Blogs > Ron Jones > February 2012

A Rose by Any Other Name

Arguably Shakespeare’s most recognizable character, Juliet Capulet, captures the play’s central theme and struggle in one simple line after asking her beloved Romeo Montague “what is in a name?”

“That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.”

It’s a message we can all take to heart as we grapple with how to market products, goods and services to the ever expanding green economy, especially the green building sector. And it’s been a problem since the early days of the movement.

When we started offering media services to companies interested in the green building arena we assumed, like many others encouraging sustainable business, that our major concern would be “greenwashing” by those who would over-promise and under-deliver, folks who would exaggerate claims about the environmentally friendly aspects of their offerings.

However, what we actually encountered was quite different. We rarely came across manufacturers who deliberately inflated their stories but quite the reverse. There were, and still are, serious concerns on the part of many that they will be challenged by skeptics, called out very publicly if they make claims they cannot categorically prove.

That fact, as much as any other single reason, may explain why third-party certifications and approvals have gained so much importance in the world of sustainability. It is one thing to say you’re green yourself, it’s quite another to have an endorsement from a trusted outside source.

But not every product or system has access to accepted criteria, testing and verification. Those tools simply don’t exist in every case. And that leaves companies wondering how they can safely get their message to potential customers.

Enter Shakespeare’s underlying message…

The rose is not sweet because of what it’s called. The rose is sweet because of what it is. Green is not just an ingredient, a feature or an attribute. Green is an outcome, an added benefit, a by-product of doing something well.

Green building is quality building, and green products are – more than anything else- quality products. You don’t have to call them green, just build in the right ingredients…responsible materials and processes, durability, resource efficiency, water and energy savings, response to indoor air/environment concerns…build in the quality and value.

That’s the story you need to tell. The green message will take care of itself, and your success will smell just as sweet.

Posted: 2/24/2012 10:19:05 AM by Mary Kestner | with 0 comments

Busted! (Yes, I Like Old Homes, Too)

OK, I’ll happily admit that I’m a real soft touch for old dogs, old trucks (you can easily tell how comfortable I am leaning against this cherry ’51 Chevy!), and old buildings, like the one housing the clocktower featured in our February 2012 issue.

These days I don’t have much time for close involvement with projects other than those in our VISION House® series and that means I have little direct participation with homeowners compared to a few years ago. So even though I’m regularly contacted by someone requesting my involvement in a particular project I’m rarely able to make an exception just due to time limitations.

But when a remodeler acquaintance asked me to look at an historic structure in New Orleans’ warehouse district I couldn’t resist the invitation. She and the property owners were struggling with design solutions in hopes of producing results that would do justice to an opportunity as unique and memorable as this. They offered me a chance to be involved and after one visit there was no way I could refuse.

My reward was that I got to know the creative and stubbornly determined owners, learned the fascinating story of their project, and had a chance to offer a little input along the way, while helping to make connections with some of the manufacturers of the essential products and systems that were needed to help assure maximum (and sustainable) results for this extraordinary residence.

I’ve long maintained that most existing buildings inherently have a “green” head start by virtue of the simple fact that they are already in place. The environmental costs for the land, materials and other resources required to construct them have already been paid and there’s no going back, so why not reuse rather than replace whenever possible? Still, they come with their own set of special concerns as well, like structural uncertainty, outdated and obsolete systems and fixtures, logistical difficulties, and code and safety challenges, just to name a few.

It is no small task to incorporate code compliant plumbing, electrical components, fire protection, controls and appliances (not to mention modern air conditioning and ventilation, sound attenuation, insulation, modern glazing, air and moisture barriers, etc.) into a traditional masonry and heavy timber structure where few surfaces are plumb or level, square corners are almost nonexistent and the utilities are perhaps a century old, but the result is more than worth the effort!

I hope you enjoy reading about the clocktower as much I enjoyed being involved.

Posted: 2/20/2012 6:59:41 AM by Mary Kestner | with 0 comments

Confronting Convention

A favorite story of mine comes from an interview with Thomas Edison who, late in his life, reportedly confided that if he "had known anything about metallurgy" he would never have invented the incandescent light bulb, because he "would have known it is impossible".

The  human imagination may be among the most powerful forces in the universe, but without the courage to exercise it, to challenge "conventional wisdom" and to embrace the endless possibilities, we are doomed to go along with outdated ideas and obsolete concepts that not only perpetuate our ignorance, but actually promote collective laziness and conservatism, leaving us increasingly unwilling to accept change, even when it is clearly in our own best interest.

The path of least resistance is found by going along with accepted thinking, because we don't want to risk the embarrassment of being wrong, or simply because we assume that others already agree with whatever is being said. Sadly, that is a path to nowhere.

Worse yet, we fool ourselves into believing we are part of the "solution" by participating in established institutions who on the surface appear to be seeking progress but who, in fact, use us to advance predetermined agendas. Their process has been perfectly described as "transactional, not deliverative" and they are masters and herding the rest of us in directions of their choosing.

Fortunately, there is also another ytpe of person who has the intellectual capacity and the courage to challenge the status quo, to confront conventional pluralistic ignorance and push the boundaries of the existing comfort zone.

Begun in 2002, and presented biennially in 2005, 2007, 2009 and 2011, the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon has challenged collegiate teams from a variety of countries to "design, build and operate solar-powered houses that are cost-effective, energy-efficient and attractive".

The 2011 Solar Decathlon provided more than 350,000 house visits over a ten day period, and information to millions more across the globe through a wide variety of media.  Additionally, more than 30 onsite public workshops were held, as well as a day of workshops dedicated to builders and industry.  Conducted on the National Mall in Washingotn, the event featured 19 teams from as nearby as Maryland and from as far away as New Zealand.

As you can see in our January issue, the innovative solutions were as diverse and imaginative as you might expect, but they shared some commonalities too - especially a fearless pursuit of knowledge and solutions for a better future.

Posted: 2/1/2012 9:22:14 AM by Mary Kestner | with 0 comments

About Me

Ron Jones, Co-Founder and President of Green Builder® Media, is recognized as one of the fathers of the green building movement. Instrumental in establishing guidelines and programs through NAHB, USGBC and a variety of regional initiatives, he has more recently worked with the International Code Council in the development of both the National Green Building Standard (ICC 700) and the International Green Construction Code.

He is the charter chairman of the Green Builder Coalition, a grassroots non-profit advocacy group whose goal is to promote integrity in the building industry, and beyond, in an effort to return balance and harmony to the relationship between the built environment and the natural one.

A recognized author and keynote speaker on four continents, his industry credentials and leadership experience, combined with his inspirational message and “take no prisoners” style, make him a high-demand presenter for conferences and events of all kinds.




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