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Research probes public attitudes to green-building value proposition

Sources: U.S. Green Building Council, Washington, D.C.; CP staff 

U.S. Green Building Council research finds limited recognition among the general public on the significance of issues at the core of the green building community’s mission—sustainability, the environment, and energy efficient, occupant-friendly space—and their connection to resource conservation and climate change.  

“When people think about emissions, they think about cars, power plants and industries. They rarely think about buildings, leaving the green building community with a messaging mountain to climb,” says USGBC CEO Mahesh Ramanujam. “We are not reaching the broader population effectively enough to change their behavior or decisions on the scale necessary to combat climate-related risks.”

Findings in the “Standard Issue” report are compelling the Council to identify key areas to drive a message of how green buildings can help, who they help and why they are necessary. Promoting healthy built environment and community outcomes, for one, stresses how “Sustainable cities improve people’s lives and better designed spaces help people live longer, healthier and happier lives. Toxin-free materials, good air ventilation and air-purifying plants, all together in a home or workplace, can improve physical health and comfort.”

The report weighs feedback or perspective from focus groups with millennials, community opinion formers, young parents, and commercial and residential developers, plus a survey of the general public at large. While three-quarters of participants or respondents say environmental problems are very or somewhat important to them, they do very little to address the problems in their own lives, considering it too daunting a task. The report also shows that people want to live in a healthy environment, but don’t typically associate green buildings with being part of the solution. When asked which terms most strongly relate to the environment and being green, only 11 percent of “Standard Issue” subjects cite green buildings.

“We know green buildings are only part of the solution to lengthening and bettering the lives of every person on the planet,” Ramanujam contends. “That’s why the heart of the green building community’s efforts must go beyond construction or efficiency. Instead, our focus must be on what matters most within our buildings: people. This research questions our conventional wisdom and experience and helps inform our strategy for the future.”

“Standard Issue” is the first of a quarterly series to be released through the Living Standard campaign, launched at the 2018 Greenbuild International Conference and Expo in Chicago and focused on the belief that storytelling can lead to a more sustainable world. As part of the inaugural report, the Council commissioned ClearPath Strategies, a global public opinion research company, to conduct qualitative and quantitative research across five regions of the U.S.