Guest Post: Are Energy Systems Really Focused on Sustainability?

As the focus for sustainability has been gaining strength throughout the last decade, many developers are trying to accommodate the mindset. Standardized rating systems provide a measure for those developers to strive for in order to connect to a growing market need. While some of these rating systems may have some good points to them, are they really focused on the goal of sustainability? A great deal of money can be made just by simply placing a sticker on a home and saying that it’s “green.”

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Primary Concerns – For most rating systems, a majority of the attention is placed on your usage of energy and water throughout the year. Less usage of either one will earn you high points – as it should. Some systems will gauge the amount of points you receive based on neighboring structures in the area. Others will determine the rating based on theoretical usage for a building of equal size. However, most of them don’t consider the actual usage of water and electricity as a unit.

For Example: a family of five uses 300 gallons of water per day in the home for a certain amount of points. According to some systems, this home would receive the same rating if a single person residence used 60 gallons. Even though 240 gallons of water are not being used by the smaller establishment, it will still get the same rating score.

“Padding” Points – Did you know that some of LEED’s elements to rate a building can be viewed as “gimmes” to developers? If you install a bench and a rack for your shoes in the main entry, you can gain one point. How does a bench and shoe organization help in actual planet-wide sustainability? There are many points like this that can be earned even though the elements have no direct tie to sustainability or environmental consciousness.

Non-Profit Income – Most building rating systems are governed by non-profit organizations. What many people fail to realize is that non-profit doesn’t necessarily mean that the employees are not pulling a paycheck. When you pay for one of these organizations to rate your home or commercial space, you pay thousands of dollars for these professionals to check a list of what “eco-friendly” additions you have. Everyone involved in the process is getting paid for their efforts.

Marketing Ploy – Since the interest in greener living has grown exponentially, many will use certifications from building rating systems as part of a marketing strategy. This is actually good business, provided the structure is actually helping the environment. Many people would pay a few dollars more per month on a mortgage if it meant saving more in utility bills.

If organizations really cared about the environment, these ratings would be free of charge and more volunteers would be carrying out the procedure. Unfortunately, there is no money in that. Everyone needs to pay their own bills. Next time you look at a building with a certification, consider that some of those points earned may have nothing to do with actual improvement to the planet.

Ken Myers is a father, husband, and entrepreneur. He has combined his passion for helping families find in-home care with his experience to build a business. Learn more about him by visiting @KenneyMyers on Twitter.

Photo: Flickr Creative Commons