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    Credit: Eli Meir Kaplan


The world is changing in ways and at a pace that are influencing the home building industry—what we build and how we build it. At the same time our industry has the unique opportunity to influence the direction we take as a society through the choices we make as an industry with the potential to lead it toward a more sustainable future.

A changing climate is creating not only impetus (in some circles) for building low-energy, climate-neutral homes but also producing new vulnerabilities in more intense storms, flooding, drought, fire, and power outages. At the same time the pace of change in residential design and construction is growing more and more rapid, driven in part by the green building movement. This is transforming building products and building performance, creating both challenges and opportunities for the profession.

More complex building assemblies—with more new products for each component—leave builders and architects scratching their heads on just how they work. Greater understanding of the health consequences of products like flame retardants and plasticizers are making us question standard practices and materials used in building. And green ratings and certifications, while driving innovation on the one hand, are producing confusion and uncertainty on the other.

By the year 2020 there will be products and building systems emerging that are not even on the drawing boards today. We’re going to have to work together to keep up with the direction and pace of change, adjusting to the pitfalls that come with innovation, and pursuing the tremendous opportunities that exist for all sectors of our industry to lead the charge in advancing better, more integrated, healthier, and greener products and systems, and boosting performance on every level.

Alex Wilson is founder of BuildingGreen and the Resilient Design Institute. Peter Yost is BuildingGreen’s director of residential services. They are Vision 2020 co-chairs for Products and Performance.