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UBC Theses and Dissertations

An analysis of North American green building strategies : factors that contribute to ecological comprehensiveness and mainstreamability Woolliams, Jessica


This thesis explores two questions. First, it asks which green building strategies are both ecologically comprehensive and have the ability to mainstream green building practices. Secondly, it seeks to understand the factors that contribute to this success. These are important questions because every year the construction, renovation and operation of buildings worldwide devours more of the planet's resources than any other economic sector. At a time when many of the world's most respected scientists are claiming that there is an environmental crisis at hand, there is an urgent need to build buildings in a more ecologically responsible way. No other sector of the world economy has the potential to make such a large reduction in its impact on the environment. The thesis questions are addressed through the exploration of a variety of largely North American green building strategies case studies, including: ° Guidelines, certification systems and rating systems (from Austin; Colorado; Santa Monica; the US Green Building Council; Pennsylvania; and New York City) ° Government building pilot projects and policies (from the US Navy; Seattle; Minnesota; USHUD; the APA; Hannover; German, Germany; and Sydney, Australia) ° Economic incentives (from FCM; Toronto; Texas; USDOE; NRCan; Fannie Mae and New York State). Two tiers of criteria were developed to explore these case studies. The primary criteria address the first half of the thesis question; the secondary criteria address the second half. There are three major findings from this thesis. The first major finding is that it is possible to create green building strategies that are both ecologically comprehensive and mainstreamable: this is seen in many of the green building strategies that were examined. This finding suggests that there should be greater use of green building strategies in British Columbia as solutions to many ecological problems. It also points to the need for greater research and development in the area of environmental building strategies, practices and technologies. The second major finding is that in many of the case studies examined, the principle barrier to the implementation of an ecologically comprehensive green building strategy that is truly mainstreamable is clearly the exclusion of ecological factors in the mandate of building codes. Complete market transformation is only achieved in those case studies in which green building standards are mandated. This points to the need for changes to the mandate of Canadian and British Columbian building codes to allow them to regulate the environmental damage done by buildings. The third and final major finding is that non-governmental organizations can bring much needed leadership, knowledge and skills to the task of creating mainstreamable and ecologically comprehensive green building strategies. This finding suggests that these groups should be included to a greater degree in the development of green building strategies in British Columbia and Canada.

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