Photo courtesy of Solid Green Systems

Word play is not a game—especially when the word is green

By Richard Willingham, Director Net Zero Energy Coalition

Being picky about words can get you into trouble sometimes. But that’s the price I’m willing to pay when it comes to the future of the world’s building stock.

Today the word I’m picking on is green. And it’s not for the first time.

I’m picking on it again because Terri Willis, no lesser eminence than the newly appointed CEO of The World Green Building Council, used it recently to describe buildings that she says will be the real super-heroes at the Paris Conference on Climate Change, COP21 (

Let’s be clear; the intent of this word play is not to be disrespectful or competitive. The intent is simply to be clear about the kind of buildings that will help the world fight climate change.

Ms. Willis accurately describes these qualities herself—as ones that have limited, zero, or, in some cases, positive impacts on the environment. And as buildings that are better for people’s health, wellbeing and productivity – such as the estimated productivity improvements of up to 11 per cent from (green) features such as improved indoor air quality.

My word sense tell me those environmental descriptions are not enough, how about Zero Energy and Smart?

Green is a colour. Zero is a measurable fact.

Zero energy buildings are green by definition. Green buildings are not zero energy by definition. Should they be? There, I’ve said it—the word green that is. Let’s talk about it. Please.