The U.S. Green Building Council's new strategic plan, which will guide the USGBC through 2013, acknowledges that, while the organization deserves credit for making “green building” a household term, real results on the ground have fallen far short of its target.
Ten years ago, the USGBC set an ambitious goal of reaching the “top 25%” of all new buildings in the U.S. with its LEED rating program. After nearly a decade, the USGBC has been forced to concede that “only 3% of new commercial buildings in 2007 are estimated to have met minimum certification levels, and only 0.2% of new residential construction is built green.”
Let's give credit to the USGBC for being upfront about this shortfall. Kudos, too, for admitting that the organization had largely ignored the “social equity” leg of the triple bottom line in favor of environmental and economic considerations. The strat plan recognizes that the USGBC needs to do more with what it calls “underserved communities” and communities of color. That includes increasing the representation of such groups in its decision-making structures.
Also on the USGBC's mea culpa list: the need to shift emphasis from single buildings toward the larger built environment—neighborhoods, even whole cities, as well as roads, parks, transit, land-use planning, economic development, and affordable housing.
The document also states clearly that the USGBC, through LEED and other avenues, has to do more about upgrading existing buildings, which make up 98% of the built environment in any single year: “The greening of existing buildings is an increasingly urgent need in order to reduce human impact on the environment.” The strategic plan doesn't say it outright, but LEED for Existing Buildings: O&M just hasn't cut the mustard. Even the most well-meaning building owners are intimidated by its sometimes overly fastidious and expensive-looking requirements. The USGBC really needs to rethink LEED EB.
These two factors are wrapped around a mounting concern on the USGBC's part about climate change. The strategic plan calls for the USGBC to “lead the dramatic reduction and eventual elimination of building construction and operations' contribution to climate change and natural resource depletion.”
For example, the plan calls for greater use of renewable energy technologies and the design and redesign of communities around efficient transit services. As we note in the White Paper that accompanies this issue (“Green Buildings + Climate Change”), global warming is the single most important issue confronting the U.S. and the world.
The strat plan calls for other commendable actions: more education to train the building trades and facilities managers in green building, more R&D on building technology, more data on the health and productivity benefits of green buildings. We couldn't agree more.
Now for the fun part: implementation.
The USGBC strategic plan can be downloaded at: www.usgbc.org/ShowFile.aspx?DocumentID=470