"We've got the whole world in our hands"

For those of you who read this blog regularly (you are out there, right?), you may remember that a few weeks ago I wrote about energy efficiency. With the United Nations Climate Change Conference being held the next two weeks (Dec 7 – 18) in Copenhagen, Denmark, I started thinking some more about what energy efficiency really is and how efficient, sustainable buildings can help contribute to a solution for global climate change.

For years the American mindset was “greed is good” (รก la Gordon Gekko in the 1987 movie “Wall Street”). We produced a lot, consumed even more and thought little of the impact our indulgence would have on the planet. Today, our culture is experiencing a tremendous shift toward conservation – fiscally and environmentally. Wastefulness is criticized; recycling is the norm; and organic, local food is praised and preferred.

As new generations – those that grew up recycling and took college courses like “Environmental Literature” – enter the workforce and begin to spend their paychecks, it becomes very important that businesses in all industries have a deep understanding of how to efficiently conserve the environment. Because it is those businesses that will gain the respect of a new generation and will ultimately thrive in the future marketplace.

So What Exactly is Energy Efficiency?
It’s not a new concept, but it seems that energy efficiency is the term of the day (or year). According to the World Energy Council (WEC) definition, the idea is two-fold: Energy efficiency can be reached through creating products that don’t use up as much energy, and it can also be reached by making wise management decisions.

Energy Efficiency in the Building Industry
U.S. Secretary of State, Hillary Rodham Clinton said, "Climate change is a clear and present danger to our world that demands immediate attention. The United States is fully engaged and ready to lead and determined to make up for lost time, both at home and abroad."

Well, as we have mentioned, the built environment has a profound impact on climate change and for this reason, the building industry has become a leader in trends toward sustainability. And building product manufacturers (BPMs) are doing all they can to help. Through product development, energy modeling programs, awareness campaigns and tools for architects, employees and individuals, BPMs are working to lead the charge, so to speak.

A survey conducted by Building Design + Construction magazine found that more than four out of five AEC professionals answered that they would be “somewhat” or “significantly” more involved in green building within two to three years. Less than one in ten of these respondents believe that green building is simply a passing fad.

Because of these trends toward environmentalism and sustainability, now is a perfect time for manufacturers to capitalize on rising interest in energy efficiency. And as a new generation of architects, contractors, builders and designers emerges, manufacturers who focus on energy efficiency will see their supporters increase.

What difference will a focus on energy efficiency make?

A big difference, according to a report from the International Energy Agency (IEA). The IEA has predicted that a focus on energy efficient buildings, industrial processes and transportation has the potential to reduce the world's projected energy needs by one third in the year 2050.

Trends toward sustainability are here to stay. Governments around the world are talking about what we can do to stop the threat of climate change. The building and construction industry is making great strides. But they can’t always do it alone. We’ve got the whole world in our hands – now it’s a matter of what we do with it.

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