This article was originally published in the September/October 1998 issue of Home Energy Magazine. Some formatting inconsistencies may be evident in older archive content.


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Home Energy Magazine Online September/October 1998

5 Steps to Better Communication

by Mark Rodman Smith

I have devised an action plan for policymakers, planners, and manufacturers who are approaching developers and want them to become better at green building.

1. Teach the developers. Integrating green building principles requires, first and foremost, education. To educate the developers, you must communicate the characteristics and benefits of green building. You must also overcome their negative associations and resistance to the topic.

Green building education requires repeated communication. Audiences often absorb only a small part of the message at a time. This affects the number of contacts you need to make and the methods you use at different points in the communication process. Don't assume that a message is simple or obvious.

Education is more difficult than it looks. But education is essential if we want to integrate green building concepts into the mainstream building market.

2. Listen, understand, suggest. To reach people whose priorities are different from yours, you need a strong grasp of basic communication skills. Each green building project is unique, and large-scale green building integration is new. So we all have many lessons to learn.

Listen to learn. Prospects will present their concerns and the obstacles they perceive. Once you have a list of obstacles, you can identify and suggest solutions. When people tell you their problems, it is a gift. If you can solve those problems, that may be what it takes to get them to adopt green building.

3. Know the design process. Understand that designing and building green buildings is remarkably different from the existing real estate development process. Not only must the design team members work together from the beginning (the so-called whole systems approach to design), but the real estate development process must itself be reworked.

4. Operate beyond your discipline. Green building integration is deceiving. Since a green building is still a building, you might not think that the development process would need to change much to create one. However, today (especially early in the integration effort) substantial changes are needed-in communication, in data format, and in processes.

Think about your prospects' disciplines. Try to learn how green building will change what people and organizations do now. Anticipate problems and propose solutions.

5. Translate green design characteristics into benefits. When developers state preferences, they are usually trying to reflect their customers' preferences. Be prepared to show how green building will appeal to the developer's customer. Show the developer how to communicate benefits to the customer. Green building requires a different sales process-one that incorporates education, new economics, and behavioral considerations. Clearly demonstrate how the consumer (usually the building's occupant) will benefit from green building design.

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