Dealers’ Discourse: Get to the table or you’ll be on the menu

Over the last decade, there has been so much discussion about the coming “Green Building” movement that there is the tendency to miss the fact that green building has arrived. Organizations like Energy Star, the U.S. Green Building Council, LEED and the Green Building Initiative have been at the forefront of green building materials and practices, pushing through programs that incentivize sustainability, the use of energy-efficient products and eco-friendly design.

In the 16 years since the arrival of the blue Energy Star logo, the green movement has matured well beyond computer monitors and washing machines. For example, manufacturers such as Masco and GE are teaming under a venture entitled “Environments for Living,” a program that brings together installed sales expertise with high efficiency appliances. Additionally, composite decking and siding manufacturers have long been on the forefront of the green movement, marketing products with significant amounts of recycled wood and plastic materials. Many of our wood products suppliers have been on a path to better managed, sustainable forests for a number of years, through more enlightened forestry practices and third party certification. Sometimes we have to stop to remind ourselves and the general population that wood products are among the most sustainable and environmentally responsible building materials available, especially when measured using lifecycle analysis.

The National Association of Home Builders has published its Green Building Guidelines as its effort to identify with the green building movement. In February 2008, the NAHB will introduce the National Green Building Program and the University of Housing Certified Green Professional designation. This will allow a home builder the opportunity to certify a building under an NAHB program for the first time. Further, NLBMDA held a Green Building Forum on Nov. 13, 2007, which was well supported by dealer and manufacturer members alike, and a second forum is scheduled for this spring.

Momentum has reached the builder segment where local and national players are using “green” building practices and product specifications to differentiate their homes as value-added and easy on the environment. Although not a critical issue to today’s mainstream home buyer, marketing green to consumers begins to bridge that gap between perceived value and higher expense. It’s interesting to note that more consumers recycle than vote, a fact that represents the public’s general predisposition to the importance of green.

Pro dealers clearly are in a position to participate and to lead in this movement to greater sustainability. Today, dealers distinguish themselves as having product knowledge and distribution expertise; providing the same kind of services in the area of green building products and techniques is a natural extension of our role in the building products channel. Dealers that begin to provide this expertise will establish themselves as long-term leaders as green continues to evolve. Additionally, dealers will raise the bar for solutions selling in the industry and forge alliances with vendors with whom they have not been traditionally aligned.

While there is much work to be done to clarify industry definitions of “green,” agree on relevant certification programs and develop more effective governance and communications structures, there is no question that our market, the ultimate consumer, our builder customers and our suppliers are moving with increasing momentum to a greener, more sustainable future.