As the U.S. seems to be leading the world in many political aspects, how does their sustainable infrastructure rank against the rest of the world?  The truth is the United States is far behind other countries in terms of sustainable design and construction.  Many leading countries including Sweden, the United Kingdom, and Ireland are home to corporations developing the latest and greatest innovations in the sustainable construction industry

Why is the U.S. behind?  I think it has a lot to do with the United States’ demand for sustainable infrastructure.  While it is undeniable that we need a strong sustainable construction industry to alleviate our dependencies on non renewable resources and reduce our carbon footprint, the consumers are not demanding building designs and products that are capable of doing so.  At this expense, the researchers and companies who develop products for this industry are lacking interest from consumers.  This means they are not making the money necessary to start putting new technologies into production.  Also their products must be priced higher because it is not the standard for buildings in our country where as other countries have made sustainability a standard for new construction. 

The consumer’s choice.  The majority of United States citizens value luxury over sustainability, and while this problem is prevalent in the private sector, it also is relevant to the commercial sector (where most of our energy consumption occurs).  Recently, I posted about the new Meadowlands Stadium in New Jersey.  After learning about all of its features, I hesitated to credit it as a sustainable standard for new stadiums in the United States.  While the project in conjunction with the EPA has developed a strong plan to achieve well-rounded sustainability goals, it has already been outdone by other stadiums around the world. 

Responding to the consumers.  When I put things into an international perspective, I began to realize how drastically the American mentality limits the level of sustainability that a public venue can achieve.  My favorite soccer team, New Castle United, plays at St. James’ Park (their home stadium) that has been standing since 1880.  It is the 7th largest stadium in England, and has the largest cantilever roof in the Northeast of England.  The fans love it so much that they object to any proposed renovation.  But the most ironic point to make about St. James’ Park is that it still does not have a scoreboard to this day.  The supporters of New Castle do not need one because they believe if you are watching the game you know the score.  Now take a look at any new stadium built in the U.S. within the past 10 years.  Yankees Stadium has plasma screens spanning all around the interior of the second deck façade.  The new Cowboy’s Stadium in Dallas has a 175 foot, high definition TV screen hanging over the field!  And the new Meadowlands stadium does not hesitate to keep up with this trend in order to make their venue more attractive to American sports fans. 

What needs to change?  Architecture has always been a response to human need.  Every construction projects starts with a program based on what the users will need, but also what they want.  Advancements in sustainable technology, including renewable energy sources and technology that uses less energy, allows for Americans to live a luxurious lifestyle, but doesn’t fulfill a sustainable quota compared to international projects.  If Americans can somehow meet the technology halfway, I believe that our nation’s level of sustainability can rise to the level of others.