Bratz Forever? Green Building is Coming, But Slowly

A market can have the behavioral attributes of a young child, particularly when a product you’re bringing to it doesn’t offer the immediate gratification of, say, a Roboraptor robotic dinosaur or the Bratz Forever Diamondz Doll. And so it is with green homes in many markets around the country. “Looks responsible,” many consumers say, “but I’m looking for something with comparables.”

Green building will only begin making its way into the main stream in the next 18 months to 3 years. The attention on global warming is helping, and while the first of a series of punches thrown in this fight have all been from the automobile, its tag team partner — and a strong fighter in its own right — is the building. Buildings, both commercial and residential, have contributed 40% of the carbon dioxide that has created this crisis, and if we continue to build as we have in the past, brats like us will quickly go the way of the dinosaur.

But most Americans don’t know what green building is. I spoke with a builder this week who let me go on for about 4 or 5 minutes about two homes I’m starting which received the Bronze rating of my local home builders association’s Green Calculator. When I paused from my excitement to catch my breath, the builder asked, “What’s green building?”

It’s certainly not a Roboraptor. Green building is expensive, and it takes much longer than the life of an average mortgage for the technologies and products used in building a green home to pay for themselves. At a green gathering I attended recently, we went around the room introducing ourselves. The room was fled with green specialists of various sorts, including the builder of America’s second greenest home in 2005. When it was my turn, with tongue in cheek I said I was a spec builder who’s trying to build green competitive. Of course, the room erupted with laughter.

Green products and technologies are expensive, in part because they’re still in the early stages of acceptance. Applying what’s called S-curve theory — which says that the amount of time it takes a product to gain 10% acceptance is the same amount of time it’ll take that product to go from 10% to 90% acceptance — it could be at least another 15 years before we see 90% acceptance of the products and technologies that will green our homes.

Which means these products and technologies will remain expensive for some time to come. Only when they’re at least a third of their way to 90% will production rates produce the economies of scale and the tidal push necessary for their demand and availability.

We won’t be brats forever, but we’ve got to stay the course and stem the tide. And at every chance you get, hand a kid a book on nature.