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Editorial: Tired of Green? Neither Are We


Robert Nieminen,

As I pen this article, last minute preparations are being made for Greenbuild in Chicago, where an array of inspiring speakers and more than 100 education sessions will fill the world's largest exhibit hall devoted to green building— including more than 1,000 exhibitors showcasing the latest in innovative, cutting-edge products and services, according to the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC).

The incredible growth of the show has been noticeable in both the attendance and exposure it receives, but also due to the overwhelming popularity of the USGBC's LEED® (Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design) Green Building Rating System. In fact, a recent press release from the USGBC boasts that, in November, the total footprint of commercial projects certified under LEED surpassed 1 billion square feet, with another 6 billion square feet of projects registered and currently working toward LEED certification around the world.

The statistics are impressive—without question—and to most people, it all sounds like a very good thing. Others, however, aren't so sure. Consider the carbon footprint that will be created by the thousands of people and products being transported to the show this year alone (myself included). Critics argue that not every company or product being showcased at Greenbuild is very sustainable at all; or that too many companies are just using clever marketing terms or deliberately supplying consumers with misleading information about their products' environmental attributes (aka, "greenwashing")—or that LEED standards are not stringent enough. Metrics are also a significant issue with LEED-certified buildings (although the USGBC is addressing the issue, as reported in our last issue). We even recently received an e-mail from a reader who asked if "green" is all there is left to report on anymore.

To those people, I say: I understand your frustration. Sustainability is no longer a buzz word, and it's safe to say that the market is oversaturated with eco-friendly messages from environmentally conscious companies that all have a plan to save the Earth, endangered animals, the human race, and so on. And to be fair, we at Interiors & Sources have played a considerable part in preaching the Green Gospel—having first taken a position in favor of sustainable design and adopting it as part of our mission statement back in 1995.

But here's the thing … we're living through one of the worst economies since the Great Depression, and yet the green building industry is projected to contribute $554 billion to the U.S. gross domestic product by 2013, according to the USGBC. While we're still a long way off from realizing a truly sustainable way of life (especially here in the United States), the statistics quoted in this column are signs of real progress. Lasting change takes time (and a lot of supporters), no matter what politicians would like for us to believe—regardless of political stripes.

And speaking of Washington, this issue features a facility of historic significance that hosts more than 3 million visitors annually. Find out more about this noteworthy space that helped RTKL Associates earn an Excellence in Historic Resources Award from AIA.

Also in this issue you will find NASA's LEED Gold-certified Jet Propulsion Laboratory's (JPL) Flight Projects Center in Pasadena, CA. Since 2000, the General Services Administration (GSA) has mandated that all new federal construction and major modernization projects attain, at minimum, a LEED Certified rating while striving for LEED Silver. Thanks to the architects at California-based LPA Inc., however, JPL's Flight Projects Center surpassed this mandate, achieving Gold certification on a Silver budget—making it the greenest facility in the NASA family.

Saving the best for last (drum roll please), I am also pleased to announce the winners of our second annual Readers' Choice Awards. We posted every product covered in the magazine throughout 2010 (editorially speaking) on our website and opened the polls for voting. We received thousands of votes across 13 different categories to determine which products and furnishings you thought were worthy of being dubbed "Best Of". Thanks to everyone who participated in the voting process, and we look forward to bringing you the latest introductions brought to market in the year ahead.