Ted Rayburn: Backs patted, let's focus on a busy new year
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Ted Rayburn 11/19/15. Photo by Mark Reis, The Gazette

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Almost every week, there is news of another large building development in or near Colorado Springs.

Last week, it was the 240-unit Copper Ridge Apartments project on the northeast edge of the city. The week before that, plans for four new freestanding Starbucks in central and northern Colorado Springs and a massive, upscale development of new homes on the former Shamrock Ranch.

The list goes on.

The kid in me revels in all the construction activity. The grownup wonders how much of it is built to be sustainable - homes and factories and offices designed or retrofitted to use less energy and water and contribute to a healthy environment.

The green-building movement in the U.S. has been going strong for at least a decade.

Back then, some influential companies began to express support for sustainability as a fundamental principle of good business that stood on its own, apart from the politicized debate over environmentalism.

It's easy to see why business leaders took that stance. Energy-efficient buildings result in lower utility bills, leaving more money to spend on jobs and investments, and fewer costly health problems. Green buildings result in fewer health issues for workers and residents, saving on medical costs. These are bottom-line facts any businessperson can appreciate.

Yet, much if not most private-sector construction in the Springs still does not meet sustainability standards, as The Gazette's Maria St. Louis-Sanchez reports. Local builders and architects she interviewed explained that businesses that intend to use a building for a long time feel more invested in its efficiency. A company that builds to sell or rent? Not so much.

Another factor is that some companies believe the cost of the documentation and testing required to meet green-building standards is prohibitive.

I understand those concerns, especially for a small or struggling new business. But for those companies that can afford the paperwork and the follow-up steps that come with certification, I submit that you are not an island.

Good businesses make good neighbors, and good neighbors think about the impact of their actions on the community. For example, a house, factory or office complex built today with little regard to efficiency controls leaves the community less prepared for water shortages. The shortages in turn lead to higher utility costs, and later, new government conservation requirements - not guidelines - are imposed. By then, the cost of meeting the requirements is higher than it would have been to "go green" in the beginning.

Undoubtedly, an educational and support system is needed to make sure all business owners know what is at stake and that there is help for new and small businesses to get on the path to sustainability. Let's look to leaders in the building trades who already understand that homegrown sustainability is much easier and more palatable than having to be told what to do by regulators.

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Ted Rayburn is The Gazette's business editor. Send him your observations and ideas on business and the southern Colorado economy at 636-0194 or ted.rayburn@gazette.com.

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