According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), “green building” is: the practice of creating structures and using processes that are environmentally responsible and resource-efficient throughout a building's life-cycle.”
That definition encompasses quite a bit, as does the history of the residential green movement. And, although a few of the following events encompass larger commercial milestones, the residential green movement has quite a history. Its history can be traced back to the Industrial Revolution, when Henri Becquerel documented the solar energy’s transformation into photovoltaic power—the contemporary green-building movement stepped up its game in the last forty years.
The first—"Earth Day”—April 22, 1970—signifies the birth of the environmental movement.
As a result of increased oil prices, significant research and activity flourished to improve energy efficiency and find renewable energy sources. These factors contributed to the earliest experiments with contemporary green building.
The American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy (ACEEE) was founded. The organization’s mission is to act as a catalyst to advance energy efficiency policies, programs, technologies, investments, and behaviors.
Although not specific to only the residential market, the American Institute of Architects (AIA) formed the Committee on the Environment (COTE), which works to advance “design practices that integrate built and natural systems and enhance both the design quality and environmental performance of the built environment.”
Rick Fedrizzi, David Gottfried and Mike Italiano established the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC). Their mission: to promote sustainability in the building and construction industry.
The “Greening of the White House” Initiative—which also took into account the 600,000 square-foot Old Executive Office Building—was launched by the Clinton administration. The initiative focused on seven categories: building envelope; lighting; heating, ventilation and HVAC; plug loads; waste; vehicles; and landscaping. Within three years the approximately 200-year-old residence had reduced its annual energy and water costs by $300,000 and its carbon emissions by 845 tons annually.
The DOE partners with the EPA and established the first ENERGY STAR® specifications for residential appliances. (Note: The ENERGY STAR® Program was introduced in 1992, but only applied to office products, starting with personal computers and monitors).
The DOE adds lighting, windows, doors and skylights to the program. In addition, ENERGY STAR® requirements are incorporated for consumer electronics.
The ENERGY STAR® TV PSA campaign runs more than 25,000 times reaching an audience of more than one billion viewers.
More than two billion ENERGY STAR®-qualified products were purchased in only six years. The EPA and Sears joined forces to announce that American families across the country saved $12 billion on utility bills and reduced the total electricity demand by 4 percent in 2006.
The USGBC publically introduces the LEED for Homes program. LEED for Homes is a national voluntary certification system that promotes the design and construction of high-performance green homes that use less energy and water and fewer natural resources; create less waste; and are healthier and more comfortable for the occupants.
More than 10,000 homes across the U.S. have earned LEED certification through the LEED for Homes program, according to the USGBC.
Over the past 20 years, Americans have purchased more than five billion ENERGY STAR® products.
In just over a year, another 10,000 homes were LEED certified, bringing the total to more than 20,000 in five years.
So, how have you been part of the residential green movement?