Green building's potential for truly transforming the way humans and our environment interact comes from one key concept: connectivity.
Green building is focused not on a collection of gadgets and gimmicks but on maximizing the way all of a building's systems interact with each other. Those systems include the human beings who occupy the buildings and the communities that the buildings occupy.
In the best buildings, better ventilation and natural daylight save energy while also nurturing the health and comfort of the people inside. Buildings located in walkable neighborhoods reduce greenhouse gases and also connect people to their neighbors and create a strong sense of place.
Using less water also means less energy required for municipal water treatment. The use of local materials not only cuts back on transportation needs but also builds into the fabric of our homes, offices, schools, and communities a direct connection to our local economies.
And when we spend our time in buildings that are designed, constructed, and operated with holistic sustainability at their core, our day-to-day behavior is affected and we all become part of the solution. In nature, we see how all creatures are intimately and inextricably connected with each other and with their ecosystems; green building ensures that humans interact with their environment in the same mutually beneficial way.
What have you seen as the biggest hurdles to the success of the green building field? How have these hurdles been overcome; or, if they remain, what do you see as potential solutions?
As with every important change in human history, the biggest hurdle to success is the status quo.
When you begin talking about transformation, you are talking about a fundamental change in the way we do things. And when you talk about fundamental change, there will always be people who are nervous about that.
They're nervous because they have found success in doing things the way they've "always been done," and they worry that change will upend their success. But green building has a built-in solution.
The passion, innovation, and commitment of the people who have been driving this movement for the last two decades have systematically undermined any instinct to cling to the status quo and have disproved the notion that change is bad.
Green building has been at the heart of the success of countless companies and professionals, whether they're the ones doing the designing or building, creating the products and materials used in those buildings, or owning and occupying the buildings.
To start with, we have more than 16,000 companies whose membership in USGBC is a central component to their business strategies.
Which of the many positive impacts (environmental, social, economic, etc.) of green building do you think is the most exciting, and why?
Each of the components of the triple bottom line is critical, and none is more important than the others because without one, you can't have the others. They are inextricably connected, and that is why green building works.
I am excited by this industry's economic promise because of its power to make green building devotees of people from all political and cultural walks of life. Ours is a movement that is seamlessly pro-business, pro-environment, and pro-human, and that has been the key to our success.
The "Greening of the White House" initiative was launched by the Clinton administration (1993).
The USGBC launched its Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) version 1.0 pilot program for new construction (1998).
The USGBC LEED version 2.0 was adopted (2000).
Ed Mazria published reports and brought together scientists and the building sector to focus on building impacts on climate change and greenhouse gas emissions, with the 2030 challenge (2002).
The General Services Administration (GSA) mandated that all new federal construction must be able to be certified to a minimum of LEED Silver level (2003).
The Energy Policy Act of 2005 included federal building sustainable performance standards (2005).
The Federal Green Construction Guide for Specifiers was made available on the Whole Building Design Guide website (2006).
The Office of the Federal Environmental Executive published The Federal Commitment to Green Building: Experiences and Expectations (2007).
President Bush signed Executive Order 13423 — Strengthening Federal Environmental, Energy, and Transportation Management, which includes federal goals for sustainable design and high-performance buildings (2007).
The Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 included requirements for high-performance green federal buildings (2007).
USGBC updated LEED to version 2009 (3.0), including a required energy- and water-monitoring agreement.
ASHRAE Standard 189.1, Standard for the Design of High-Performance, Green Buildings Except Low-Rise Residential Buildings, was published as the first green building code (2010).
The GSA upgraded to a minimum of LEED Gold level certifiable on all new federal buildings and major renovations (2010).
The International Green Construction Code (IgCC): Safe and Sustainable by the Book released (2012) incorporates Standard 189.1 (2011) as an optional path for a new code baseline.
Holley Henderson, LEED AP, is a sustainability consultant and advocate who, through her company H2 Ecodesign, advises building stakeholders. She is a member of the USGBC LEED Steering Committee and has served on multiple other USGBC committees.
Mithun designed the South Lincoln Redevelopment Master Plan, a 100-unit, mixed-use senior housing community for the Denver Housing Authority, in Denver, Colorado. Image: MithunExtra Large Image
The Neoterra Townhomes project comprises nine three-story, three-bedroom townhomes on a 0.44-acre (0.18-hectare) infill site east of downtown Atlanta, Georgia. The project was designed by the Gerding Collaborative. Photo: Gerding Collaborative, LLCExtra Large Image