To paraphrase an old advertising slogan, the green-building movement has come a long way baby, especially where it involves the sheet metal industry.

When Snips first started writing about the trend, about five years ago, it was already well under way in other segments of the construction industry. One of Snips’ sister publications is Environmental Design & Construction, which has covered the sustainable or green-building movement for a decade.

I had the opportunity to fill in temporarily as editor back in 2001, and I can attest that few if any of the articles dealt with the HVAC system’s role in green building. It wasn’t that the most recognized green-construction standard, the U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, didn’t address the issue, but it wasn’t where architects and builders focused when deciding to make a building “green.”

An early Snips article that mentioned green building was published in October 2001. It dealt with an American Lung Association-certified “GreenHouse” that in addition to saving energy also had very good indoor air quality.

It was a couple more years, however, until an article dealt with sheet metal contractors’ role in saving the environment.

“Riding the ‘cool’ roofing wave” in February 2003 was the first Snips article that explored how sheet metal contractors were marketing the energy-saving attributes of standing-seam metal roofing. An Illinois contractor said that he stressed the reduced heating and cooling costs of metal-covered houses as much as their appearance.

Making progress

It took a couple more years for acronyms like the USGBC and LEED to migrate from the pages of Environmental Design & Construction to this magazine. But by 2005, events like Metalcon, the International Builders’ Show and the AHR Expo had wholly embraced the movement, recognizing its moneymaking potential for attendees - and perhaps inevitability.

Some HVAC contractors, however, expressed frustration at the stringent requirements for sustainable buildings (See “Seeing red over green building,” July 2006 Snips). Some found the standards confusing; others just could not figure out how to profitably comply with them.

A recent poll on www.snipsmag.com shows that may be changing. In March, we asked Web site visitors their opinions on green building. A plurality of those who answered (35 percent) said the future would be “green.” And almost as many (32 percent) said green building was “the right thing to do” as well as being profitable. Those who admitted they couldn’t figure how to make money came in a distant fourth.

That growing acceptance may explain why more HVAC and sheet metal associations are getting involved. The Heating, Airconditioning and Refrigeration Distributors International is now a member of the USGBC, and the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers, and the Sheet Metal and Air-Conditioning Contractors’ National Association are partnering with the council on guidelines and standards.

The same goes for the Mechanical Contractors Association of America, which may be the HVAC industry association most into the green-building movement. At its March convention in Palm Desert, Calif., attendees were encouraged to recycle and conserve, and the association brought in an expert on green building. The show had an Earth-themed message all week, from the opening reception to the speeches of association officials on why members should embrace and advocate for sustainable construction.

With everyday expenses like gasoline hitting an all-time high and predictions of $5 or $6 a gallon no longer scoffed at by many people, I think the movement to save energy and the environment is here to stay.

Results of snipsmag.com May poll

Oil recently hit a record-high $120 a barrel, and experts are predicting that could mean $4 a gallon gasoline

by summer. For those of you who perform residential HVAC service, are you going to institute fuel surcharges to cover the expense?

Yes. Fuel costs have become too unpredictable for our company to budget. I have to pass along the costs: 73 percent.

No. It’s just part of doing business. With the economy softening, I don’t think my customers will pay any more than they already do for HVAC service: 27 percent.