20 years of USGBC: The Woo-hoo gang
This article is part of a series of stories from USGBC's community celebrating 20 years of green building triumphs. Take a walk down memory lane with USGBC, as we reflect on favorite moments and share memories from the last 20 years. Share your own green building triumphs using #USGBC20.
The epiphany that changed my life happened quite accidentally in 1994 when, as the incoming national president-elect of the American Society of Interior Designers I was asked to attend an early membership meeting of the USGBC.
It was there that I realized that designers are sometimes guilty of bad or even dehumanizing design. I know this because prior to my career switch to environmental communications, I practiced interior design for 27 years, as the owner of my own firm and as an employee of architectural and interiors firms. I have personally created some of the most awful environments – offices that stifle, suppress, choke and at the very least, bore their occupants. I’ve put people in overly bright rooms with enough glare on their computer screens to guarantee nightly headaches. I’ve stuck them in dark, confined spaces and surrounded them with co-workers they can hear too loudly. I’ve specified materials that off-gas noxious chemicals that have likely contributed to untold health problems. I’ve sat quiet when decisions were made, based solely on economics, that I knew full well would result in unsafe environments. If I did speak out, it wasn’t forcefully enough. Much of what I have done has been harmful, and I began to question my ability to do this kind of work.
In 1999 the “original” LEED was in its infancy. Sitting on its Board of Directors I cajoled a somewhat reluctant USGBC to permit me to begin writing a rating system for commercial interiors. Gathering together the best and the brightest, including my green mentor, Bill Reed, we cobbled together the 2nd LEED rating system. (Some EBOM people claim they were second but that’s just plain wrong!) Though it took us six years to get through authoring LEED-CI and the pilot process to launch, we did amazing work. For example, at one of our early retreats in 2000 we divided the 30 attendees into groups by credit category, creating, as far as I know, what are now known as TAGS. We also inserted some rogue credits into CI: one for toxic chemical avoidance, another for acoustics and for biophilia strategies. They were, alas, removed but finally returned in v4. Woo-hoo!*
Subsequently, as a member of the LEED Steering Committee, I persistently promoted the interior designer’s role in the design and construction of green buildings. What’s emerged, from our efforts is a growing and vibrant discipline, responsible for interior spaces that nourish, inspire and invigorate its occupants—spaces that the Rocky Mountain Institute’s Amory Lovins said create “delight when entered, pleasure when occupied, and regret when departed.”
* Woo-hoo: the victory chant originated by a determined gang of irrational commercial interiors rating system writers.