Green building is fairly new, so naturally there are a lot of questions about it. But somehow, amidst the excitement of pursuing new technologies and arguing about what works and what doesn’t, it seems a fundamental question has been left in the dust…. is green building dangerous?
Like any good question, it can be answered with another question: dangerous to whom? Dangerous to the developer, the inhabitant, the team members, the insurer, or to the economy? That answer, dear reader, is a mixed bag.
Now, I’ve most likely caused a number of you to see red by even suggesting that green could be dangerous. But remember that other cultural innovations through history – the atomic bomb and nuclear energy to name a few – have been viewed at times with the frenzied level of expected salvation that green building and green products have recently encountered.
Obviously, green building isn’t about to physically blow up and kill people, so it’s not “dangerous” in that way. Theoretically at least, it might even be increasing people’s life spans by taking harmful chemicals out of buildings like volatile organic compounds.
But remember, green building is just a kid. And kids grow up into amazing – or horrifying – adults. What happens when green building suddenly spawns a spate of lawsuits (which local LEED certified lawyers assure me will happen, the only question is when). What happens when someone discovers a green building sacred cow does more harm than good (biofuels anyone?) What happens when the greenest greenie we know inevitable turns out to be clear cutting Amazon forests in their backyard?
Will the increasing green momentum implode or is green building and the ideals behind it stronger than that? It probably depends who you’re asking.
A while back I spoke with an indoor air quality expert who said he’s been in green buildings – LEED, Built Green, etc – that had such bad indoor air quality the house was effectively poisoning the people that lived in it. While it’s (hopefully) an anomaly, what if it isn’t?
If we look at the legal aspects of green alone, the trial has just begun. I wrote a story in February here about the legal issues facing green buildings. Just getting information for the one article was excruciating because there just isn’t that much information, or people willing, to talk about the subject. In the past few months however, I’ve heard more and more people saying that green developers need to protect themselves in contracts against possible green building issues. Green building, they say, is a whole new ball game. And many clients aren’t aware of what they could be doing for protection. For more on this issue, check out the excellent green liability subject on greenbuildings NYC, especially this post.
So is green building dangerous? You know as well as I there is no answer to that right now. But it’s still a question that can be raised, and often isn’t. If you’ve heard it raised before in any printed form, please comment below to tell me about it, or just tell me what you think.
I suppose even if there were an answer, it could be answered by yet another: if green building is dangerous, does the good it does outweigh the danger?