Our region has been in the midst of a large-scale building boom for many years now, a result of the success of the Lake Geneva area in attracting business. There are apartment complexes and large suburban tracts under development at every turn.
Over the past decade, the land prices for this area of France surrounding Geneva has seen some of the highest prices in the country, rivalling prime areas of the French Riviera and Paris.
And yet – the area is covered with concrete and cinder-block construction with little insulation, thin plastic window frames, a lack of solar panels, and so on and so forth. The French mountain villages and towns on both sides of Lake Geneva are all subject to long, cold winters, and very hot summers, i.e. a climate in which energy efficient construction would be of particular benefit.
When I look at the concrete buildings that abound in my adopted home – all of which will stand for at least another 20-40 years – I can’t help but think that they will all need expensive retrofitting at some point, or will become woefully expensive to maintain as temperatures fluctuate and fuel prices rise. By that time, the original developers of the projects will have long made their profits and the cost will fall to the current homeowners to comply with future, more stringent energy and carbon footprint regulations.
Yes, France does already have some good energy regulations on the books, but I’ve watched the buildings go up and seen how they are made – and I’ve read how they are presented by the various development companies online. The gaps between the two are sometimes as askew as a badly-hung door, even if I assume that, at the very least, they must be in minimal regulatory compliance. They stand in stark contrast to the few, very distinctly green developments, which look different even during the construction phase.
Green building regulations and their implementation and enforcing compliance are works in progress all over the world. As a native Californian, I grew up with ever-increasing building regulations when it comes to energy efficiency, and I know that many homeowners consider them onerous.
But in light of the massive construction boom here and in so many other places, the lack of more intensive, forward-looking building regulations and their enforcement just seems short-sighted.
The Atlantic article on the challenges of green building regulations – Green Building’s Growing Pains by Jeffrey Spivak