According to the Energy Information Administration, the construction industry is responsible for 40 percent of energy use, 40 percent of raw material consumption, and 32 percent of waste [source: World Business Council on Sustainable Development]. For the green movement to have a lasting impact, it stands to reason that the construction industry would have to be a leader. But if green building is beneficial for both the environment and economy, why aren't green construction practices aren't legally mandatory? Simply put: It takes a lot of time and effort to change laws, and about as much to change long-ingrained industry practices.
The United States is a representative democracy that enjoys a free market economy, and new government regulations, especially when choices are eliminated, are often met with resistance. Construction is a multibillion dollar industry that employs thousands of people. That industry is already subject to government regulatory practices and involves lots of labor unions, so changing the world of construction from the inside out would be a long, uphill legal battle to create workable compromises. But it's not outside the realm of possibility. Strict vehicle emissions standards set by the California Air Resources Board, which have now been adopted in more than 15 other states, went into effect on new cars in 1994. The program wasn't fully phased in until 2009.
And finally, it comes down to money. Green materials are produced on a smaller scale, and so are more expensive than more traditional construction options. In a down economy, cheaper is usually seen as the more attractive option, and it can be difficult to convince builders or consumers to pay more for something with long-term benefits.
For lots more information on environmentally friendly construction, see the links on the next page.