Earthday Report Card

Builders Final Grade: B+

Even before the word was on everybody’s lips that buildings generate 48 percent of greenhouse gas emissions, the Santa Barbara Contractors Association (SBCA) was all over it, thanks to years of prodding by some of its more visionary members. The SBCA initiated the Built Green program so that builders can earn points for environmental friendliness. A project can earn one, two, or three stars according to criteria such as water conservation and use of sustainable materials. SBCA members have done prodigious research on materials, even calculating into the equation the diesel fumes required to transport them. The program is user-friendly and the criteria are specific to this region and climate. It is an honor system; if contractors are caught cheating, they get kicked out of the program.

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The Green Building Alliance is another example. Comprised of general contractors, landscape architects, landscape contractors, engineers, and a real estate agent, the group seeks to create a one-stop shop for people who want to create sustainable projects. (They are also seeking interior designers.) Then there is Architecture 2030 Challenge, whose adherents are trying to save the world via the permit counter. They have challenged local governments to create incentives encouraging Earth-friendly building, and hope eventually to see ordinances requiring it.

Developers now need to put their creative minds to work to see how they can minimize indoor space-and energy use-in favor of the great, green outdoors. This is California, for god’s sake. The trick is to accomplish this while still keeping the development within the urban limit line. Developers could also take better advantage of Santa Barbara’s mother lode of horticulturalists well-versed in the art of creating beautiful gardens without importing water or chemicals. Finally, developers need to try harder to include solar energy in their projects.

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