Celebrating volunteers at USGBC Arizona and USGBC Central Plains | U.S. Green Building Council
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Posted in Community

USGBC's Heather Goetsch interviews exceptional community volunteers Chad Billings and Harriet Grindel.

In honor of National Volunteer Appreciation Week, USGBC interviewed several volunteers making a big impact at USGBC. Find current volunteer opportunities.

Chad Billings, Architect, Dick & Fritsche Design Group

Where did you grow up, and where are you located now?

I grew up in Denver, Colorado, and moved to Phoenix for graduate school at Arizona State University. I decided to stay in Phoenix after graduation.

How long have you been involved with USGBC?

I first heard about USGBC in 2002, when I started to research LEED credentialing. I got my credential in 2003, and started my first LEED project almost immediately. I got involved as a volunteer in 2008, joining the education committee to help keep the local programs running while other volunteers were dedicated to Greenbuild. I’ve been part of the USGBC Arizona community ever since.

What roles have you filled as a USGBC volunteer?

I’ve served on the education committee, and I was on the Central Arizona Phoenix Area Branch as treasurer, vice chair and chair. Even while serving in the branch role, I continued to help with the education committee.

What is your most proud accomplishment as a volunteer?

Five years ago, I worked with a few other volunteers on the education committee to bring programming to the next level by introducing a large annual conference. Hosting the first one was a major endeavor, because we were doing something new. It offered a big opportunity to credential holders to knock out credits in one day, as well as a networking opportunity for professionals and chance to grow the local community.

What are you most excited about in the green building industry?

What I’m most proud of is how transformative the LEED rating system has been on the industry. When version two was out, and it was new and mysterious, people didn’t know how to get things done because it was so different from how they’d been doing things. At that time, we couldn’t even find cut sheets with listed volatile organic compounds (VOC) counts in paint. Now, in the industry, you have to work hard to find paint that has VOCs. LEED v4 can bring a similar round of change to the building industry.

What is the best piece of advice you ever received?

It’s a cliché you hear all the time, but it’s “follow your passion.” People will volunteer for a variety of reasons, and those who are more drawn in by our mission are the people who stick around for the long term. When you volunteer your time, it’s important to truly care about the work you’re doing. 

Harriet Grindel, Architect, sfs architecture

Where did you grow up, and where are you located now?

I grew up in a suburb of Kansas City and chose to move east for my education. I earned my undergraduate degree in St. Louis and my master’s degree in New York City. I discovered that I love the urban core and urban living, so when I moved back to Kansas City, I established myself in a vibrant neighborhood. I love the fact that Kansas City is redefining itself as a destination, not just for the Midwest, but for the whole country.

How long have you been involved with USGBC?

My involvement with the USGBC Central Plains community started in 2009. In 2008, I went to Greenbuild in Boston and met some of the local volunteer leadership standing in the hotel lobby while waiting for the shuttle to go to hear Desmond Tutu speak for the opening plenary. They encouraged me to get involved after returning from Greenbuild.

What drew you to volunteering with USGBC over other organizations?

Originally, I was drawn to USGBC because the opportunity was very tangible and people were welcoming. The community network was volunteer-oriented, allowing me to find a place to fit into the group and just find a way to get involved.

Also, as a young architect, I was looking for a way to really engage myself outside the office and find the ability to promote good design at a larger scale. As architects, we have the responsibility to encourage our communities to build as sustainably as we can. Sustainable design is just good design, and I like being part of the bigger movement.

What roles have you filled as a USGBC volunteer?

It started in 2009, when I was a committee member for the local Central Plains Chapter Communications Committee, and I later served as chair of that committee. While serving as committee chair, I was selected by the community to represent us at a regional level in 2010 as part of the Heartland Regional Committee, until it dissolved in 2015.

As a member of the HRC, I was also elected to be part of the Chapter Steering Committee from 2012 to 2015. Additionally, I served on the Central Plains Chapter Board of Directors prior to network evolution from 2012, serving in leadership positions such as vice chair in 2012, chair in 2013, and past chair in 2014.

What are you most excited about in the green building industry?

I think we have lots of opportunity and excitement building around how to continue the momentum we’ve created as a whole to make green building achievable for all communities. I’m especially interested to see our movement continue to make “green” available to all communities, no matter their socioeconomic status. It’s about promoting cost-effective, appropriate solutions to meet the needs of our communities that are the right decisions for the people and environment.

If you could change one thing, what would it be and why?

I’d change our education system to switch focus from valuing the understanding of “what” to the understanding of “why.” We are constantly testing how people respond to questions as if there’s a correct answer, when most life situations don’t have one right answer, and potential solutions are dependent on many factors.

If we could all learn to understand each other’s “why” when approaching issues, rather than the “what,” I think it would start to change the way that we think about ourselves and our place in the environment. 

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