“Our changing climate means we must reshape the way we grow and build to enable all people, both now and in the future, to thrive. For the building sector, this means dramatic and ambitious solutions including rapid market transformation for a net-zero carbon built environment…We need courage from all sectors of the industry to be radical, strategic and collaborative to reach our shared goals of carbon neutral(ity)… You are part of the solution.” -Rose Lathrop | Green Building and Smart Growth Program Manager, Sustainable Connections
AUTHOR | SAL LAI, COFOUNDER
What makes me thankful? Despite my concerns with our society’s trajectory, I am encouraged to see entire communities centering their lives around purpose and community— doing the courageous work to reverse global warming and fight social injustice at the same time. When I witness this, it reminds me that I do believe we are moving toward a more generous, integrated and regenerative way of living on this planet. This makes me thankful.
I had the pleasure of seeing evidence of this movement at the 2017 Sustainable Design and Development Conference in Bellingham, Washington. The theme for this year’s conference was “Transforming the Market to Carbon Neutral” and the strategies presented during the day were both challenging and exciting:
Get Comfortable with Being Uncomfortable | Patti Southard, Program Manager, King County Green Tools
In the opening keynote Patti Southard, Program Manager at King County Green Tools, addressed a room mainly full of white designers, architects, builders, consultants and researchers. Patti challenged us to question whether our projects (in an industry responsible for 45% of the Green House Gas emissions in the built environment) contribute to social justice in our communities for all people. She reminded us that we should exercise land use planning “as if people mattered” and informed us that in the ten years between 2007 and 2017, our African American population within the city of Seattle declined from 13% to 7%. Our society is only getting more economically stratified with minorities moving out of the city and Caucasians rapidly moving in. However; In King County, there are more languages spoken than any other city in the entire US except Los Angeles. By 2022, the population of American children will become “minority majority” for the first time. So, what does it mean for us to plan as if people mattered? Homeowners must focus on the value of diversity in our neighborhoods— to advocate and draw on the deep well of love and connection, rather than fear or anger. As homebuilders, we need to increase the affordability and accessibility of resource-efficient homes.
Building the Decarbonized Future | Vincent Martinez, COO, Architecture 2030
“In the wake of the US’s intention to withdraw from the Paris Agreement, it is clearer than ever that change in the building sector will come from the bottom up.” Vincent Martinez, COO of Architecture 2030, spoke about the importance of private-public partnerships (rather than public-private) to decarbonize the built environment in cities. Business and grass roots community groups will play an integral role in transforming our housing sector from the ground up. Many think tanks and research studies indicate that urban density is a primary, necessary strategy to decrease our carbon output while maintaining the infrastructure needed for another 1.1 Billion people in 15 years (the equivalent of a brand new, New York City built every single month). Are we willing to acknowledge and embrace the fact that our cities are growing and guide the momentum to a better outcome?
A special thanks to these other industry leaders for bringing these discussions:
Passive House | Alex Boetzel, COO of Green Hammer
“Reducing energy use – and consequently, CO2 emissions – of buildings, is an instant and continued action on climate change.” Alex Boetzel, COO of Green Hammer provided practical, actionable insight on energy use reductions of 65-75% using passive strategies so that buildings can become net-zero-energy and subsequently carbon neutral. Green Hammer has built homes in the Portland area receiving certifications including: Passive House, LEED Platinum, FSC, Earth Advantage and Living Building Challenge.
More Affordable Sustainability | Bec Chapin, Cofounder of NODE
“As gatekeepers to the change we want to see in the world, we have an opportunity to change the way we think about (home)ownership.” This transformation should allow more people to prosper in our quest for more affordable housing and sustainability in the built environment. Bec Chapin had the crowd pair up to actively share stories with one another, getting strangers to engage at a heart level and making her session the loudest and liveliest.
Shannon Todd and Don MacOdrum | TRC Solutions
On behalf of the Northwest Energy Efficiency Alliance, Project Managers, Shannon and Don shared their vision and strategy for partnerships between local governments, certification programs and utilities to make green building an obvious and cost-effective choice for all builders. Their conversational style allowed us to understand the important “boots on the ground” work and how TRC is leading to break down the cost and system barriers to green building. Thank you for your hard work.
A few quotes from this presentation:
“What if our homes could represent the values that we are evolving into?
“What if we could build homes that were purpose-driven, balanced, community-focused, warm, generous, integrated, regenerative.
“We came together to start Green Canopy under this vision that the homefront was a leverage for transforming the way in which we live in our environment and we still believe that today. The tactics and our strategy has changed but the mission has stayed the same... we want to transform the real estate market."