The green building movement began as early as the 19th century with the use of passive systems such as roof ventilators and underground air-cooling chambers to moderate indoor air temperature. The twentieth century saw the continuation of passive systems with the invention of deep set windows and retractable awnings to block the sun.
The 1930’s brought new technologies to the urban landscape. The invention of the air conditioner and the availability of fossil fuels gave rise to the glass and steel structures of the last 70 years. Thus began the world’s overuse of fossil fuels to maintain indoor temperature control.
So began in the 1970’s the Green Movement as we know it today. Interest began to percolate in building homes and commercial space that were resource efficient and environmentally sensitive. Architects, environmentalists, ecologists, and builders began to create some of the green technology that we see today, such as solar heating and wind power.
The phrase ‘green building’ was coined in the 1980’s as the movement grew into a sort of quiet revolution. By the 1990’s, people began to seek out alternate energy solutions because of the rising costs of fossil fuels and the evermore convincing statistics that the over-reliance on burning fossil fuels was affecting the planet.
More recently it has become more apparent that these concerns are now realities. Sustainable energy is no longer regarded as for only those of us with a disposable income. As fossil fuels become less accessible and more expensive, we all must seek ways to conserve energy spending. As prices become more reasonable, more people are able to choose alternative energy as a way to save money and to leave a smaller ‘carbon footprint’ on the world.
The sustainable energy movement was initially guided by the LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) rating system which was created by the USGBC (U.S. Green Building Council) in 1995. Today, there are other rating systems as well such as the NARI’s (National Association of the Remodeler’s Industry) Green Certified Professional program. By applying tax credits to buildings with higher ratings, green building has become more attractive to the consumer. Many cities such as Cambridge and Boston are setting the standard for green building as they aim for higher ratings in all present and future building and renovation of public space. Eventually, regulations will require that construction be green in ever increasing degrees. Thus, one day soon, building and “green” building will be one and the same.