Michael Peel

Community partnerships and ADVANCE workshops are mobilizing sustainability efforts in Arizona.

Things are cooking in Tucson! USGBC Arizona has been cultivating community partnerships to advance sustainable projects and provide members with a meaningful way to impact their local community. A wide range of community projects, including energy assessments to green school education campaigns, are in the works. Communitywide collaborations, led by the Sonoran Branch, are expanding sustainability in buildings and communities  through the ADVANCE campaign

Omar Youssef, a PhD candidate from University of Arizona, and I launched the ADVANCE campaign locally last November. We’re working with USGBC students, emerging professionals and seasoned professionals alike to make green building technical resources and expertise accessible to all to advance social equity in the built environment and mainstream green building among new, underserved and underresourced audiences. 

An early ADVANCE workshop connected Omar and I with Peter Dobrovolny, a retired volunteer architect who participated in the formation of Seattle’s 2030 District. Peter wanted to replicate the 2030 District model here in Tucson. Our connection spurred momentum beyond all our expectations. It demonstrated how the ADVANCE campaign’s focus on partnership can catalyze significant community initiatives.

We have combined efforts, and are now mobilizing people and partners locally with the shared goal of cutting energy and water use and transportation emissions in half by 2030. With clearly established goals and access to tools, expertise and models offered by USGBC and the 2030 District networks, we are now armed to identify specific projects and cultivate even more partnerships with allied organizations locally. In just six months of the first ADVANCE workshop, USGBC Arizona and 2030 Districts have teamed up to help Tucson building owners and representatives advance energy and environmental performance in their facilities. 

On April 30 and May 2, USGBC staffer Ryan Snow joined us for a dynamic series of volunteer training sessions and workshops to support over 60 community representatives embarking on the path to sustainability leadership. A number of building owners and community representatives across major sectors—business, education, government and nonprofits—participated in the workshops at the U of A’s ENR2 green building, focused on advancing building performance in Tucson’s first 2030 District to

  • Explore how their organization’s values are aligned with sustainability.
  • Identify existing challenges, opportunities and assets in their existing facilities.
  • Brainstorm dreams and aspirations for their organizations and the spaces they occupy.
  • Map organizational relationships to build a "green team."
  • Identify practical next steps to get started on an effective performance plan for their properties, including the use of Energy Star Portfolio Manager.

The workshop brought together community representatives, including Pima County sustainability leaders, University of Arizona and Pima Community College students and staff, businesses and community organizations. Together, we started a dialogue that will result in the first established 2030 District in Arizona. The first proposed Tucson 2030 District will include the Bonita/Menlo Park neighborhood and Downtown areas. The excitement continues to build following the training and workshops. Pima County just featured the efforts in a story in their widely read newsletter. 

The ADVANCE campaign helped launch these efforts and continues to provide support through a series of workshops and activities to explore, plan and act upon sustainable building and community strategies. Tucson participants are gaining access to USGBC Arizona’s professional network and resources, while working with volunteers to set goals and implement strategies that will improve the energy, resource and health performance of buildings and neighborhoods across the city.