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The importance of environmental innovation in green building

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To meet environmental goals, architects, designers, builders, landlords and tenants need to bring about changes in procedures, practices and embrace environmental innovations in green building.

Environmental innovation is one of the main processes by which change occurs in green building. Often, innovation is the only way to achieve environmental goals. Professionals in the building industry are now required more than ever to focus on the future and be aware of all environmental innovations available to implement in order to construct green buildings.

Staying with the traditional way things were done in the past will only further set the industry behind, and endanger the awarding of building permits and lengthen the process of attaining a favorable EIR (Environmental Impact Report).

The success of effectively achieving environmental goals depends on an understanding of the innovation required. For example, a significant reduction of CO2 emissions in cars requires the introduction of more energy efficient engines and the promotion of alternative fuels, so innovation is crucial. Construction of buildings with increased energy efficiency, another key environmental objective, equally requires the arrival and spread of innovation in building techniques.

Environmental policy is conducive to environmental innovation. This is stating the obvious, and yet there is a great deal of resistance to do things differently. It is a common human trait to fear change, but change is the only option to survive in a future based on green building.

Project design will need to remove the barriers to innovation.

Promoting innovation allows you to achieve, politically and practically, more ambitious policy goals. It allows organizations to see a way to meet the environmental goals more cheaply, and it creates winners — creating new markets and business opportunities.

Designing policy for environmental innovation is good economically. It puts in place the synergies between economic growth and environmental policy that are pre-requisites to achieving long-term sustainable development.

A good first step toward adopting environmental innovations is to address these questions: Does your current project design promote environmental innovation? Will environmental innovation standards be sufficiently stringent, stable, clear, long-term and set well in advance?

Will it help new companies offering environmental innovation succeed by removing any blocks to acceptance and adoption? Will it encourage people to look at environmental impacts and potential changes? Will it increase belief in innovations through demonstration projects, standardization or spreading information?

You can seek environmental innovation in processes, organizational structure, green tech products or end-of-pipe solutions. Innovation can either be incremental (building on what currently exists) or radical. The preliminary analysis of the innovation context, with its different barriers and drivers, should invariably influence the choice and design of green technologies to be adopted.

The design of your project greatly affects its impacts on innovation. For companies that engage in innovation they can expect a future business advantage from it. This will require an open mind and to allow all potential solutions the chance to develop and spread, and avoid obstructing any future innovation.

Once an innovative solution to a problem has been identified, it still needs to be developed by industry in order to spread through the market. Both the incentives for doing this and the ease with which industry can succeed in turning research and development output into a commercial and competitive product or practice are of crucial importance to the success of innovation.

The industry’s tendency to resist innovations should not be underestimated even after market demand has grown enough for the innovation to become comparably priced. Additional effort may be necessary to spread innovation gain, be widely diffused and become established in the mainstream.

Change is difficult for most and adopting an environmental innovation comes with some fear of the unknown. This fear is unwarranted and will only keep the industry behind the times. No longer can the building industry continue to resist change.

Embracing and implementing the latest in environmental innovation will not only help the industry meet its goals for green building, but it will result in energy efficient buildings with less operating expenses, increased profits, happier tenants, more productive employees and a greener planet.

-Submitted by Blake H. Bowling. Bowling is the director of business development for SPADA Innovations, a cutting-edge green technology company based in San Diego.

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