U.S. Green Building Council Report Shows that Climate Action Requires Putting People First

With Climate Week upon us, we realize that elevating the role the building industry needs to play in the climate discussion is more important than ever, but the building sector’s work has struggled to rise to the top of conversations. Why aren’t Americans demanding greener homes, offices and schools? The second report from USGBC’s Living Standard initiative takes a closer look at how Americans feel about the environment, sustainability and green building, and how we need to better communicate how buildings can be a promising climate solution.

The study sampled 1,850 adults across the U.S. The report examines steps that can be taken to mobilize the general public and provides tools to help motivate people to get involved. The report reveals:

  • 39% of Americans say they have never considered or don’t know the impact buildings have on the environment and their health. Despite nearly 4 in 10 saying they’ve had direct, personal experience with asthma, dirty drinking water, asbestos and sick buildings, demanding greener spaces is not top of mind.
  • While most Americans believe environmental issues are important (82%; up 8-points in 6 months), they don’t believe the issues are important enough to make action a priority.

So, what will motivate people to act? It requires the industry to shift the conversation from “buildings that protect the planet” to “buildings that protect people.”

  • When people learned that something in the environment put their health at risk, almost half would make real adjustments to protect themselves and their family.

But, according to the report, people do not often consider how the places where they spend their time affect their health. When asked how often they consider the impact of the buildings they spend time in on the environment and their health, 39% said they never considered it or do not know. The lack of awareness is significant, yet 50% consider it very important that green buildings improve health.

“Prioritizing the development of green buildings is about improving the standard of living for everyone while also contributing to our climate goals,” said Mahesh Ramanujam, president and CEO of USGBC. “Through LEED, we can create spaces that protect our health and increase our productivity, and also help reduce carbon emissions and improve air and water quality. We should all feel confident that our schools, hospitals, offices and homes are reducing our exposure to toxins and allergens, and have the ability to protect us during critical moments, such as natural or man-made disasters.”

Moving forward companies need to do more to connect the dots between how green building practices positively impact people’s health and well-being. The conversation needs to move beyond construction and efficiency and explain how these efforts are delivering a consistent, high standard of living.

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