Greenbuild is the big annual trade show for green construction businesses and related industries — it brought 27,000 people to Chicago’s McCormick Place last week. Shari Shapiro of the Sustainable Cities Collective has a telling observation:

Notable lack of dealmakers–When I attended GreenBuild Boston [in 2008], I was overwhelmed by the numbers of banks, insurance people, consultants and so forth that had booths on the exhibit floor. This year I saw many more products, and fewer dealmakers. Bank of America was the only financier with any presence at the conference. I was surprised not to see at least PNC [a bank] which boasts so many LEED outlets. I am concerned that this reflects the ongoing weakness in the construction industry

That’s the barrier to more sustainable buildings in a nutshell. The technology is available — hence the entrepreneurs hawking energy-smart products. There are loads of talented designers and architects eager to design buildings and places that make more sense than the ones they were born into. Policy “uncertainty” is no higher or lower than it ever is.

What’s lacking is money, both because Americans are broke and underemployed and because we don’t have the financial innovations in place that help people get past higher up-front costs to access the long-term payoffs of energy-efficient buildings.

Grist thanks its sponsors. Become one.