Jeremy Sigmon

I’m inspired by the many people I meet who are committed to the idea that green building design, construction and operations will change the world. The market’s uptake alone is reason enough to be sure that we really are having an impact, with already nearly 60,000 LEED projects around the world.

We know we can catalyze this impressive growth and focus on sustainability if we ensure that the right frameworks exist to help these efforts flourish and thrive. That’s where you, the advocate, come in.

Out of hundreds of wonderful things that we have asked (and could certainly continue to ask) our community to focus on, we picked the seven big ideas that can deliver the highest impact. After a couple years of commitment to these campaigns, with the help of 14 wonderful volunteer co-chairs this year and our State and Local Campaign Manager Christina Kuo, I’m pleased to report that we’re making progress.

Here’s my very brief summary of advocacy campaign successes from 2013:

Highlight Green Homes – It’s not easy to convince realtors and multiple listing services (MLS) that upgrades to forms and software will grease the skids for a local boost in green home supply and demand. USGBC contributed to a 2013 blueprint to unlock visible value for energy efficiency in the residential marketplace. A textbook example of the blueprint in action is Northstar MLS, which added two new searchable fields for “green building certification” and “home energy efficiency rating.” Northstar serves 13,500 Minnesota realtors and has $12.4 billion of annual real estate transactions. In addition, our campaign co-chair Tony Richardson is making progress in southwest Florida, leveraging some of the great work that his co-chair Sean Smith has produced in Colorado.

Value Healthy & Efficient Affordable Housing – States continue to fold green building labels and qualifications into criteria for funding low-income housing through Qualified Allocation Plans. The USGBC South Florida Chapter worked with the city of Key West on its new Building Permit Allocation System that requires new residential construction to be green (LEED certified or equivalent), including the many new affordable units that are required to be built. Incentives are offered for increasing sustainability and exceeding the affordable housing minimum. At the close of this year (and another fantastic Green Affordable Housing Summit last month), there are more than 21,000 LEED-certified residential units designated as affordable, comprising more than 40 percent of all LEED for Homes projects!

Build Better Codes – You can see here that a few cities and states are figuring out how to use the International Green Construction Code (IgCC) as a complementary green building policy, and here that more current energy codes are being used across the country. In an October blog post on codes, I captured a few of the year’s highlights — from a big Texas city to the International Energy Conservation Code, and from the Golden Coast to a little Hudson River town. The capstone for the year was last month’s “Green Regs & Ham” event at Greenbuild, where more than 100 people gathered to hear from 22 speakers; the cities of New York, Philadelphia, Baltimore, Washington and Dallas; and from professionals with their sleeves rolled up trying to make it work. (See here for the PowerPoint presentation and here for the recording that unfortunately skipped the first third of the program.)

Establish Common Ground Around Green Schools – There’s no question that the green schools movement continues to build productive bridges among so many perspectives. That’s what this campaign (and our third annual national state legislative summit on green schools) is all about. This year’s “Best of Green Schools” list shows it well. My colleague Nate Allen wrote a great blog cataloging many of this year’s green schools policy advancements and support resources here. Also, kudos to the state of Ohio for reaching a first-in-the-nation milestone this month with 100 LEED-certified K-12 public schools, thanks to a forward-looking public policy and the Ohioans who have supported it through the years.

Mainstream Building Benchmarking – It’s been a big year for benchmarking. Minneapolis, Boston, Philadelphia and Chicago all joined the chorus, singing, “You can’t manage what you don’t measure … so measure your energy, please.” USGBC’s community has been intimately involved in the community discussions that have unleashed these new ordinances, and also in working out the implementation kinks in existing ordinances. See here for a blog post from the Urban Green Council on the release of New York City’s second benchmarking report. In Chicago, benchmarking advocates got creative in their fun video to help educate the public.

Improve Energy Data Access – You can’t benchmark without access to building energy data. That’s what green building professionals, state and local government officials, and a handful of utilities came together to discuss this fall in Montgomery County, Md., and earlier this year in Minneapolis. The USGBC National Capital Region Chapter hosted the recent summit in Maryland to begin breaking down walls to accessing this critical information. Unsurprisingly, cities that have adopted benchmarking ordinances without an arrangement with their local utility for adequate data acquisition are now engaging in the data access discussion. USGBC members and volunteers are helping connect the dots.

Leadership with LEED – Our amazing state-by-state network of advocates stopped several bad ideas from undermining green building leadership this year, but in between these defensive efforts, they moved a lot of things forward. Among the highlights, our community helped to deliver state-level incentives for LEED building construction in Arizona, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico and New York. At the city level, Cleveland committed to LEED Silver and King County, Wash., to LEED Platinum. And, after almost two years of support from businesses, partners, allies and advocates, the U.S. General Services Administration and federal agencies have decided to continue to predominantly use LEED.

This list could go on and on… Read more about USGBC’s advocacy campaigns, and join your local chapter to get involved!