When it comes to creating a healthier, more livable planet through green building initiatives, one could summarize progress made to date with the biblical proverb: The road to hell is paved with good intentions. Our hearts and minds may be in the right place, but it will take more than that to address climate change.
Don’t get me wrong: Our industry is fully invested in designing, sourcing, equipping, and building communities that are more respectful of our natural world and protective of its limited resources. These actions are certainly not insignificant. However, there’s only so much we can accomplish without broader support and participation from numerous others – on a local, national and global scale. Without it, we may all be at risk of discovering what living in a hellscape is really like.
If implemented, the initiatives outlined in President Joe Biden’s proposed sustainable infrastructure and equitable clean energy plan might help transform those intentions into enduring, course-corrective actions. But, in the meantime, there are additional contributions that green building professionals can make right now to help further its chances of delivering the successful sustainability outcomes we’re working towards.
We asked a panel of industry leaders to share their thoughts on what those proactive steps might be. Below are some highlights (in text and video) from our conversations, but if you’d like to see more, you can access our eBook, Voices of Greenbuild: Building a Greener U.S. Future, as well as additional audio and video content, by joining our Greenbuild Insider community.
Foster increased environmental education and understanding
It's important for design professionals to speak out and help educate those who don't understand what the impact is on buildings and why it's important to address these issues. One building by itself isn't going to make it difference, but all buildings together, worldwide, will. If we can get everybody going in the same direction, it will have a major impact on the industry and create a virtuous cycle. —David Kaneda, Principal & Thought Leader, IDeAs Consulting
Empower and equip others to drive and accelerate change
As experts, we like feeling like the smartest person in the room. But if we actually want people to take what we’ve worked on for decades and run with it, create value out of it, and empower others in our communities to make it their own, we have to start stepping back and not [push to] have the last word. We must switch [our mindset] to, “What is it that the community needs?” We need to find our own curb cuts – whether it’s tools, messaging, stories… seeing Lady Gaga on TV, saying, hey, healthy spaces matter... All of that is significant. Think about what it will take for our end users to actually absorb this message and adopt it, rather than us continuing to preach to the choir. —Elena Bondareva, Strategist, Advisor, and Director of Pollinate Group and the William J. Warden Foundation
As we continue to translate design ideas into tangible impacts that matter to the communities that we're building for, we need to talk more in terms of the occupants’ perspective, and respond to the question, ‘What’s in it for them? I really feel people want to be a part of this change. We just need to give them the tools that they feel comfortable using to drive and deliver on it. —Guatami Palanki, VP of Sustainability, Howard Hughes Corporation
Follow the money
We can advocate for adequate resources that provide what's needed to be up to the task. And make sure that social and racial equity are fundamental, in terms of how offerings get designed and distributed. As industry insiders, we can be making those points to our energy industry partners and other stakeholders at the state and local level, to ensure they will be ready to receive the funding and implement the programs. —Kim Vermeer, President & Co-Founder, Urban Habitat Initiatives
Don’t let complacency set in
One thing that's going to be really important is keeping up momentum, because we don’t know what's going to happen in Washington in two years and four years. We could have changes in administration, changes in messaging… but that doesn't take away this larger existential threat. We need to continually keep the broader goals in mind and put pressure on ourselves, on our clients, and on our competitors to not forget about those goals when they're no longer at the top of the news headlines. —Danielle Wilmot, Manager of Implementation, Blue Ocean Sustainability
Add your thoughts to the conversation
Look for additional conversations on the Biden Climate and Infrastructure Plan to come from these experts and others. In the meantime, we’d love to hear from you: What steps are you taking to prepare your business, your projects, or your clients for the sustainability opportunities and challenges ahead? Drop us a line and let us know.
About the author
Jodi Harris is director of content strategy at Informa Connect. Prior to this role, Jodi spent over a decade developing and managing content initiatives for clients in the entertainment, CPG, health care, technology, and biotech industries, as well as for agencies and media brands. Follow Jodi on Twitter @Joderama.