Bourgeois Green Building Myths

In April’s Monthly Review, Jeff Dardozzi has an article entitled “The Indiscreet Banality of the Bourgeoisie” that investigates the real impact of the US Green Building Code (USGBC) and the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) program. Below are a few excerpts to get you interested in the full article.

“USGBC has dominated the discourse in the United States on sustainable building practices for the last decade, not because it has good ideas based on a sound understanding of the issues, but because it is an industry trade organization with a well-funded mandate. USGBC’s current budget is $46,000,000. The truth and the absurdity of its premises, as Murphy points out, can be found in the pending certification of one single-family home, twenty-four stories tall, with a 168-car garage and three heli-pads for an Indian billionaire.”

“The real purpose of these ritualistic displays of rationality, such as LEED’s rating system or Passive House, is to preserve the illusions of our modern selves and our society. Ultimately, as Joseph Tainter notes in Social Complexity and Sustainability, it is about the “comfort of an accustomed life,” seeking to rationalize the behaviors that we know are problematic but that are unable to change by virtue of larger social forces.”

“When it comes to buildings, it is an elemental truth that our dwellings are powerful metaphors, for they are the physical embodiment of lived social relations and the underlying narratives that construct social reality. This reality has created the crises that Murphy claims are the cause of his advocacy. Neither the Passive House nor USGBC programs alter this situation, as they affect neither underlying social relations, their concomitant mode of production, nor the situation’s epistemology. On the contrary, programs like Passive House and LEED ultimately seek to codify the total encapsulation of energy efficiency initiatives within the bourgeois worldview, where the relations between nature and humanity are mediated by elites and technology, under the false assumption that we as individuals can control outcomes.”


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