As the cut was made to the semi-finals, a dancer who earned the top score and was praised for her technique, her dedication to improvement, and to consistent delivery did not make the final cut. Why? Because in addition to the voice of the experts, Dancing with the Stars relies on public input, so the underdog who has consistently been at the bottom of the leader board was once again voted in – thanks to strong political party affiliation.
This is the way America works. ANSI standards and I-Codes are strongly influenced by public input. For example, on the NAHB Green Build Standard, I participated on the Energy Task Force. I had expected to just be a minor player, safeguarding the positioning of ICFs and concrete construction. But there was only one representative from any of the National Energy Labs, none from university research departments, and mostly other product manufacturers associations. With all due respect, who were we to be deciding on public standards? I spent much of those 6 months in gathering information from Energy Star (also not present), RESNET, state energy experts and others in order to provide a responsible public service.
In the process of some research I am doing on the history of energy efficiency in the US, I came across documents issued by NAHB Research Center dating from early 70’ – with essentially the same information as is promoted today - seal the leaks, insulate to the max, and capture solar heat and power. But this information was quickly buried in the succeeding decades of excess. Contractors claimed it wasn’t economically feasible to add energy efficiency and have been the most outspoken critics of improved energy efficiency standards today. Notice how few states have updated their codes from the IRC and IECC 2006 to 2009. State home builders associations and NAHB are fighting the increased expectations. And the elected officials succumb to the pressure.
But this recession has shown us some different economics. Many contractors have been forced to close their doors. But the remaining ones have had to tighten up their business processes, cull out the “fat” in the form of wasted materials, wasted time, rework, change orders. At a recent conference, several of the larger contracting companies admitted that they are running a much “leaner” organization, in the true sense of the word – not just dumping multiple jobs on a worker. They have learned to work smarter, more efficiently, remove the competitive aspect and work together.
So - the money for energy efficiency was there in the 80’s and 90’s, and the technical knowledge has been available since at least the 70’s. But America is more concerned about individual input than about the common good. The construction method we got was by popular vote. And in the meantime, other countries have danced circles around out in terms of energy efficient construction. Look at Denmark, who took the lessons of the 70’s to improve energy efficiency in construction and gain independence for energy production - a goal which they have almost achieved.
Thank goodness for Sam Rashkin, who with just a handful of people, has managed to develop the ENERGY STAR program for builders, and keep this country somewhat on track. But it is about time we put some support to the program. America has proven the experiment that the open market does NOT provide the best solution for the greater good. But we have the technical knowledge, a country full of resourceful people - but we need to be pushed.
So let’s get the politics out of Dancing with the Stars, ANSI Standards and Code Issues. Time to put some teeth behind a 50% energy goal, create the demand for a market tipping point for energy efficient products. Are we content to follow as a random collection of individuals, or are we going to work towards a common good and become leaders?