The focus of this blog is construction-related topics. The purpose is discussion, so please feel free to comment! See Specific thoughts for thoughts from the daily life of a specifier.

14 April 2010

Moving on

We just went through another round of bylaws amendments, and unless we decide to throw everything out and start over, we should be about done. The reason behind many of the amendments goes back to the governance initiative recommended by the Board and approved by the members just a couple of years ago. As you may recall, one of the biggest changes was to reduce the board of directors from twenty-nine members to eighteen. We’re well on the way now; we soon will be down to twenty board members.

The intent of the governance amendment was to create a smaller board, one that would be more nimble, more efficient, and more forward thinking. With that in mind, let us consider two Board activities: creation of a new committee to oversee the way members use their dues, and expanding CSI’s visibility and influence through increased participation of corporations.

01 April 2010

Scar on EnergyStar

EnergyStar-approved gasoline-powered alarm clock? Heater with feather duster and flypaper?

When the interest in green design took hold, I observed that an organization with a lot of money would be required to establish green standards. The typical design firm doesn't have the capacity to investigate and evaluate the source, processing, transportation, installation, performance, content, recyclability, and so on for even a single product. It is even more difficult than that, as the same analysis is required for each thing that affects or is affected by the product being studied. Throw in the effects of government subsidies, market preferences, conflicting claims from competing sources, and more, and trying to determine how green even a simple assembly is becomes virtually impossible.

And even if each firm were capable of doing all that, why should all that work be duplicated? Each firm doesn't determine the required characteristics of structural steel or foam insulation, then test the material to make sure it's what it should be; instead, we let someone else - ASTM, for example - set standards and then require compliance with those standards. Why not do the same for green products? Use of industry-wide standards helps achieve consistency and reliability, and makes it easier to specify, manufacture, and install most construction products.

The organization with the most money is, of course, the Federal government. I said it then, and I’ll stay with what I said - this is a job the government is in the best position to take on. Unfortunately, these are the same people who wrote our tax code, see football blackouts and deregulation of cable TV as more important than infrastructure, and try to justify building a $400 million bridge to serve an island with fifty residents.

So we shouldn’t be surprised when a government-backed green standards organization exhibits the typical civil serpent’s approach to reviewing submittals. The March 25 online New York Times carried an article titled “Audit Finds Vulnerability of EnergyStar Program” in which it is reported that EnergyStar-approved products included a space heater with a feather duster and flypaper strips, and a gasoline powered alarm clock.

read the article; read the GAO report