The business case for green buildings: ASBC event hosted at USGBC
People like to talk about the environment in terms of protecting nature — making sure we don’t pollute or ensuring conservation of natural resources for future generations. That’s a worthy goal; since buildings in the United States account for 39 percent of our carbon emissions, more than industry or transportation, it's a good place to start if we want to cut emissions.
Another way to think about it is in terms of creating a good working environment. That includes making sure that indoor air quality is at healthy levels, and harmful chemicals aren’t used in building materials. The goal is to protect another valuable resource: the employees without whom an organization can’t succeed.
If we’re serious about cutting carbon emissions, averting the worst effects of climate change and creating a better working environment, buildings are an excellent place to focus our efforts.
That’s why the American Sustainable Business Council (ASBC) teamed up with USGBC for part of our Business Summit for a Sustainable Economy, which wrapped up last week.
During the summit, we held a reception in USGBC’s beautiful headquarters here in Washington, a LEED Platinum space, and we were honored to have Rep. Paul Tonko (D-N.Y.) join us and our members to speak on the importance of high-performance buildings and how they drive productivity. Both USGBC and ASBC recognize the value of these kinds of investments, both for the environment and the bottom line, so it made nothing but sense for our organizations to partner.
ASBC represents more than 165,000 businesses and more than 300,000 business leaders nationwide. These are people who understand that a healthy environment and economic growth go hand in hand. LEED buildings are a great example, thanks to the rating system's efficient use of natural resources and a focus on a healthy workplace.
To that end, ASBC supported USGBC’s LEED v4 standard, and its efforts to limit chemicals of concern, against attacks from the American Chemistry Council. We continue to encourage Congress to reform the Toxic Substances Control Act so that dangerous chemicals can be better regulated everywhere and to pass energy efficiency legislation that would incentivize construction of more efficient buildings. This is all good for business.
After all, if air quality is better, workers won’t get sick as often. Lost productivity from illness cost businesses $227 billion last year alone, so we’re not talking chump change. And investing in energy efficiency, as one bill in Congress would do, would cut carbon emissions by hundreds of millions of tons and slash energy costs by tens of billions each year. That’s money businesses can put to better use, including hiring more people or making needed investments.
That’s why it was great to host our visiting business leaders in USGBC's LEED-certified space. We know that what USGBC does is good for business and for productivity; the more people who see that in action, the better.