Expert: U.S. Falling Behind Europe in the Green Race

While America's green building market will likely continue its rapid growth over the coming years, architects, developers and contractors in the U.S. could still learn a lot from their European counterparts, according to engineer Jerry Yudelson, a green building proponent.

New York–While America’s green building market will likely continue its rapid growth over the coming years, architects, developers and contractors in the U.S. could still learn a lot from their European counterparts, according to engineer Jerry Yudelson, a green building proponent.

Yudelson, a professional engineer, has written 11 books on green building and development in the last five years after working in the design side of the building industry for 10 years. He also currently serves as chairman for the steering committee for Greenbuild 2009, the largest green building conference in the U.S. He has trained nearly 3,500 industry professionals in the LEED rating system. A past USGBC board member, he is also a founding board member of the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education.

Speaking recently on behalf of the U.S. Green Building Council Central Texas – Balcones Chapter, Yudelson lectured on “Looking to Europe for a greener tomorrow” outlining where North American projects fall short of ideal.

Yudelson spent the past two years studying European green building approaches and advancements that can be used in the United States. His newest book Green Building Trends: Europe profiles a number of important developments in green building practices and sustainable development over the past 10 years.

“The issue is to get people to understand the terms in sustainable design,” Yudelson told CPE. “We are already behind what is being done in Europe by designers, builders, etc. The second purpose is to try and get people to see what we can use that is already in practice.”

When it comes to new building design, Yudelson encourages developers to look at what can be done to bring buildings into a low energy environment.

“The bottom line is that we can do a lot better. I want to convince American engineers, contractors and designers that we can do better with our building by taking a different approach,” he said. “Every building is part of a context. In Germany, it is against the law for anyone to have to work in a building without natural lighting and seeing the outdoors. You can’t be more than 16 feet from a window. When you look at a typical U.S. office building, there is no concert for daylight. The only concern is to have the biggest, fattest building providing more space to lease versus what it cost me to build.”

Additionally, Yudelson said, Germans have a much more precise construction industry comparing German windows to the construction of German cars. Noting that typical buildings in the United States are not built for the long term, he said buildings here are often torn down after 20 to 30 years. In Germany, they design buildings to last a couple of hundred years, he said.

Although, he did acknowledge that green projects seeking LEED certification are now making up about 20 percent of all new construction projects.

“That is my goal – buildings with no impact on the environment over the lifetime of the project. We need to design differently than simply shooting to just meet the building code. That is simply the worst building you can design and not go to jail,” Yudelson said. “I’m trying to encourage more people who sponsor projects whether cities or universities, to start out demanding this level of performance.”

“Central Texas has taken a leading role in the development of commercial and residential green building, particularly in such important areas as water conservation and water efficient design,” he said. “However, what has been done in the past is not enough. In this talk, using examples of European innovations, I will stress the urgency to move toward truly renewable buildings that produce their own energy and water, and recycle their own products. This is the wave of the future.”

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