A month before last year’s Greenbuild, the UN’s IPCC released its findings, issuing a dire warning about an immediate need for the world to drastically reduce greenhouse emissions by 2030.
The report attracted international headlines—and it was, of course, at the top of my mind when speaking to USGBC’s global community this past November in Chicago.
How could it not be? 2030 is only 11 years from now. That’s less than half the time that USGBC has existed. It means that children born today will only make it to elementary school before having to deal with the inevitability of catastrophic conditions.
The IPCC report further crystallized for me the impact and timing of our own public opinion research initiative. When the report was released last fall, we were midway through our own Living Standard research initiative. Across five regions of the U.S., we convened focus groups among a wide range of communities, with two primary goals in mind: to better understand the disconnect between the story of green building and the average American, and to learn whether telling a better story could provide the sense of urgency needed to improve every human being’s quality of life.
What we’ve just begun to understand—and I can tell we’ve barely scratched the surface— is how many people out there have a unique perspective on sustainability, and how many people we still have yet to reach.
What we’ve also learned from leaders like LK Policy Lab President Laurie Kerr is that when people think about emissions, they think about cars, power plants and industries.
They rarely think about buildings.
For some people, buildings are merely aesthetically fulfilling. They’re something to marvel at. And for others, they, of course, have an important daily purpose—as a place to live and work.
But while the look and logic of buildings tend to be at the forefront of our minds, their long-term impact on our well-being is not. And until that becomes our reality, we still have a messaging mountain to climb.
That’s because you can’t solve a problem that isn’t on your radar.
And if you don’t understand or know what a LEED-certified building is, let alone what it can do for you and the people you love, then you definitely don’t know that it’s an advantage in the face of the daunting global challenges ahead of us.
For over a quarter century now, USGBC has worked to prove that buildings are very much living entities that, if created with forethought and compassion, can mitigate climate-related risks.
But we need to do more. And I believe using this research to inform our strategy is the best first step we can take.
The first in a series from USGBC’s Living Standard campaign, this report demonstrates the power of storytelling to further our work in sustainability.
We know that green buildings are only part of the solution to lengthening and bettering the lives of every person on the planet. That’s why the heart of the green building community’s efforts must go beyond construction or efficiency. Instead, our focus must be on people.
In the pages that follow, you will see some of Living Standard’s in-depth qualitative and quantitative research on people’s views of the environment. This new research questions our conventional wisdom and experience.
For too long, most of us in the green building community have simply been talking to ourselves. We are not reaching the broader population effectively enough to change their behavior or decisions on the scale necessary to combat climate-related risks.
But we can. If we listen and learn. And if we ask the right questions.
In the coming months, we will be speaking with you and listening to your stories. We look forward to hearing your thoughts on this report. And, by this year’s Greenbuild 2019 in Atlanta, we plan to have a new direction for USGBC, shaped by the people whose perspectives we are sharing in this report, and by all of you. Our goal is for USGBC to be known not only for the plaques we place on buildings, but for the people who experience them—the ones leading longer, healthier and happier lives.