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No Apparent Change

Posted by Ron Jones

Mar 13, 2014 1:38:16 PM

Nobody loves acronyms more than the military and intelligence agencies, so “NAC”, the popular abbreviation for “No Apparent Change”, is commonly used in updated reports to indicate that whatever is currently being observed or monitored has not changed much from previous versions, a convenient way to save time and space.

In this case, I am reporting that NAC applies to the newly updated official policy of the National Association of Home Builders on green building and sustainability. Allow me to explain…

During the opening session of the inaugural (and now defunct) National Green Building Conference, held in Denver fifteen years ago this spring, the then-president of NAHB told the audience that the organization recognized green building as the future of the industry and pledged support for voluntary green building initiatives and programs, asserting that acceptance and advances in green building must be “market driven”.

The comments were met with polite skepticism by many in the room, knowing full well that too many mainstream home builders would do very little to respond to issues such as environmental impact, energy performance, resource conservation, waste reduction and indoor air quality unless they were compelled to do so by some authority.

Later in the same session keynote presenter Steve Loken responded to that carefully worded (and half-hearted) declaration of industry commitment with, “Yeah, right!” Loken, like most in the room, understood the not-so-subtle, underlying message, specifically that the trade group would give enthusiastic lip service to sustainable development and green building but only as long as none of its members were required to build green.

Mandate was, and still is, a four letter word to trade associations, and anything that forces their members to work harder, change their way of doing things, spend an extra nickel or simply accept being told what to do, despite their own adamant public claims that it’s the right thing, is going to meet fierce, stubborn resistance.

Fast forward to the recent NAHB board of directors meeting, held in Las Vegas this February, where those assembled unceremoniously passed a tediously constructed resolution to update the organization’s official policy position on green building and sustainability.

The document, so meticulously crafted and painstakingly vetted through multiple layers of organizational review, employing the usual gratuitous phrases, even acknowledging “climate change”, fills three pages but the single word that matters most, and is the primary reason the resolution was approved, can be found in the first resolved section…“voluntary”.

I want to be clear. There are dedicated green professionals who maintain membership in the association for reasons of their own. I am proud to call a number of them colleagues and friends. I’m not even objecting to the fact that policies of the organization are designed to serve the business interests of its core constituency above all other considerations. After all, that is its fundamental reason for existence.

Rather, it is the deliberate, ongoing attempt to falsely claim the high ground, the substitution of wordsmithing for taking responsibility, and the continued institutional hypocrisy to which I take exception, and to which, after more than a decade and a half, there is still NAC.

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