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Should the Green Building Industry Be Worried about a Trump Administration? (Yes)

placeholder+imagePosted on: 01/14/2017

Should the Green Building Industry Be Worried about a Trump Administration? (Yes)

Some (ok, MANY) in the green building industry are worried about a pending Trump Administration, as reported by Construction Drive recently: While it may be affirming that you aren't crazy if you've been thinking about this, attend any green building organization meeting or event, and you'll hear the same thing.  What the heck happens next when it seems an anti-environment wave is coming out of the US when the rest of the world seems ready and heck, downright eager to move forward, together, on climate progress?

Should we be worried?  The answer seems a clear yes.  When it might have been such a clever and even brilliant idea to nominate people with some positive environmental record for key positions and try to build some (green) bridges, the nominations of Rick Perry, Scott Pruitt, and Rex Tillerson are like something from a bad comedy.  Only it's not comedy.  

While many environmentalists and even regular folks who worry even a little about the planet and future generations are absorbing the string of hottest years on record, watching our local climates and crops and species change before our very eyes, and developing maybe some hope for positive developments when almost 200 nations signed the Paris Agreement, we're also all absorbing how much Rex Tillerson's Exxon really did know about climate change for decades no less, and what they did to deliberately mislead the world.  Just imagine what Exxon could have done instead to lead a clean energy revolution instead??!  We're also learning that Scott Pruitt from fracking-earthquake racked Oklahoma not only doesn't believe much in the EPA (or protecting the environment for that matter), he's sued in favor of fracking in Oklahoma.  Meanwhile, Rick Perry and Scott Pruitt have both publicly talked of dismantling Departments they could potentially now lead? (Fox, meet Henhouse?) Forgive us for sounding childish (though the President-Elect can do it?), but this is like living in opposite world.  Rick Pruit has literally called climate change a “contrived, phony mess.”  It seems Trump threw out the craziest ideas he could possibly think of, maybe to test what could get through or what our government might possibly approve?  Or to see if a few appointments would get through if we were all so distracted and upset by these evil-villain-seeming non-options?

The bad news?  It does seem that Trump can roll back Executive orders, including the ones that require all Federal buildings to be green.  Why would he and a new administration do this when this article confirms increased rents, occupancy and therefore building values?   Because these days it seems more fun in some sad way to be "against" and to "denounce" than to try and collaborate and work together for positive change.  

The good news is that the green building industry is of course growing - USGBC continues to add LEED buildings into the hundreds of thousands now, and the number of trained professionals with LEED, Living Building, Passive House and other credentials are growing exponentially.  Green Building growth and materials revenues are estimated in the hundreds of billions, regardless of the industry source.  Green building is simply smart building, and building owners can see the operational saving and know this.  More good news is that he won't "get away with" dismantling everything.  As author Kim Slowey points out, the Energy Act of 2007 thankfully can't simply be canceled by the President.  

One risk is that it will become harder to attract and help bring new people down the learning curve if a negative attitude towards the environment and therefore, green building develops in Washington.  When a percentage of Congress and people potentially places in key leadership positions are still talking about whether we're sure about climate change, it's hard to imagine sufficient progress.  

Other risks come into play if energy prices continue to stay depressed and a fossil-fuel supporting administration doesn't prioritize energy efficiency and a transition to a more sustainable and ideally circular economy (How else to meet #COP21 goals??)  

At this point, every green builder and every environmentalist needs to double down in their own work and in growing communications about successes, so we can encourage and help educate others.  We all also must work to prevent or challenge every negative green building and related nomination, decision and policy in any reasonable, legal way we can.  And we need to keep faith in and support our green Mayors and Governors who are out there doing a great job, some of whom have said that a change in national administration will not dampen their enthusiasm for doing the right thing.  

It's hard to imagine business and government deciding not to build greener and healthier and not to save money on purpose?  But it seems lately that stranger things have happened.  

Rate It Green is not a political organization, and we work hard to be open-minded and fair.  We encourage green building practices and environmental protection and progress.  But these three nominations couldn't have made less sense, and it's just better to be open and honest and to do what we can.  We have all got to worry together.  Additionally, crossing our fingers will not be enough.  It’s also time to become more loud and more active than we’ve ever been.

Green builders often talk about this industry as a movement.  But it’s time to stop just saying this in some ways, and time to start acting like one more than we ever have.