It’s undeniable; America is going green.

Sustainability has become a hot topic over the last several years, with the real estate industry at the center of the discussion. The demand for environmentally friendly buildings has become a force in the market, with conventional construction seeming almost antiquated and obsolete. Much of the newest technology satisfies both the conscience and the wallet; promises of sustainable energy and consistently lower bills motivate users of both commercial and residential real estate.

With this move toward the new standard, there have been some considerable growing pains. Green buildings have presented an unprecedented challenge to fire protection engineering and safety protocol, leaving industry professionals to find creative solutions to fit an entirely unique set of issues.

Unfortunately, the unintended consequences have already begun. In September 2013, a massive fire broke out at the Dietz & Watson refrigeration warehouse in south New Jersey. Fire crews were forced to approach the situation with extreme caution due to the 7,000 fully charged solar panels on the roof. Not only did the panels pose a risk of electrocution, they are also virtually impossible to cut, leaving firefighters limited with regards to creating ventilation or accessing the fire itself.

This jarring incident only intensified the conversation around green technology and fire safety. Several organizations have taken up the difficult task of evaluating green structures, identifying possible risks and finding ways to mitigate. The strategy is twofold; the best minds in the industry are working to identify both increased risks due to proposed green elements and decreased performance of any existing methods.

The need is apparent, the methodology is in place and the research is in progress. Over the next several years, groups like the Fire Protection Research Foundation and the National Fire Protection Association are expected to make major progress in finding solutions to fit the green movement. In the meantime, Harrington Group and others like us will continue to serve our clients with the best resources and most timely information.

In subsequent posts, we’ll focus on the most common concerns, issues and ideas regarding green buildings and fire safety.

By Jeff Harrington, CEO and Founder of Harrington Group, Inc.