Volunteer Spotlight - Shawn Hesse: License to Advocate
In 2001, a founding member of the USGBC Cincinnati Regional Chapter visited a University of Cincinnati course as a guest speaker and piqued Shawn Hesse’s interest in chapters. Hesse confesses he initially “lurked” in the back of the room during the chapter’s meetings until he could better grasp how he could get involved.
Since then, he has evolved into one of USGBC’s most influential volunteers through Emerging Green Builders (EGB), the committee tasked with recruiting and programming for young and transitioning green-industry professionals. USGBC introduced the program in 2002. When Hesse joined in 2004, Cincinnati didn’t have an EGB committee, so he stepped up to the plate, founding Cincinnati’s EGB and making his first of many contributions to the organization.
EGB got his foot in the door and gave him a voice with which to prove himself to the local chapter, says Hesse. From there he was swiftly initiated into a chapter leadership position, and then into USGBC’s greater chapter community. After serving as EGB chair, he moved up to a role on Cincinnati’s Board in 2006, serving as vice-chair in 2007 and chair in 2008 before being elected Cincinnati’s at-large representative to the Heartland Regional Council (HRC) in 2009. Hesse is currently the HRC finance chair; he also chaired his chapter’s advocacy committee last year.
“Shawn is firmly in the visionary category, with a world view beyond his years,” says Sam Pobst, HRC Chair. “He leads his generation with the capacity to deliver more than the status quo. He has a vision that sustainability is just not good enough, and that our actions must be restorative on multiple levels. I have full confidence that Shawn will deliver on the promise of that vision.”
Hesse’s pursuit of that vision led him to advocacy, which has been the highlight of his dynamic history as a USGBC volunteer. Having had no advocacy experience prior to his participation on the committee during his board tenure, Hesse found it to be a tremendous learning opportunity and his advocacy efforts helped drive green legislation in Cincinnati. Committee members were invited to meetings with city officials and helped encourage a developer to register a large publically funded project with LEED. Hesse also helped draft Cincinnati’s LEED tax statement, which grants tax exemptions for up to 15 years on any LEED-certified property valued at $500,000 or less.
Last year, when Hesse chaired the chapter’s advocacy committee, the group won a USGBC Chapter Award of Excellence for Advocacy for convincing Cincinnati’s mayor to join the USGBC Mayors’ Alliance for Green Schools and for assisting the nearby town of Wilmington in drafting green legislation. A bill now under consideration in Ohio would require any state-funded project to receive LEED Silver certification. Hesse’s committee garnered support for this bill from a diverse constituency that includes a conservative lobbying firm that was once opposed to the idea. Hesse proudly testified in favor of the legislation to the Ohio Senate with the confidence that the compromise proposal enjoyed bipartisan backing.
Hesse cites having a platform from which to inform the green building movement at the local and state levels as well as the activities of USGBC National as the paramount benefit of chapter membership. Volunteering through the chapter both furthered Hesse’s professional ambitions and allowed him to escape them as well. He’s an architect and a sustainability consultant with emersion DESIGN and estimates that upward of 90 percent of his company’s projects seek LEED certification.
Hesse says his chapter activities have “given me instant credibility in regard to my knowledge of sustainable design.” But Hesse speaks animatedly about being able to disown his qualifications and titles and instead advocate for change as a volunteer. “Walking in as a representative of a chapter gives you different license to advocate for green policy,” Hesse remarks.
After spending his childhood, undergraduate education and graduate education in Cincinnati, Hesse is now designing his career in the city. He confesses that he “loves the West Coast,” developing a fondness for Seattle through a graduate program that allowed him to live and work there. However, once he began working with USGBC and getting involved in local projects, he realized he could make a difference in a city like Cincinnati.
“I could help to be part of the change that drives us to a more sustainable world,” Hesse says. “If everyone who thought and believed like me moved away to other cities, who would be left to help change the rest of the country? Moving away now seems like retreating from the challenge. In Cincinnati, I can be part of the movement, part of the reason people say, ‘I had no idea Cincinnati was so progressive.’ Seattle is doing just fine without me.”
New Jersey Chapter Kicks Off Major Green Jobs Training Partnership
The New Jersey Chapter of USGBC, in partnership with the New Jersey Department of Labor and Workforce Development, was recently awarded a federal American Reinvestment and Recovery Act (ARRA) grant to provide free green workforce training to chapter members. The grant is for the dissemination of green building training and LEED Professional Credential preparation for employees of New Jersey businesses.
The collaboration began when the New Jersey Department of Labor and Workforce Development approached Florence Block, chapter executive director, following her presentation at the Women in Science and Technology workforce summit called “Retooling the Workforce.” In her remarks, Block talked about how best to meet the goals of the State of New Jersey’s Energy Master Plan. Her presentation identified the vast resources and global reach of USGBC in providing LEED workshops, GBCI’s LEED professional credentials, and the exponential growth in the number of LEED-certified buildings.
Intrigued department representatives suggested working collaboratively with the New Jersey Chapter to educate and train incumbent workers via an ARRA grant. “This valuable educational opportunity for our members is going to increase the marketability of the companies they work for, enabling them to compete effectively and acquire a greater percentage of the jobs created under the state’s Energy Master Plan,” says Block.
The curriculum consists of four eight-hour modules related to green building, focused primarily on LEED Professional Exam preparation and on how to drive the market to create a culture of sustainability. Each module consists of two parts. The first focuses on LEED training, which includes courses recommended for the LEED Green Associate level, such as Green Building Basics and LEED (available online, in person, and in Spanish). The second part of the training includes a variety of customized training programs for multiple disciplines, including LEED technical and exam review.
This type of education enables chapter members to obtain credentials, garnering them a competitive edge when vying for green building projects – planned or in development – in New Jersey. Because of the funding obtained through ARRA, the educational programs are available at no cost to qualified applicants. Classes are held onsite at an employer’s office or in one of the New Jersey Chapter’s existing training facilities.
To take advantage of the available curriculum, prospective course participants must be members of the New Jersey Chapter. The application process is simple: Candidates fill out three easy forms (with no application fee). About half of the applications received have already been approved. So far, more than 100 individuals have received training.
Applicants represent a variety of professional disciplines such as architecture, engineering and facilities management. In addition to specialists in the building trades, purchasing agents and corporate executives interested in implementing sustainability strategies have also sought to take advantage of the training programs. The newly established LEED Green Associate credential has been of particular interest to those not involved in the technical implementation of green buildings, and has been a big focus of applicants so far. The chapter held seven training classes in December and already has more than a dozen scheduled in 2010.
Block says, “It is very exciting to see the response by dozens of New Jersey companies – from both major corporations and small businesses – seeking to instill a culture of sustainability in their organizations and provide their employees with training that will give them the competitive edge in the new green markets. We are delighted to provide this educational service and be a part of the market transformation that is the USGBC mission.”
Delaware Valley Green Building Council Hosts BuildGreen Conference
In October, the Delaware Valley Green Building Council (DVGBC) and its partners in the Pennsylvania Green Growth Partnership convened BuildGreen 2009, Philadelphia’s largest green building conference. BuildGreen 2009 brought together policy-makers, practitioners and academics to promote sustainable growth and innovation throughout the region.
Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell kicked off the conference by announcing that Pennsylvania would continue its efforts to create 65,000 green jobs within the next 10 years. He also emphasized the importance of conserving natural resources by building sustainably, stating, “No matter how well we develop renewable energy sources, we will not be able to meet global demand. We also need to reduce consumption.”
Panelists and speakers echoed Rendell’s message throughout the two-day conference. Presenters also highlighted the economic opportunities that exist for university researchers and product developers, from both the public and private sectors, willing to embrace changing attitudes and create green building solutions.
“BuildGreen 2009 made a very strong case for the benefits of green building in terms of sustainability and long-term prosperity,” said DVGBC Executive Director Janet Milkman. “The conference brought together all key stakeholders interested in developing our communities and the economy through sustainable practices and fulfilled our theme of research, reinvest, rebuild.”
Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter, Allegheny Conference on Community Development CEO Dennis Yablonsky, USGBC Senior Vice President of Global Policy & Law Roger Platt, and biomimicry expert Dr. Dayna Baumeister joined in promoting sustainable design and building practices as well as environmental solutions for a better future across the state. Nutter joined the chorus of calls for a smarter built environment, reiterating his pledge to make Philadelphia the greenest city in America and trim city energy consumption by 30 percent and energy costs by 10 percent.
BuildGreen 2009 was coordinated by DVGBC, the Green Building Association of Central Pennsylvania and the Green Building Alliance, and was funded through the Ben Franklin Technology Center and the PA Department of Commerce and Economic Development.
Central Florida Chapter Celebrates LEEDership
On Oct. 14, 2009, the Central Florida Chapter hosted its second annual LEEDership Awards Dinner at the Church Street Ballroom to celebrate the chapter’s growth and accomplishments over the past year, as well as recognize those in the community who are helping to shape green building in Central Florida. Workplace Resource and Herman Miller, along with more than 25 sponsors, helped to make this event possible for nearly 300 attendees. Ray Anderson, chairman and founder of Interface Inc., served as the ceremony’s keynote speaker while Florida Sen. Lee Constantine was among those in attendance.
In spite of a challenging economic environment, both the chapter and the green building movement saw increased momentum and visibility in the Central Florida region during the past year through a variety of programming, including an annual golf tournament and the first leadership summit for the Florida/Caribbean chapters. The dinner served not only as a celebration of the chapter’s successes, but also as a medium for attendees to learn more about the chapter and to meet the green building innovators and leaders in their area.
Award categories included: outstanding community leader of the year, outstanding business of the year and outstanding projects of the year in the following categories: Homes, Core & Shell, Commercial Interiors and New Construction. Winners were determined by judges from the Florida/Caribbean Region, including Bahar Armaghani, past chair of the Heart of Florida Chapter; Kyle Abney, chair of the South Florida Chapter; Susan Cleveland, past chair of the North Florida Chapter; and John Toppe, chair of the Florida Gulf Coast Chapter.
Vermont Green Building Network Gets Active with the Vermont Green Home Alliance
Since 2008, the Vermont Green Building Network (VGBN) has been an active participant in the Vermont Green Home Alliance (VGHA), which is an extraordinary partnership among five Vermont-based organizations that work in the green homes arena. Although an alliance among five different organizations focused on the same issue might not sound unusual, four of the organizations are developing or promoting competing residential green rating systems. However, rather than arguing the definition of a green home, the VGHA was created to unite these organizations around their shared mission of moving toward more sustainable building practices.
The members of the alliance had more than 35 face-to-face meetings over the course of a year. In that time, a memorandum of understanding was developed and signed among the five organizations to work together to create and maintain a VGHA Web site as a way to more effectively promote the benefits of residential green buildings. The site also provided consumers with a comprehensive resource to help them understand the strategies of building green, the value of certification, and the components of the different rating systems available; it allowed potential homebuilders in Vermont to make informed choices when building green.
Once the consensus message document was complete, there were an additional 15 meetings to design, review and officially launch VermontGreenHomeAlliance.org . The site went live as the group held a press conference at the Home Builders and Remodelers Association Home Show on April 17, 2009. In November the VGBN received a USGBC Chapter Award of Excellence in the community category for their involvement and leadership in the VGHA.
Although the Web site has been live for some time, the VGHA continues to be active. The VGHA will work to bring home appraisers and the real estate community into the partnership. The alliance’s main push this year is to get all multiple listing services in Vermont to include information on green building certification, the Home Energy Rating System and ENERGY STAR-rated homes
In addition to focusing on the state of Vermont, the VGHA is also partnering with the Upper North East Regional Council Market Initiative Working Group, which has adopted the same goal to change multiple list services throughout the entire Upper North East Region.
Chapter Leader Mentors Greenbuild Social Equity Scholarship Winner
USGBC awarded 19 Greenbuild scholarships through its local chapters and partner organizations – ACE Mentor Program, National Organization of Minority Architects, Haskell Indian Nations University and the Wounded Warrior Project – as part of a new program launched in 2009. The scholarships focused on improving the social equity component of green building by exposing persons of low income and minority ethnicity to the full spectrum of sustainability knowledge.
Recipients received complimentary Green Building Basics & LEED and LEED Core Concepts & Strategies online courses, full Greenbuild registration, and lodging and travel to and from the conference. Before sending these green building beginners off to the action in Phoenix, USGBC matched each recipient with a leader from their closest chapter.
Scholarship recipient Darpan Patel forged a strong bond with his mentor, Joe Healy. A 19-year old architecture student at Philadelphia University, Patel learned of the Greenbuild Social Equity Scholarships through the ACE Mentor Program. Healey is the managing principal of WRT / Wallace, Roberts & Todd, LLC, a highly acclaimed Philadelphia design firm and the newly elected chair of the Delaware Valley Green Building Council (DVGBC) .
The embodiment of the chapter volunteer spirit, Healey eagerly agreed to help Patel navigate Greenbuild and has since been an exemplary mentor to him. Over the holidays, Healey invited Patel into the WRT offices for a tour and introduction to many of the young professionals in the firm. He was given first-hand exposure to WRT’s Building Information Modeling (BIM) experience and strategy, as well as a personal invite to WRT’s University-in-house brown bag lunches. Finally, Healey and Patel were able to connect on a mutual passion: bringing ideas and principles of sustainable design to middle and high school students. The two have discussed Patel’s future involvement in DVGBC’s extension of design competitions to primary and secondary education sections.
“Most times we think of ‘mentoring’ as the mentor giving to the mentee,” Healy said. “But I can say that my experience with Darpan at Greenbuild was very much the opposite. From the time we spent together, I was able to see the conference through Darpan’s eyes – a fresh perspective that enriched my overall Greenbuild experience. His energy and enthusiasm pointed to a world of possibility, which we are continuing to explore through our ongoing contact and relationship. I feel that Darpan and I have really connected and have started a long conversation in which I can share my experience and insights about the architecture profession and our shared passion around sustainable design.”
The feeling is clearly mutual. “My experience at Greenbuild was extraordinary and irreplaceable because of my mentor Joe Healy,” Patel said. “He has helped me maximize my learning and networking experience during, and after Greenbuild and he has helped me grow.”
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