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Marketing the Green Message

March 1, 2005
Sarah Christy

A new book provides tools for designers to market sustainable building practices to clients.

Marketing the Green MessageBy Sarah ChristyMembers of the design community and built world are hearing more and more about the significance of green building—why it is important to incorporate sustainability into business practices—and most are probably convinced by now that the way to go is green. But the number of clients convinced of this fact is far less. So what do you do to get the message across? A new book by renewable energy consultant Jerry Yudelson has the tools to help design, architecture and engineering professionals market the green movement to clients.The Insider's Guide to Marketing Green Buildings is different than other books chronicling the basic who, what, when, where and why of green building. In his book, Yudelson, sustainability director for Interface Engineering, Inc. in Portland, OR, answers one very important question: How? "There are a lot of books on green building technologies and design philosophies, but nothing on the marketing and selling of products, technologies and developments," Yudelson says. After several years acting as a renewable energy and sustainability consultant for many architecture and engineering firms, Yudelson says he saw the need for marketing guidance. "I wanted to put into context the information I found so people could see what they could do in terms of promoting green building."THE INSIDER'S GUIDE TO MARKETING GREEN BUILDINGS The Insider's Guide to Marketing Green Buildings is a comprehensive guide to convincing clients to build green. The book contains:
  • More than 190 pages of informative text

  • Forty-five tables and charts of hard-to-find information and proprietary research data

  • Fifteen chapters, with up-to-date information on the use of LEED in green buildings

  • Special focus on the office, school, college and healthcare markets

  • Information on strategies by residential and commercial developers for marketing green projects

  • Market size estimates for green technologies, including solar, certified wood, green roofs and other emerging approaches to green building

  • Clear descriptions of successful marketing strategies and approaches to selling green buildings, developments, products and services

Although energy conservation and the overall state of the environment had always been important to him, Yudelson says the 1973 and 1979 Arab oil embargoes—which heightened awareness of America's dependence on foreign oil sources—gave him the realization that conservation and renewable energy approaches were cheaper in the long run. "Use stuff that's free before you use stuff that's expensive and bad for the
environment," says Yudelson, who holds bachelor's and master's degrees in engineering. "This idea of using free earth energies is really a common-sense approach to design, which began at that time, but has been resurrected with the advent of the green building movement. First use what's free—solar and wind energy, the coolness in the earth and in ground water, etc., to heat and cool buildings."

During the 1980s, Yudelson, who is a registered engineer in Oregon and holds anMBA from the University of Oregon, worked in the fields of solar and wind power, even taking a job selling residential solar water heaters. "You quickly learn how to cut to the chase, and you actually learn to ask good questions," he says of the experience. "The whole idea of dialogue is central to marketing." It wasn't until the late 1990s that Yudelson became directly involved in the world of green building—a field he says encompasses a broad range of his skills and beliefs about energy conservation and how it relates to people—and he hasn't looked back. Yudelson has worked as a green building technical consultant, LEED trainer and marketing consultant, and served for six years as a member of the board of directors for the USGBC, which he calls "by most accounts, the fastest-growing non-profit in the country." In 2000 he co-founded Green Building Services, a division of Portland General Electric, but left in 2002 to join Interface Engineering, Inc. as sustainability director and associate principal.

Having been involved in the energy conservation field in one capacity or another for nearly 25 years, Yudelson truly understood the need for a book like his among design, architecture and engineering professionals. The transition to author was a smooth one. "I thought writing a book would be a great point of leveraging information," he explains. "I wrote this book because there are thousands of us out there, trying to transform the building industry into a more environmentally responsible activity, and we're doing it one presentation, one meeting, one design, one project, one product at a time. This book is designed to help with this crucial work."

A STRONG CASENeed information to back up your claims? In chapter 11 of the book, Yudelson lists the following points as "The Business Case for Green Buildings":
  • Reducing operating costs. Green buildings will save on operating costs for energy for years to come.

  • Risk management. With the national focus on mold in buildings and its effects on people, developers and owners need to refocus their attention on indoor air quality.

  • Improved productivity. The service economy continues to grow. Productivity gains for healthier indoor air spaces are worth anywhere from one to five percent of employee costs.

  • Stakeholder relations/occupant satisfaction. Tenants and employees want to see a demonstrated concern for their well-being and for that of the planet.

  • Environmental Stewardship. Being a "good neighbor" is not just for building users, but for the larger community as well. Developers and owners are beginning to see the marketing and public relations benefits of their demonstrated environmental concern.

  • Increased building value. Increased annual energy savings will also create higher building values.

  • More competitive product in the marketplace. Speculative developers are beginning to realize that green buildings can be more competitive in certain markets, if they are built on a conventional budget.

Former USGBC CEO and President Christine Ervin said Yudelson's book contains valuable tools and insights to practitioners to help "make the sale" to clients. "No trend in the building industry carries more consequence or momentum as the green building movement," she says. "(The book) provides a just-in-time tool for those wanting to understand how marketing professionals assess such markets and opportunities."

To write the book, Yudelson both drew on his own experiences as well as performed extensive research, studying the process of new technologies entering the marketplace.He believes a better understanding of market conditions and marketing methods, and how they relate to a collection of case studies will help beef up the green building case for design, architecture and engineering professionals to present to their clients. For example, many people not directly involved in the built community may not know that there are several cost incentives—things like federal and state tax credits; loans and grants; utility payments for energy savings; and certification and promotion programs by various private and public groups—involved with green building. Other chapters in the book include a product listing and associated promotion strategies, a section focused on the values of green building, and industry projections.

One theme Yudelson keeps constant in his book and in his business practices is the idea that environmentally friendly building is actually people-friendly building.

"If we're looking to make a business case for green buildings, we should be looking more at their positive impact on people's productivity and health, and less on utility cost savings," he says. To put this into context, Yudelson gives an example using a workplace building: A one percent improvement in productivity is the same benefit as a 100 percent reduction in utility bills, he says. "It's easy to show that things like daylighting and views of the outdoors along with healthier indoor air quality can add three to five percent or more to productivity, so these benefits should be counted when assessing the true costs and benefits of green building improvements.

"About 70 percent of the total economy is a service economy," he continues. "For service companies, such as architecture and engineering firms, 70 percent of our total costs of doing business are people costs, including salaries, benefits, health insurance, etc. So making people more productive is a key issue for building design, since that's where most of the costs lie in doing business today."

Yudelson acknowledges the fact that many people remain wary of the higher costs they feel come with green building. That's nothing to dwell on, Yudelson says. "You may spend more on your first couple of projects to learn how to do it, but you can learn rather quickly how to build better and greener on the same budget."

For the most part, Yudelson says, interest in green building is growing on both parts—designers, architects and engineers as well as their clients—and he thinks the
building industry will be green "sooner rather than later." Consider his projections that by the year 2010, there will be a cumulative total of 13,000 LEED-registered buildings, 2,500 LEED-certified building projects, and 3,000 new LEED projects being registered per year. As Yudelson sums it up: "If you get enough people with enough experience to move forward, you can form a critical mass and transform the building industry for the better."

To view chapters from or order The Insider's Guide to Marketing Green Buildings, visit Jerry Yudelson's Web site at, or contact Yudelson via e-mail: jerry.yudelson, or by mail:
Jerry Yudelson, Green Building Marketing, 4727 SW Vesta Street, Portland, OR 97219.

ABOUT THE AUTHORJerry Yudelson is widely considered an expert in the world of energy conservation, and for good reason. His background is extensive. After receiving his bachelor's degree in engineering from the California Institute of Technology—where he was among the first involved with recognizing Earth Day on California college campuses—Yudelson attended Harvard for his master's in engineering. Upon graduating from Harvard, Yudelson returned to California to work as an energy consultant, forgoing a career in engineering. "I've always been more interested in persuading people to (use green practices) than actually doing it," he says of his choice in career direction. In time, he grew increasingly interested and became more knowledgeable in renewable energy and conservation, and spent several years working for the California government. During that time, Yudelson was involved in setting up for the state architect an Office of Appropriate Technology, which focused on energy conservation in state buildings and new methods of building design and construction. He also created a group called the SolarCal Council for the Governor's Office, which came up with the first-ever state-level plan for promoting solar energy. Today he is sustainability director for Interface Engineering in Portland, OR.

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