Tomorrow is Earth Day, an annual celebration started in 1970 to raise awareness about environmental issues. This year’s theme is “Invest in Our Planet,” which “is focused on engaging governments, institutions, businesses, and the more than 1 billion citizens who participate annually in Earth Day to do their part – everyone accounted for, everyone accountable.”
NAHB has been actively engaged in promoting environmental stewardship and sustainability through its various committees for decades and recently formed the Climate Risk and Sustainability Committee. Chuck Ellison, chair of the Climate Risk and Sustainability Committee, provides insights on the topic and the committee’s plans for the upcoming year.
What are some of the key climate risk and sustainability challenges builders are facing?
Chuck Ellison: Affordability is a major concern. We already have a crisis with affordable housing in this country. All of the ideas and mandates will add, possibly significantly, to the cost of housing. It will price some people out of owning a house someday.
It’s understandable that the conversation drifts toward building higher and higher performing new homes. But the bulk of our housing is already built. Helping people safeguard what they have against the future cost of energy, while also making sensible plans against of extreme heat, drought, wind and flooding, with smart upgrades and solutions, is a steadily increasing demand on builders. This new committee, in part, will be helping lead that effort for NAHB.
What do you see as key distinctions between resiliency and sustainability or green building?
CE: I really think resiliency and sustainability are pretty much the same concept without any major distinctions between them. While resiliency is often attributed to hardening for more extreme climate conditions, it is just an expansion of sustainability as a principle or a decision-making mindset. But very little works at all if it can’t be afforded, in some way, or combination of ways, on terms that make sense to the person paying.
What does the Climate Risk and Sustainability Committee hope to accomplish this year?
CE: A major goal is to try to encourage the spending of all the money being allocated to climate matters in a wise manner that ends in significant results. We need to pay much more attention to the built environment than has been done to date.
The largest gains our sector can make will be found in existing homes. Most home owners are looking to their contractors and builders for the best way forward, with the homes they have, combined with a host of other real-world priorities. Expert advice and work from the building community for how to save energy and water and improve indoor air quality can deliver pretty amazing results that will make comfort more attainable and provide a good return on investment.
How are you celebrating Earth Day this year?
CE: Well, to be honest it isn’t a day that stands apart. I celebrate every day I get to do this work and share ideas with the folks I work with in my business and at NAHB. The significance of what the world around us offers and how we can play a more positive role is part of every day.