Nutrition Labels For Buildings
A few years ago USGBC began using a box of animal crackers in its presentations, focusing on the nutrition label. I’ve used the same image in some of my presentations because, well, it clearly and concisely makes the point. Labeling contents makes it possible for consumers to know exactly what they’re eating in those packaged foods and make smarter nutritional choices. Labeling also, I would think, encourages food processors to produce more healthful products. Trans fats? No way!
So how does a box of cookies relate to green building? The metaphor is almost too obvious. Slap a LEED rating on a building or an interior space, and you’ve got yourself a label that defines its greenness. In the example shown in the photo, the project earned a Core and Shell Platinum – really green. Toxic indoor air quality? No way?
This is a concept that’s catching on. Architect Michelle Kaufmann, known for designing sustainable prepackaged modular homes, recently released a white paper, Nutrition Labels For Homes that promotes this idea as a way for homebuyers make better ecological and economic decisions. “Applying a universal sustainability label to homes, just as we apply nutrition labels to food, would…encourage the growth of the green housing market by illuminating the environmental, heath, and long-term financial benefits of sustainably designed and built houses.”
Green buildings are complex and confusing, the report goes on to say, and their advantages “continue to be esoterically couched in mostly environmental terms.” Ms. Kaufmann supports making the process more user friendly through sustainability labeling and has designed a Sustainability Facts Label that focuses primarily on energy consumption and carbon emissions by offering insight, for example, on what it might actually cost to own a home per month.
It’s a fascinating report – very instructive and worth reading.