As thick clouds continue to darken hopes for a housing industry recovery any time soon, builders, remodelers, architects, and product manufacturers are scanning the shoreline seeking shelter from the storm. It seems that the only real momentum in the industry centers on green building design and construction. Just take a look at the growing number of builders who consider themselves “green,” the innovative products manufacturers are streaming into this market, and the expansion of green building certification programs on a national scale. Does green building really present a bright spot in the midst of this historic downturn? We think so. We think it stands like an island of optimism and will emerge as a rock-solid cornerstone in the recovery and future of housing. (What do you think? Take our survey.)

Momentum means a lot in our industry, especially when any movement in a positive direction looks like momentum. But some of the same economic factors affecting the general economy will continue to drive deeper development and adoption of green building practices for a long time to come. These include energy costs that will not only affect how we build, but will continue to show up in the prices paid for building products (green or not), due to the energy factors embodied in raw materials, manufacturing, and product transport to the marketplace.

Beyond the cost of energy and its top-to-bottom impact on our industry, the pressure on manufacturers to respond even more to resource depletion and the effects manufacturing has on air and water quality will only increase. Addressing these factors may sustain higher prices for finished goods even if energy costs decline, but these same factors should also deepen corporate commitments to explore and expand green building markets, which should help us all.

It is clear that the energy crisis is fueling greater environmental consciousness and concern. For those already practicing green building, this very well could be what keeps you afloat. For others, it might start looking like a life raft. But as the industry continues its move into sustainability, responding to environmental challenges as well as market opportunities, it is clear that we will be positioned for a greener housing industry when this storm finally blows itself out.

Rick Schwolsky is Co-Chief Editor of EcoHome.