This year marks the fifteenth anniversary of the U.S. Green Building Council. Currently the leader of the green building industry, this organization, as you know, is responsible for running and overseeing the LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) ratings. Projects that have been awarded LEED certification exist all over the world, and to help mark their fifteenth year anniversary, we are including this brief look at USGBC history.
The USGBC was formed as part of a vision. Its founders wanted to improve the way that we live on the Earth. They wanted our buildings to work at sustaining rather than depleting our planet. Part of The USGBC’s fundamental purpose was to make green buildings a cultural norm. Part of their vision was to make green building so commonplace that eventually anyone working on a building project would embrace its methods and technologies.
No USGBC history would be complete without looking at the personal histories of the organizations’ founders. Most interviews with the principals of this organization reveal that these individuals have had a relationship with the environment or with nature that originated during their childhood. The concept of green building has existed since the 1980’s. However, the core of the USGBC was formed in the 1990’s when then president Bill Clinton asked members of the American Institute of Architects to work on greening the White House. Several of the people involved in that project branched off and helped to form the USGBC.
While working on formalizing their building standards and certification levels, they also engaged in a number of community rebuilding projects. After Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans, members of the USGBC went to this city to help with its rebuilding efforts. They were primarily able to focus on the schools in that area, and they helped to rebuild many of them in ways that made them healthier, sturdier, and more environmentally friendly than the buildings that had been destroyed.
After a tornado destroyed Greensburg, Kansas in 2007, the members of the USGBC arrived to help rebuild this small town. They worked to make this city a green model that has been noticed by developers and architects from around the world. USGBC has helped to quantify and define the effects of using green technologies in building. This pragmatic approach has helped many developers to understand the cost and environmental benefits of these technologies, and thus, it has encouraged many developers to embrace these technologies. Over the last fifteen years of USGBC history, they have brought green construction from relative obscurity to its current central role in society.
Now, this organization wants to promote green building at a rate that competes with the speed of global warming. Currently, they claim that only three percent of building efforts are green enough. However, the USGBC is working on ways that they can continue to promote LEED standards on a larger scale. For instance, they are trying to figure out how to create infrastructure elements that can be used to make entire cities greener. Ideally, they want projects to be just as concerned with how people get to their buildings and with the environmental impacts of the areas around their buildings as they are with their own green materials and building technologies.
The ultimate goal of the USBGC is to address two large issues: the effects of the industrial revolution and the effects of the world’s quickly growing population. In order to do that, they must stage not only an environmental movement but a cultural movement. They are searching for universal solutions that can endow people’s lives with meaning while also revitalizing their neighborhoods and improving the environment.
Bob Berkebile, one of the principal architects with the USGBC, has referred to Einstein’s comments about man and nature. According to Berkebile, Einstein identified an adversarial split between men and nature. Einstein claimed that if people were able to break free of this illusion, they will be able to finally see the universe as a friendly place. USGBC history is relatively short. However, their goals are immense, and the organization will undoubtedly be around a long time as they strive to reach their goal of creating sustainability within a generation.