USGBC National Capital Region member spotlight: Sandra Leibowitz | U.S. Green Building Council
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Learn more about USGBC National Capital Region's longest-running member, LEED Fellow Sandra Leibowitz.

How did you get involved in building sustainability?

I got involved at the end of my BA in architecture program in college. I was interested in exploring the connection between the environment and architectural design. I identified myself as an environmentalist, but honestly I almost left the field of architecture because I questioned how I was helping the environment. So, I chose to make sustainable architecture my environmental career! I then focused on it in grad school at the University of Oregon. My first real job was in Washington, D.C. at HOK architects, where I veered away from the design side into more of the research and consulting side.

How and when did you first get involved with USGBC National Capital Region?

The year USGBC National Capital Region was founded, I started going to meetings and joined the programs committee. At that time, I was also heavily involved in Takoma Village Cohousing, a green building and community in D.C. I was on the design committee and became a resident. I was very consumed with the project, ensuring that the green building goals were carried out through construction in a much deeper way than just as a consultant. I was very busy, and unfortunately had to leave the programming committee, but over the years I have attended many National Capital Region events and have appreciated them as a member tremendously.

What do you find most valuable about being a USGBC community member?

The educational courses, networking and connecting with people who are moving policy forward, advocating and expanding the knowledge base of the D.C area. I moved out of D.C., but I’m still involved in the National Capital Region community, along with both the Greater Virginia and Hampton Roads communities. It is great to have the opportunity interact with professionals who share the same passion, including competitors!

How has the landscape changed since you got involved with USGBC National Capital Region?

When I first moved to D.C. in 1996, there were grassroots elements to green building. There was GreenHOME, a nonprofit organization in D.C., and the AIA D.C. chapter Committee on the Environment. USGBC National Capital Region was just beginning, but there was already momentum building. Now there are hundreds, if not thousands, of people involved within the region. There are also many people who are green building generalists—I would love to see more people specializing so National Capital Region has subject matter experts in the less common areas—maybe more indoor air quality specialists and industrial hygienists. Bringing these people into the chapter may mean partnering with universities and research institutions.

Potomac Yard

Sandra Leibowitz was LEED project manager for One and Two Potomac Yard in Arlington, Virginia. These office buildings house several offices of the U.S. EPA and were each certified LEED Gold in 2006. Building One then earned LEED Gold in 2008, and Building Two earned LEED Platinum in 2011.

What's your favorite project that you've worked on in your career?

Besides Takoma Village Cohousing, it’s One and Two Potomac Yard. There were overlapping and complex requirements, including those driven by the U.S. EPA, its primary tenant. We were able to see project through from new construction, into tenant fit-out, to occupancy and through operations and maintenance. We went on to achieve LEED Gold for Operations and Maintenance for one of the buildings and LEED Platinum for O+M for the other. It is rare to take a project from design and construction into its future and daily operations; I really enjoyed that aspect.

What advice do you have for young people starting in the green building industry?

Take initiative to go green yourself. If you have an architecture degree, join a local community, go to sessions and join committees. If you have another degree, engage in some self-study, take an architecture class, take the LEED Green Associate Exam. You have to marry both sides of the equation: the buildings to the environment.

Where should USGBC National Capital Region focus in the Industry?

Health care. It’s so core to the mission of hospitals to heal, but they are behind in developing green initiatives. There’s also absolutely opportunity within medical office buildings; they’re less intense facilities. A green office is a competitive advantage!

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