In Reinventing Green Building, I argue that it's time to make new choices. If we refuse to look at our situation dispassionately and don't make painful but needed changes, we’re choosing to remain with the status quo—even if it’s not working. That’s the worst choice because we can’t keep improvising solutions that will cut carbon emissions from buildings faster and far more dramatically than we have to date. And we can’t give up the effort, either. If one tool becomes too dull to make the proper cut, the choice is either to sharpen it or pick up another one better suited for our task.
As the late Yogi Berra, America’s preeminent practical philosopher, once said, “When you come to a fork in the road, take it." It’s time to take a new road, to make a new path that leads demonstrably and decisively toward a low-carbon future for ALL buildings.
Here's one scenario that I think has considerable merit:
Internet 3.0—An Entirely New Approach That Focuses on Great User Experience. In this scenario, the focus is on the user experience, and the system lets users contribute to a significant degree to developing credits and certification protocols. To get this done, a major organization, one without USGBC’s institutional inertia, would need to deliver a technologically enabled product development and delivery model, one that works on a smartphone and sits on a cloud-based platform. (Google may be a logical candidate for this assignment.) This scenario incorporates Key Performance Indicators for sustainability and allows users to assess energy use, water use, waste recycling, purchasing, and Scope 3 carbon emissions on a platform that easily allows for third-party app developers to create ratings for each building industry segment.
The technology-enabled option for green building certification, presented throughout the book, when combined with a Sustainability KPI approach, offers the potential for green building to ride the wave of technological change upending the real estate and building operations industry, in the same way that the iPod upended the recording industry, Uber and Lyft the taxicab industry, Airbnb the hotel industry, the iPhone the mobile phone business, and the iPad the desktop/laptop computer industry.
There’s too much money, easy-to-use technology and software smarts pursuing building owners, developers, government staff, operators, and facility managers to cling to a green building certification model developed during the “desktop” era.
Implementing this scenario will more than likely require a new organization, one aiming squarely at the “early majority” segment and one committed to “crossing the chasm” from innovators and early adopters to broader market acceptance.
The Chasm concept’s founder, Geoffrey Moore, describes the issue as finding buyers who “are ‘pragmatists in pain,’ stuck with a problem business process and willing to take a chance on something new, provided it is directly focused on solving their specific use case.” That surely describes the conundrum for today’s green building audience. They want to do the right (sustainable) thing, but they’re not willing to pay LEED’s price to have GBCI certify that they did it.
This new organization should have the financial strength needed to launch a new green building rating system and enough savvy to craft a brand name that will resonate with the user market. It also will need to design a way to stay alive financially until its brand can take hold. If we take G+P as a model, then at a $1500 certification fee this program would require about 7,000 annual certifications to build a $10 million business that could afford a staff large enough to sell and administer such a program. It’s clear from LEED’s initial success that there is certainly such a big user base potentially available.