“Yes, we are failing, but there is still time to turn everything around—we can still fix this. I want you to act as if the house was on fire. Because it is.”
A team from Unity recently spent two days in Boston for the annual conference of the Northeast Sustainable Energy Association (NESEA). This conference is one of our favorites because it gathers together a wide range of industry professionals who share our mission to build better homes, stronger communities and a healthier planet. The conference is an opportunity to spend time with old friends and associates, make new connections, and share lessons learned. It always leaves us better educated and more inspired for the work that we do at Unity.
This year’s conference had a record number of attendees, which we believe reflects steadily growing interest in green, sustainable, high-performance building. Unity’s booth saw a constant flow of visitors, and many of the conference sessions were filled to capacity—including the panel discussion in which Unity founder Tedd Benson participated.
The subject of the panel was new technologies, strategies and processes for designing and building high performance homes. Tedd described the ways in which Unity and Bensonwood are utilizing advanced off-site construction methods to deliver high quality homes efficiently. He also placed this work in the larger context of re-making the construction industry for the benefit of people and the planet.
The NESEA community has come to expect challenging and provocative presentations from Tedd, and this year he continued that tradition. The audience included many architects, and Tedd pointed out that as long as architects are designing one building at a time, their impact will be severely limited. By some estimates, the number of homes designed by architects is about 2%. Tedd suggested that if there was greater standardization and integration across the home building industry, then architects could have a much broader impact. Instead of designing individual homes to be built piece-by-piece on site, they could design high quality patterns and components that could be creatively deployed in countless homes that were manufactured using state-of-the-art processes.
In his presentation, Tedd also echoed a theme that many other presenters touched on: the need for a strong, concerted effort to mitigate the potentially catastrophic effects of climate change. With the building sector accounting for close to 40% of carbon emissions in the US, those of us in the profession have a responsibility to minimize the impact of our work. At Unity, we are committed to building homes that are Net Zero Ready—homes that can be Net Zero with the addition of a photovoltaic power system. Building this way has benefits for our clients, who enjoy homes that are healthy, comfortable and durable. It’s also the right thing to do for the environment, and for future generations.
Tedd showed a slide of his three grandchildren, saying that they are the real reason he is driven to develop better ways to build. We are doing it so that future generations will be able to enjoy the health, the support and the beauty that the natural world affords us today.
Tedd also featured a slide of 16 year-old Swedish climate activist Greta Lundberg in his presentation. The stand that she is making in Sweden is reverberating around the globe. As another presenter put it, “Great Thunberg is a hero. We all can be heroes. We all must be heroes.”