Sustainability sign

Sustainability. Many in our community see the word and think, "can't afford it." It's time to look beyond its surface definitions, even beyond its connotations and think, "can't afford not to do it."

Join us, Tuesday, Nov. 17, at the BUILDER Sustainability Forum, at the Longview Gallery, in Washington DC, as part of the broader Greenbuild International Conference and Expo getting underway the next day, and you won't leave with the same economic viewpoint you arrived with, let alone the same level of urgency.

Thing is, even people in home building who count themselves as progressives on the issue of energy and water conservation, of healthy indoor air, of durability vs. extreme and constant weather elements tend to cost-analyze and conclude, "who will pay?"

Those questions have been swirling now for more than a decade, and they're not likely to stop their vicious-circular logic leading to an impasse.

We keep asking who will pay, but what we should try to take stock of is who is paying already, for homes that fail, for communities that are not resilient, for a society and business ecosystem that thought they could sustain profitability without figuring out how to profit from sustainability. We keep imagining this as an extravagance, an add-on, an extra.

But it's not. It's good home building. It's making homes people can live in affordably, and healthfully, free of harms, and free to access resources that help and bring joy.

Look at the line-up of individuals we have coalescing around these issues as they impact, in particular, residential new construction--homes and communities.

BUILDER Sustainability Forum speaker line up
Sarah Susanka, the Not So Big House Movement, speaks at the BUILDER Sustainability Forum, Nov. 17.

How did an observational chronicle about ways people could better "size" their homes to their needs--for safety, health, and well-being--turn into a "movement?" Susanka will address that, as architectural bright light Vivian Loftness will speak to what resiliency both protects us from and sustains our access to that which is essential to survive and thrive.

The topic areas across the board are well beyond theoretical at this point. They're part of the everyday choices--some of them hard ones--we make to offer or deny value to those who buy new homes.

Concluding the "super group" line-up of speakers, Sam Rashkin, chief architect in the U.S. Department of Energy's Building Technologies Office, will address one of the biggest barriers to progress when it comes to the investment--on a shared basis--all stakeholders will have to make in sustainability: the need to make it all meaningful.

Once that happens, the impulse around "green" is no longer "can't afford it." It morphs forever into, "can't afford not to do it."