Over the last few decades, the Southeast Region has experienced exceptional growth in population. This is a rich and diverse section of the country with numerous natural resources including large forests, mountain streams, coastal areas and agricultural commerce. Generally, these states have few large urban hubs and numerous small towns and rural communities. The chapters of Southeast Regional Committee (SERC) share similar demographics, opportunities and challenges. The chapters in this region include Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, East Tennessee, Memphis Regional, Middle Tennessee and Southwest Virginia. By collaborating regionally, the SERC chapters leverage their power to advocate in a broader fashion than they could individually.
Because of the fast growing population of the South, the green schools initiative has resonated with our chapters. To highlight just a few programs, the USGBC Georgia Chapter has the High Performance Healthy Schools Program, which has been very successful in providing educational tools, programs and competitions to the community. North Carolina sponsored the Environmental Stewardship Challenge to green their schools. South Carolina will host a Green Schools Summit with chapter members, legislators, a mayors alliance, school facility managers and administrators to discuss green strategies. In addition to the summit, South Carolina is also proud to announce it is the first in the nation to design and implement a sustainability curriculum at the high school level, with three high school students graduating with their LEED Green Associate credential. USGBC Kentucky has a robust agenda for local legislation and green school initiatives and is thrilled to have implemented a resolution to put a green school in every county.
A critical issue for the Southeast is sustainably harvested certified wood. With varying levels of success, our chapters pulled together to share resources and strategies to address legislation regarding the use and harvesting of certified wood products. In North Carolina, the USGBC fought to protect LEED certification in state building when HB 628 Protect/Promote NC Lumber was presented to legislators. Often referred to as the "anti-LEED bill," it attempted to ban the use of the LEED rating system for all state buildings. However, with input from green building industry leaders and our chapter network, the bill was amended and passed to protect LEED certification. In Tennessee, wood legislation HB1268/SB1307 passed and was sent to the governor for his signature. The bill is fairly simple, encouraging the use of locally grown wood.
There is progress for building standards on the state level. A mandate passed for LEED Silver in all new state public buildings in Arkansas, and the state Energy Office is collecting energy usage data on all state offices, both owned and in leased space. After several attempts to pass green building legislation in Virginia, the state finally succeeded with the High Performance Public Building Act of 2012.
The future planning for SERC outlines an enhanced regional advocacy program, with chapters working together to move the Southeast Region toward more sustainable communities.