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Green Builders


Green building dates back to early times when settlers chose building materials that were readily available to create structures that worked well with the environment. In the American Southwest, the Anasazi used mud, sand, and water to form adobe bricks that held up well to varying temperatures and climates. Some of their homes reached six stories in height—the tallest buildings in North America for nearly 500 years. The Anasazi also built their homes to receive solar heat in the winter.

People's interest in creating energy-efficient, resource-conserving buildings was sparked anew during the environmental movement of the 1960s and 1970s. The media helped raise awareness of environmental issues such as pollution and land degradation through such magazines as Mother Jones ( and Environment: Science and Policy for Sustainable Development (, and through books like Rachel Carson's Silent Spring, which pointed a spotlight at the impact of chemicals on the air, water, soil, and human health. The first Earth Day, in 1970, catapulted the environmental movement and collective consciousness to a global scale.

The energy crises of 1973 and 1977 further heightened awareness about the need to conserve energy and find renewable energy sources. America's demand for domestic oil had exceeded supply capabilities, dependence on foreign oil had strained U.S. relations with certain countries, and the federal government's attempt to regulate energy had sent oil prices soaring. Ideas were forming for sustainable building to improve quality of life, conserve resources, and save money.

The green building industry has advanced over the past 30 years and is setting precedents for building standards today. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) highlights milestones in green building history, which include the following:

  • American Institute of Architects (AIA) forms the Committee on the Environment Exit Disclaimer (1989)
  • AIA publishes the EPA-funded Environmental Resource Guide (1992)
  • EPA and the U.S. Department of Energy launch the ENERGY STAR program (1992)
  • First local green building program is introduced in Austin, Texas (1992)
  • U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) Exit Disclaimer is founded (1993)
  • "Greening of the White House" initiative is launched (1993)
  • USGBC launches its Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Exit Disclaimer version 1.0 pilot program (1998)

Among the federal milestones are the Energy Policy Act of 2005, featuring federal building sustainable performance standards, and the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007, which includes requirements for high-performance green federal buildings.

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