MELISSA BLOCK, Host:
From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Melissa Block.
ROBERT SIEGEL, Host:
There are many factors, and many players, in this move toward green building. But one company and its rating system have played a key role, as NPR's Franklyn Cater reports.
U: Oh, there we go, yes, some motion detectors on the sinks.
FRANKLYN CATER: The new Ross School of Business building at the University of Michigan is full of environment-friendly technology.
P: One of humorous things about studying this kind of topic is you can talk about dual-flush toilets and waterless urinals in polite company.
CATER: Andy Hoffman is a professor of sustainable enterprise. He teaches a course in green construction. And along with facilities manager John Bresette, he's giving me a tour. Among the highlights, oddly enough, is this men's room equipped with dual-flush toilets.
BLOCK: Saves a little water if you pull up, opposed to pushing down.
CATER: Point 8 in 1.6 gallons?
(SOUNDBITE OF TOILET FLUSH)
BLOCK: So even with the full flush, you're just getting the 1.6.
P: It's pretty intuitive. I think this is the more culturally challenging issue for some people - is a waterless urinal. People immediately think, oh, this is going to stink. But it doesn't smell. You can't smell it right now.
CATER: As long as the filters get changed regularly.
BLOCK: That sector was practically nonexistent in 1993, when the U.S. Green Building Council got its start. The USGBC created the LEED program, and Hoffman gives them a lot of credit for helping to create demand.
P: They created a cachet around the LEED certification. And they got people to want to do this as a marketing pitch. And I think that was really a stroke of genius, to get a rather inertial industry to start to shift.
CATER: Hoffman thinks this is now key to attracting top students.
P: College campuses, they're all starting to go this way. If you want to keep up with the Joneses, you kind of got to do that.
CATER: The Ross building achieved silver. The company dumped its bronze rating a while back and renamed it simply certified.
BLOCK: They're one of the most savvy nonprofits when it comes to how do you reach out to the press, how to do marketing, and how to communicate their message.
CATER: Michele Russo is director for green research at McGraw-Hill Construction in Washington.
BLOCK: The word L-E-E-D meant nothing, you know, 10-odd years ago. And now, that is literally like Kleenex is to tissues. I mean, you think of a LEED building and people think, oh, it's a green building.
CATER: Russo says the USGBC has been smart to network in every sector. And there's a growing army of people with LEED credentials.
(SOUNDBITE OF LEED ONLINE COURSE AD)
U: Tackling the new LEED exams is an intimidating challenge for many professionals. But our proven methods and...
CATER: Michele Russo says as an industry observer, the LEED AP gives her added credibility.
BLOCK: It helps my team. I have a new staff person; he's getting the LEED credentialing. So you know, it is nice to have on the business card when handed out, just adds that additional, you know...
CATER: Yeah, it kind of looks cool. It's almost like Ph.D. after your name.
(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)
BLOCK: I would not go that far.
CATER: Franklyn Cater, NPR News.
SIEGEL: One big question about LEED buildings is whether it's worth the added cost. You can find more about the University of Michigan's answers to that at npr.org.
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