Shane Hess O'Neil collective works c. 2006 – 2014

GREEN BUILDING CERTIFICATION: How We Measure Sustainability, What We Measure It Against, and Where We Go From Here. 

(Dec. 2010, University of Oregon School of Architecture)

More proactively than at any other time in recent history, the building culture in the United States is addressing a set of problems created by the housing market. Emerging after the post-WWII housing boom, an erstwhile pattern for development was cemented into the American ethos: car-centric, low-density, single-family detached dwellings that emphasize private ownership and the frontier spirit.

Adding to the folly of this fossil fuel dependent framework for housing, the average American home size (and thus baseline for household energy consumption) spent the last 60 years incrementally growing. Until recently, the market has retained primacy in this equation. Consumers demanded a certain product, and the industry’s role has henceforth been to provide this product at the lowest price possible. A growing tide of voices, from architects and builders to policy-makers and planners, and a growing body of evidence, from atmospheric data to computer modeling and building science to ecological research, however, casts our market driven decisions in a different light.

Not to be underestimated, the problems at hand require a long view of the housing market, one that necessitates the formation of new institutions, new education initiatives, new manufacturing sectors, and a new willingness to impress upon the American consumer the urgency of the task at hand. Cue the advent of the Green Building Certification program: Energy Star, LEED for Homes, and the Passivhaus Standard. Self-anointed to represent the more responsible, sustainable way forward, these programs have inevitably changed the markets in which they operate. The question remains however, do these systems produce a housing stock that truly addresses the large issues that precipitated their inception? Furthermore, do they have a meaningful place in the future of the built environment and if so, in what form?

To read the whole report, click here.