The North American green building movement arguably began in the 1960s with the back to the land movement.

However, its modern expression as evidenced in this 2006 article is more mainstream.

Wal-Mart for instance uses "Rows of little plastic domes" on the roof of one store. "Inside each dome, a trio of computer-aimed mirrors tracks the sun and bounces its light down a reflective shaft and through a milky white lens, illuminating the stockroom below." This is similar to how ancient Egyptians lit the interior of buildings. The same "store's foundation is made of ground-up chunks of runway recycled from Denver's old Stapleton International Airport. Porous paving in its parking lot soaks up and filters polluted storm-water runoff. Huge north-facing windows provide most of the store's interior light. Used motor oil from the tire and lube shop helps heat the store, as does old vegetable oil from the deli."

According to Don Moseley, senior Wal-Mart engineer for environmental innovation, these and other efforts "are good for the environment and good
for our business....The huge majority of changes we're making are financially beneficial."

Other "adherents are financial institutions such as Citigroup, PNC and Bank of America; automakers such as Toyota, General Motors, Ford and Honda; and such retailers as Wal-Mart, Target, Home Depot, Lowe's, Chipotle and Patagonia." New Major League Baseball "parks in Minneapolis and
Washington, D.C., are poised to go green. So is the biggest privately
financed development under way in the United States: MGM Mirage's $7
billion Las Vegas City Center, due in 2009."

US government crackdown

The US GAO has announced also that all US "federal buildings will be green... applying stringent green building standards to its $12 billion
construction portfolio of courthouses, post offices, border stations and other buildings."

"States also are cracking down. Washington state began requiring in
April 2005 that all state-funded construction projects larger than 5,000
square feet, including school district buildings, be built green. Many
other states - including California, Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Michigan and Nevada - have followed suit. So have nearly 60 cities and counties nationwide" and "scores of colleges and universities... Harvard
University alone has 12 green buildings." Architecture and interior design schools consider it standard.
"Kira Gould, the incoming chair
of the American Institute of Architects' environment committee. "I see a lot of firms looking for expertise in green buildings at all levels," she said.

Canadian government crackdown

Building on a successful effort that reduced greenhouse gas emissions by 24 per cent, the Canadian federal government undertook in 2005 a wide variety of programs in greening of government operations. Many of these affected government buildings.


"The key to the movement" in both countries "is a new set of standards that's far more demanding, environmentally speaking, than local building codes. The movement invites innovation because it's based on environment-protecting performance standards, not rules. That leaves it up to architects, builders and designers to decide how best to reduce energy and water consumption, for example, or workers' dependence on cars."

U.S. Green Building Council

"The U.S. Green Building Council, a Washington, D.C.-based alliance
of some 7,200 architects, builders, land use planners and academics,
issued the first set of standards in 2000, covering big commercial
construction projects. Standards for existing buildings and commercial interiors came out in 2004. Criteria for new single-family homes, public schools, hospitals and cookie-cutter commercial buildings such as bank and retail store branches will come in the next year or two." In Canada the timeline is similar.

Rick Fedrizzi, the council's
founding chairman and chief executive officer, is absolutely confident of taking over the industry: "We'll be at that point" in the movement, Fedrizzi said recently, "when it's no longer called green building; it's just the way building is done and they are simply called buildings." In 2000, "about $790 million in new commercial
construction met the council's standards." By 2006, "about $7.2 billion...In 2000, a few hundred projects sought council approval. Today, more than 4,900 have registered for certification."

The Green Building Council Certification's "determinations are based, like a report card, on a
numeric calculation of improvements in building performance. Relocating
executive offices from a building's outer shell to its core so that
more employees work in natural sunlight, for example, helps to earn a point. Building on a cleaned-up former hazardous-waste site or vacant
inner-city lot helps, too. So does recycling an old building's rubble
and using renewable bamboo flooring rather than oak. So does planting
rooftop vegetation for its insulating and runoff-reducing effects..."


Also "seeding the building with motion detectors that turn off lights and computers when they're not being used." These building automation systems, based on the BACnet and related protocols, are particularly important as they represent low-hanging fruit: easy cheap changes that can reduce up to 30 of energy use.


"Independent outside contractors grade the applications and the council
awards certificates to projects that earn at least 26 points under its
Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design program. Those that rate 33-38 points earn LEED-Silver, 39-51 points LEED-Gold and 52-69 points LEED-Platinum." LEED was a UK standard originally, and is being spread to MURB and single-family homes.

services not products

Other technologies include "waterless urinals, recyclable industrial carpet, low-energy LED lighting systems, soybean-based fabrics,insulating window glass and other wares." Ray Anderson, "the founder of Interface Inc. of Atlanta, which makes
office carpets entirely out of recycled material," and which leads the service economy approach of turning products into services, "offered two telling numbers that reflect the movement's growth: 135, the number of attendees when Anderson attended the Green Building Council's first convention in 1998; and 13,000, the estimate of the Denver convention attendees."

marketing edge

"The virtually unchallenged logic that buildings in an era of global
warming need to be designed to minimize their environmental impact.
Already, some retailers, such as Patagonia and Chipotle, are marketing
their greenness as an attribute that sets them apart from competitors."

A "performance-rating system for generic store designs that retailers such as Starbucks and Whole Foods rely on for their new construction nationwide" means "thousands of green buildings will start popping up across the country at viral speed." Retail is supposedly at the tipping point according to Kim Hosken, the
council's director for new construction.

lower operating costs

Enterprises that lease rather than own premises have no real incentive to go green, however, since the benefits of lower operating costs may not pay for higher upfront capital asset costs.

"A variant of that problem arises with new-home buyers, said Michele
Myers, a custom-home builder in the Durham, N.C., area. Whatever the
long-term savings on heating and cooling bills, she said, buyers rarely
choose to spend more up front on energy-efficient appliances and extra

However, "added costs of green building - long assumed to be 10 to 20 percent more than traditional construction - are falling and may have been exaggerated, according to some who've built green recently." Harvard has found so much extra cost


Harvard officials were surprised at "how interested building occupants are in these projects. It's almost as though they're looking for something they can believe in."

Patagonia discoverd a "work force that's enthusiastic about its" LEED-Silver workplace and "are repaying Patagonia's investment in natural light, radiant heat and high-exchange air circulation, among other measures, with better productivity. It's a common but hard-to-measure claim often made for green buildings. Abeloe based his on worker error rates:

:"Some companies in our industry are happy with error rates of 1, 2,
even 3 percent" of their shipments, he said. "Ours is a fraction of a
percentage point.""


A resilient community necessarily relies on green buildings that use drastically less energy and water and require ideally no external sewage or water or power lines. Even if they do rely on a central power grid or sewage system, the load capacity of these systems is drastically increased if each building puts less load on them.

As just one example, if buildings rely on electricity or natural gas or oil heat to keep plumbing from freezing in an ice storm, the damage is much more likely, and the time frames of repair much shorter, and the likelihood that vulnerable persons will be harmed in a crisis much greater.

The Civic Efficiency Group dealt with these issues in its CEG recommendations to Infrastructure Canada, 2004-12-21 and advocacy of better signal infrastructure for Canadian cities.