credit for being “green” these days already existed as very aggressive cost-savings initiatives—efforts that existed long before the green discussion started.  Our position is simple:  we strive to be the industry leader in the development of sustainable building products and the environmentally friendly operation of our facilities.

However, promoting “green” means only promoting what you can back up.  We don’t buy into the “greener than green itself” mentality which dilutes the message and impact of the overall green movement.  Unfortunately, there is so much overhyped green speak out there that the hard-working efforts of those who really want to make a difference in the world of sustainability are being hindered.  Everywhere you look there’s so much green–who knows what to believe?  Now, the focus becomes whether it’s “green washing” or the efforts are truly legitimate.

I hear it from architects and even the media—this idea of “green fatigue.”  So much so, that serious questions are being raised as to the legitimacy or believability of manufacturers’ claims in their advertising and marketing materials. 

I believe the appetite for green is still there, but maybe it’s time to do a gut check.  We all know that Green is here to stay.  Now, the challenge for all of us is to responsibly represent ourselves to preserve the integrity of what the green movement is all about.  Does it mean going low-key while letting our actions speak for themselves?  Maybe. 

We have a responsibility to promote and also educate about the true sustainable advantages of our products—energy efficiency, indoor air quality, moisture and mold resistance, recyclability, recycled content and so on.  All the other stuff is cheap window dressing.

If you’re green, great, promote it—but do so responsibly.  Back up those words with proof.  Consumers want the truth.  I’d be interested in your thoughts.  Where is this green movement going?  How can we promote green legitimately without causing distrust in the marketplace?

Extreme Makeover Ohio Style

Over the RhineOver-the-Rhine is an old, historic neighborhood in Cincinnati, Ohio, with some amazing architecture, that has been driven down by economic pressures for the last several decades.

 A group of young architects, City Studios Architecture is taking on the restoration of these buildings. To do this, they’ve tapped into some general contractors; builders and developers who have identified financial resources that provided seed money (Section 8 housing, block grants, economic development funds) for this project. The overall goal is to rehabilitate and save the buildings while honoring the traditional workmanship and design. This must be done in a way which is cost effective, durable, and creates a building which is affordable to operate.

City Studios was faced with many physical challenges.  For example, many of the buildings are row houses that were built around 1900.  In some cases, the middle building has been compromised and needs to be leveled which leaves the other buildings with what was an interior dividing wall that is now an exterior wall. Now you have the challenge of weatherizing these walls.

One of CertainTeed’s customers had called on City Studio as a new firm. What he found were eager, young architects with a great project and lots of questions.  This customer had worked with me on some projects in the past and called to see if I could help them out. Their questions were not just idle chit-chat, they were complex issues. I did some computer models and simulations and sent them the results with some explanation. As a result, they asked if we could meet. I was able to meet with them and their general contractor, The Model Group, while on another assignment in Ohio.

As this dynamic group of young architects moves forward with this monumental undertaking, some of the preferred solutions to individual issues may lie outside of CertainTeed’s product offerings. In those cases, I have been reaching out to my Building Science colleagues in complimentary product lines to lend their expertise. This is becoming more of a team project and an exciting one at that.

Bottom line: City Studio Architecture is off and running. They are restoring old buildings and building new in-fill construction to complement the existing structures.  They are creating jobs and are working on interesting projects which in these economic times is a great thing for young architects.

It’s not the biggest thing in the world but it’s what Cincinnati is doing to improve their own backyard and could be a model for other communities.  It’s a great thing and I will be following and reporting their progress in other blogs.

Lucas Hamilton is the Manager of Building Science Applications for CertainTeed Corporation