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December 18, 2009

Views on Thoughtful Sustainability

by Christopher Hill

Slow road, Image via www.sxc.huAs I thought about my good friend Eeyore, and my prior post (and borderline obsession with children’s characters (a totally different issue)), I realized that many can (and sometimes do) take my attitudes and penchant for baby steps as skepticism toward the whole idea of sustainable construction and its necessity.  Nothing could be farther from the truth.

I am committed in a very real way toward the idea of sustainability, I just feel that we are rushing headlong into the void without thought of potential consequences of our actions.  In the laudable zeal to make broad sweeping changes to governmental policy and building activity, I see the details being lost.  As I have posted before, here and elsewhere, I am at heart a risk management guy.  I see many issues through the same liability lens and feel that Murphy was an optimist.  For this reason (much to my lovely wife’s chagrin) I always look for the cloud in the silver lining (is that enough mangled cliches for one post?).

While I don’t think everyone in the “green” construction space should be thinking this way, we do need folks who are willing to look at issues as simple as a broken window or the potential for liability due to new technologies that are not time worn and tested as we move forward toward a more sustainable future.  This is not rocket science.  These are not high level policy issues.  We need to make sure that we consider the simple questions even if we don’t have the answers.

Why do I spread this wet blanket (okay I couldn’t resist one more bad metaphor)?  Because if we head into the future without consideration for these questions the whole sustainable enterprise could come crashing down.  One or two big products liability lawsuits or energy performance related lawsuits could chill the market for these buildings by driving contractors and suppliers from the space.  Without the companies that deliver the parts and build the buildings, all of the academic and policy decisions will be for naught.

In short, it is my commitment to a long term solution, and not skepticism that keeps me working to make sure that we understand the risks.  Without consideration of these very real and very critical (in my view as a construction attorney) issues, the market will not open and we will continue to live in the world of theory without meeting our potential and historical values through a long term and, yes, sustainable movement toward more energy efficient infrastructure.

Okay, that felt good, now back to working on contracts to deal with these issues.

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Yahya E. B. Henry

About Yahya E. B. Henry

Merging his passion for cities, real estate, tech and travel, Yahya is introducing the world to a new model of real estate development that draws from best practices around the globe.

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7 Comments

  • Thanks for the platform YahYa!

  • Social comments and analytics for this post…

    This post was mentioned on Twitter by aribra: [blog] Views on Thoughtful Sustainability http://bit.ly/7oyjNz #greenbuilding…

  • My pleasure Chris, great post!

  • Interesting you point out kids stories – there are two Dr. Seuss books that I carry with my underneath my childhood. The first is The Lorax. The second is the story “King Looie Katz” from the book “I Can Lick 30 Tigers Today”. I can still remember being 3-4 and emphathizing with the last little cat that had enough and slammed the bigger cat's tail to the ground, and the simple elegance of each cat carrying their own tail still speaks to me. I just love watching my 4 year old son inhale the same magic.

    I think those metaphors are wonderful and evocative and persuasive and connecting the problems we face and how we can overcome them.

    (PS – log-in weirdness for some reason …)

  • I actually have a signed print of the Lorax. It was my “window” in my office during my AG days. Great book. I also like Yertle the Turtle and the turtle that sneezed and brought down a king. Kids stories and characters can really speak volumes quickly.

  • I think it's an important distinction you make moving forward deliberately versus “headlong into the void.” There are surely going to be significant unintended consequences if we move at an irrational pace & my fear is that those consequences will outweigh the benefits. You echo my view that words of caution come from a “commitment to a long term solution,” not out of being a skeptical obstructionist. Good work.

  • I think it's an important distinction you make moving forward deliberately versus “headlong into the void.” There are surely going to be significant unintended consequences if we move at an irrational pace & my fear is that those consequences will outweigh the benefits. You echo my view that words of caution come from a “commitment to a long term solution,” not out of being a skeptical obstructionist. Good work.

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