A giant step backward for green building, and a giant step backward for the environment
Builder Magazine asked me to answer the following questions yesterday morning, the morning after the most shocking election outcome I can remember in my 49 years on this earth:
- How do you think the new administration will impact the U.S. housing market?
- Will it be good, bad or indifferent for our industry?
- Were you surprised by the results?
I’ll take them in reverse order and, as I do, know that I’ve devoted my professional life to creating a market advantage for the companies and organizations that are working to create a sustainable, energy-responsible future. And know that after 25 years of running a marketing agency, I see that it’s damn hard to change ingrained behaviors with marketing alone.
It takes a combination of marketing and legislation (think anti-littering and anti-smoking … we needed both education and legislation to get us going in a different direction):
Yes, I’m surprised and, frankly, disheartened by the outcome of the presidential race. Though, like many, I viewed the election as a process of rationalizing and choosing between the lesser of the evils, I had faith that Mrs. Clinton would prevail, and our country would make real progress toward curbing climate change – which would have included both carrots and sticks related to building green. Mr. Trump is on record as saying he believes climate change is a hoax, so I can’t see any reason why he would support or create policies to push the green building and green housing market forward. And I can see many reasons why he’ll work to dismantle the progress that’s been made on this front by the Obama administration.
Thus, I think the outcome of the election is bad for the building industry. Will homes and buildings continue to be built? Of course. Will having a real estate mogul in office likely produce something favorable for the building industry? Probably. But will we see policies generated that make it more favorable to builders to make energy efficiency, air quality and renewable energy standard on all homes built going forward? I think no. And I think that’s ultimately bad for an industry that has an opportunity to lead an important change that’s not only good for the environment, it’s good for the health of our citizens and our national security.
Bottom line, for all the change Trump has promised, I think he’ll work to keep the status quo in the building industry and/or create changes in policy that send us backward 10-15 years. Some builders will rejoice in that. Those who have committed themselves to making sustainability standard in their homes will not.
With all that said, we do know a majority of Americans don’t share Trump’s views on climate change – most of us believe it’s real and caused by man, and most of us feel anxious about it. And most of us expect companies, increasingly, to do the right thing by the planet and people. So there will most certainly be a market for green homes, and many of us will prefer builders and companies committed to environmentally friendly and socially just practices. The silver lining here is that companies – and builders – really do need to lead on this issue now. There’s no waiting for the government to create change as it relates to energy, the environment and green building – at least not for the next four years.