Wednesday, August 20, 2008
USGBC Chapter Leadership Retreat
My summer vacation began last Friday at a U.S. Green Building Council Chapter Leadership Retreat at the rustic National Conservation Training Center on the lovely wooded banks of the Potomac near Shepherdstown, West Virginia. The three-day event included 160 chapter leaders collaborating with national leadership and staff. The not-for-profit U.S. Green Building Council has grown by an average 50% per year since its founding in 1993. The Indiana Chapter is currently exceeding that growth rate (from 80 members at the beginning of 2007 to 355 now). Rapid growth comes with growing pains and growing opportunities, so the attendees had plenty to share.
Beyond the nuts and bolts of operating chapters, much of the discussion centered around the newly-revised and not yet final USGBC Strategic Plan. While I can't go into the details yet, two new areas of emphasis will be sustainable cities and social justice. In other words, this organization with 17,000 member organizations representing millions of employees has decided to expand its focus beyond buildings to encompass broader local and regional design and societal issues.
A steering group is in place for a certification system for sustainable cities, currently called the STAR Community Index, to be in pilot by January 2010. STAR is a collaborative effort involving USGBC, the International Conference for Local Environmental Initiatives (ICLEI), which has 896 city members around the world (including Indianapolis), and the Center for American Progress. A LEED-like metric for sustainable cities may give us an alternative standard to the many different city sustainability rating systems springing from various magazines and books, including Popular Science's 50 Greenest Cities, CountryHome's Best Green Places, SustainLane's US City Rankings, Move's Top 10 Greenest Cities, and MSN CityGuide's 10 Greenest Cities in America. If there was a widely-respected and rigorous third-party metric for green cities, it may have the same transformative power as the LEED metric has had for green buildings.
Expect more tools, more data, more grants and more research coming from USGBC to enable more regional and local progress. The Playbook for Green Communities, developed in collaboration with ICLEI, is an example of the type of tools and resources that will be made available. This type of collaboration with other allied organizations is another aspect of the Strategic Plan.
A local resource revealed during the retreat by one of my fellow chapter leaders was the Georgia Conservancy "Blueprints for Successful Communities" program. As Indianapolis is moving forward on the Indy Greenprint, this would be a useful body of knowledge to access.
One of the participants noted that they don't call their leadership gatherings "retreats;" they call them "advances." Get ready for some major new advances from the U.S. Green Building Council and your local chapter.
Posted by William M. Brown, AIA, LEED AP