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Chapter 1 Introduction and Overview


T he high-performance green building movement is said to be the most successful environmental movement in the United States, certainly the fastest-growing and highly successful at creating partnerships with a broad cross section of manufactur- ers, builders, and others who are not often allies with environmentalists. In addition to having enormous success, the green building movement provides a model for other sectors of economic endeavor about how to create a consensus-based, market-driven program that has rapid uptake, not to mention broad impact. With respect to build- ings, unprecedented forces are reshaping the building construction industry, forcing professionals engaged in all phases of building construction, design, operation, financing, insurance, and public policy to fundamentally rethink their roles in the building delivery process. The main impetus is the sustainable development move- ment, which is changing not only physical structures but also the workings of the companies and organizations that populate the built environment, as well as the hearts and minds of individuals who inhabit it.1 Fueled by examples of personal and corporate irresponsibility and negative publicity resulting from events such as the Enron debacle and the Wall Street mutual fund and stock trading scandals, account- ability and transparency are becoming the watchwords of today’s corporate world. Heightened corporate consciousness has embraced comprehensive sustainability reporting as the new standard for corporate transparency. Corporate transparency refers to complete openness of companies about all financial transactions and all decisions that affect their employees and the communities in which they operate. Major companies such as DuPont, the Ford Motor Company, and the Hewlett- Packard Company now employ triple bottom-line reporting,2 which refers to a corpo- rate refocus from mere financial results to a more comprehensive standard that also includes environmental and social impacts. By including these cornerstone princi- ples of sustainability in their annual reporting, corporations acknowledge their envi- ronmental and social impacts and ensure improvement in all arenas.

Still, other major forces such as climate change and the rapid depletion of the world’s oil reserves threaten national economies and the quality of life in developed countries. Both are connected to our dependence on fossil fuels, especially oil. Cli- mate change, caused at least in part by increasing concentrations of human-generated carbon dioxide, methane, and other gases in the Earth’s atmosphere, is believed by many authoritative scientific institutions and Nobel laureates to profoundly affect our future temperature regimes and weather patterns.3 Much of today’s built environment will still exist during the coming era of rising temperatures and sea levels; however, little consideration has been given to how human activity and building construction should adapt to potentially significant climate alterations. Global temperature increases must now be considered when forming assumptions about passive design, the building envelope, materials selection, and the types of equipment required to cope with higher atmospheric energy levels.

The oil rollover point describes the time when peak worldwide production of oil will occur and when approximately 50 percent of the world’s oil supply will have been depleted (see Figure 1.1).4 At the rollover point, the energy value of oil (the amount of energy into which the oil can be converted) will be less than the energy


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