Buildings as Leaders at the USGBC Community Forum

At just under 6 miles from my house, I was inspired to take alternative transportation to the USGBC Community Forum (5/13/2011) at TVSdesign’s Atlanta headquarters near the Woodruff Art Center. In the elevator from the MARTA platform to street level I met Steve, the Rain Saver . We chatted about the various professional membership groups in the city and both agreed that USGBC had the best mix of people. A fellow cyclist is always a good sign to me, and I got a hunch that the forum would be fun.

Atlanta is fortunate to be one of a few select cities to host this unique membership outreach event. It included a networking breakfast, two breakout discussion sessions and an open forum with USGBC staff.  As moderator, Roger Platt VP of Global Policy and Law, worked the crowd in his opening remarks, and injected his own brand of ‘rocket fuel’ to ensure no one went home disappointed. He threw out a bunch of statistics like Georgia is in the top ten cities with LEED certified buildings, and Atlanta is in the top ten cities with ENERGY STAR certified buildings. He reminded the attendees that the vision of the USGBC is regenerative, to improve the environment. As members of the USGBC, our mission is to catalyze action with equal respect for people, planet, and profit, ie. The triple bottom line. He closed by stating that no question is too sharp in this open forum.

I would estimate that the questions about the Credential Maintenance Program (CMP) hurt less like a splinter and more like the throbbing sting of a yellow jacket .

There is no easy way to talk about the GBCI CMP. The program organizers must have anticipated this question because they brought a bright young professional on staff at the GBCI to field the fastballs. Early on she admitted that implementation of the program is acknowledged as a problem. She urged us to reconsider perceived complexity as real flexibility. I like it. If you think your on-going education fits in a certain category, than it does! If you need credits in a specific category, count a cross-category opportunity, like committee or project work. There was still division among the members in the room whether there should be more or less options available. Personally, I think we wasted a lot of time complaining about it and not enough talking about bigger things like… Have you seen it? If not, go there now. I hope this is just the start of what we can expect the GBCI to do with all the data they are collecting through the-new to v3-required sharing of energy and water use data. It is clear there is huge potential in the near future to learn from the measured performance of LEED buildings.

After we agreed to disagree on CMP, the group broke into 2 smaller discussion topics. I’m glad I chose to attend the codes and advocacy breakout session. I heard from friends that the alternative, ‘Future of LEED’, was nothing new to active members of the USGBC community. My impression of the caliber of the group that attended this forum was that we are all LEED power users. In the session, advocacy was discussed in terms of buildings as leaders. Before the forum, I was unfamiliar with the Center for Green Schools, and after the forum I’m now convinced that school performance drives residential real estate values and green schools have the potential for generational changes. The concept calls to mind a recent interview in Green Source. The biologist Janine Benyus postures that, “ By rating buildings, we act as agents of natural selection.” These are the kinds of ideas that fuel my on-going interest in sustainability and our initiatives to regenerate the earth. As I rode away from the community forum, I was smiling about two things: 1. I’m proud to be a USGBC member, and 2. You never have to pay to park your bike! That is instant feedback on the environmental impact of your transportation choice.

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