seasons greetings

When Green Aspirations Lead to Greenwash

starbucks coffee building

In its early days, greenwash was perceived as a duplicitous and manipulative action. To portray a building or product as environmentally responsible when it is not or to add a ‘green sheen’ to something in order to benefit from the greater reputation currently associated with eco-products undermines legitimate green efforts.

With environmental certification standards at their peak, it is not taken lightly when a designer or builder sells something as being green and then fails to back it up those claims. Fortunately, both the industry and the public’s consciousness surrounding green matters have progressed to the point where green sheen is becoming harder and harder to spin.

Despite this, a new type of greenwash has found its way into the industry as a result of the green building boom and a need to retrofit everything.

While some developments may promote environmental responsibility, run efficiently or even generate renewable energy, they lack a basis of logical sustainability ideologies and actually promote environmentally unfriendly behaviours despite green ambitions.

blue crystal a sustainable iceberg lodge

One of the most notable examples can be found in the concept for Dubai’s Blue Crystal development concept for Dubai. Designed by German designers Frank and Sven Sauer, the concept calls for a 6-storey luxury entertainment complex made completely of ice. While the designers were adamant about its self sustaining energy consumption, the necessity of a year-round ice sculpture structure in the middle of the desert is questionable, with its ‘sustainable’ nature completely unfounded given its out-of-context location.

No matter how energy efficient the design team may claim it is, common sense forces questions to arise as to whether it is truly sustainable and logical.

A more recent example is Starbucks’ new LEED certified drive through coffee shop in Colorado. Design blog Blouin Artinfo has rightly pointed out that while the drive through is made completely of prefabricated structures built from reclaimed materials sourced from within a 500-mile radius of the building’s location, a location that encourages the use of the car flies in the face of its green intentions.

The green building boom has evolved to the point where questioning whether or not to retrofit the ideas behind these buildings rather than simply the structures themselves has come into play.

Green building is about much more than energy efficiency or renewable energy. It is about promoting a an ideology and lifestyle process, and that is not something that can simply be squeezed into the mold of every traditional mainstream construct.

By Emily D’Alterio
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