Written by: Roger Platt, Senior Vice President, Global Policy & Law  at the U.S. Green Building Council


The business case for building market-rate green buildings is getting stronger every day. That is fully understood by the leaders in the green building movement attending Greenbuild’s Affordable Homes and Sustainable Communities Summit on Oct. 21, 2014, in New Orleans, LA. But what appeals to the troublemaker in me, and perhaps all of us, is the equally strong conviction that the next frontier in the green building movement is bringing green to everyone — regardless of socioeconomic status. So how do we keep the business case solid while exploring this new frontier?

Sustainable communities create opportunity

Certainly, sustainable communities, built one green building at a time, create opportunities for our neighbors with the highest level of burden trying to make ends meet, while making communities stronger and more resilient for everyone.

In the words of William Gibson “The future is now, it just isn’t well distributed.”  Case in point, the Jonathan Rose Companies’ successful “Paseo Verde,” a recently completed sustainable community, has garnered international attention. Rose, a visionary leader in for-profit real estate development, points out that this LEED ND Platinum project is mixed-income with about half affordable units and half market rate. It’s serving the Temple University population on the market-rate side, and the local Philadelphia community on the affordable side — and serving, really, as a bridge in that neighborhood. Now, to make sure the “future” is better distributed we need to push for 1000 more “Paseo Verde” inspired projects.

At the Summit, USGBC and our friends in the environmental justice, public health, social equity, and business communities are convening a robust conversation about making sustainable communities and healthy, energy-efficient affordable housing a reality.

What is different this time is that we are taking seriously the memorable words of USGBC board member and South Bronx community leader Majora Carter who has said: “You don’t have to move out of your neighborhood to live in a better one.” Majora was named one of Fast Company’s 100 most creative people in business for a reason. Participants in the Summit will enjoy the unique opportunity to talk directly with her and other community-based leaders about transformative solutions to simultaneously address public health, poverty and climate change adaptation.

Whether you’re a policy wonk, a private sector guru, a community or health activist, or “just” a community member wanting to pay it forward… Join us as we vision and share radical new ways to bring green to everyone.

Register for the Affordable Housing and Sustainable Communities Summit


For the policy wonks

  • At the summit we will explore policy developments opening up new financial doors to develop sustainable communities and green affordable housing. At the top of the list is the recent announcement from EPA that for the first time ENERGY STAR has a tool specifically tailored to multi-family projects. The implications of the new ENERGY STAR tool is hard to overstate for financiers and for green rating systems like LEED. Baselining and benchmarking of residential multi-family buildings is well behind that of non-residential structures, but the combination of the new ENERGY STAR program and local and state benchmarking ordinances ensures an unprecedented focus on energy efficient multi-family homes.
  • Also, creating some buzz recently is the announcement by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) of a National Disaster Resilience Competition making $1 billion available to communities that have been struck by natural disasters in recent years. The competition will financially support innovative resilience projects to better prepare communities for future extreme weather events – providing a key opportunity for these hard-hit communities to become more sustainable.  Additionally, with the US Department of Agriculture, HUD has proposed more stringent energy efficiency requirements for new housing it insures, financially assists or guarantees.


For the private sector gurus

  • At the summit we will tap into the trends that are driving the burgeoning business proposition that green homes projects present to investors. The UNC Center for Community Capital and Institute for Market Transformation (IMT), in their 2013 study “Home Energy Efficiency and Mortgage Risks” conclude that energy efficient homes have a significantly reduced risk of mortgage default. Just as exciting is the fact that appraisers are now considering energy efficiency in valuing a home, which can be directly used by lenders to allow responsibly higher loan to value ratios [Sandra K. Adomatis, Valuing High Performance Housing, in The Appraisal Journal (2010)]. These important developments could make it easier for buyers from all backgrounds and economic status to purchase energy-efficient homes.
  • We are also thrilled to again work with Enterprise Community Partners – a remarkable economic development organization and an indispensible player in green affordable housing sector – as an advisor to this Summit. They have invested $2 Billion in the development and preservation of green, healthy and affordable homes, with more than $150 million in the Gulf Coast for the production of 6400 affordable housing units. In fact, just prior to the Summit, key members of the USGBC and Enterprise communities will be meeting to see how we can accelerate investment in green affordable housing and sustainable communities.


For the community and health activists

  • Antwi Akom, an assistant professor of Urban Sociology at San Francisco State, will speak to real life concerns of residents of communities struggling to create a better place to live. His writings on diverse topics including “Eco-Apartheid” are not for the faint of heart. In this work he focuses on linking environmental health to educational outcomes and layers in the role of the green economy in facilitating pathways out of poverty.
  • We are honored to have the U.S. Surgeon General Rear Admiral Boris Lushniak, MD, MPH, to close out the Summit’s discussions. He will He recently concluded that recognizing “the health of effects of every space and building and seeking to foster health is a critical next step for the building professions. “Architects” he declared “are public health workers… In asking ‘What are we building?’ we are also asking, ‘What’s the impact on the community’s health?’”
  • Also joining us will be chapter leaders from USGBC’s extensive nation-wide chapter network. They can provide local insight into all these issues and help get out the word to every state across the country.

WHEN: Thursday, October 23, 2014
TIME: 7:00 AM – 9:00 AM
WHERE: Great Hall

Join us early for breakfast and comradery

Join us early for breakfast and comradery

What’s more fun than going to Greenbuild? Going to the Women in Green Power Breakfast to get together with like-minded women with a passion for sustainability. With uniquely female determination and perspective we will explore the role of sustainability within the economy and work together to mold a future where sustainability is seen as a natural, inalienable right, and a pathway leading women out of poverty and bringing them into a world of economic equality and opportunity for all.

We will begin the morning with exciting round table discussions lead by our handpicked honorary chairs. Small groups will discuss the below prompt questions to get the conversation started.


  1. What is the role of sustainability in economic empowerment of women around the world?
  2. How are we using sustainability to move economies, push large challenges, and create pathways to global scale? Economically? Socially? Sustainably?
  3. How resilient are our systems if we aren’t pushing for opportunity for all? How can we work to achieve this?

Following these conversations we will move to our panel of experts. With introductions by Shannon Stage, this year’s panel showcases forward thinking women leaders across the world who are working tireless to shape their communities and elevate the human spirit. Moderator, Kimberly Lewis, will keep the conversation flowing with our group of impressive panelist which currently includes Martha Jane Murray, Gina Duncan, Priyanka Kochhar, and Robin Carey. These women will continue the table top discussions, calling upon their own personal stories, to bring personal connection to the topic of women and economic empowerment. Because we know you will have questions for this group, a Q&A with the audience will follow.

Plan now to join in on this empowering event. Each registration fee contributes to a ticket for an emerging professional to join the conversation.

Are you an emerging professional? Apply (before September 23) for a scholarship  that will provide you with full access to the Breakfast.

See you in New Orleans!

Director of Restorative Enterprise at Interface and Machu Picchu enthusiast

Mikhail Davis
Director of Restorative Enterprise at Interface and Machu Picchu enthusiast

Mikhail Davis 

The emphasis on transparent disclosure of ingredients in LEED v4 and several other building industry tools has left many people in the building industry confused and/or fearful about the potential health implications of the materials we are using.  The big question is “transparency, now what?”  This session will begin to give participants scientifically credible approaches to assessing the actual health risks from building materials and stepping out of fear into a common sense and individualized approach to risk assessment.

In this session, Beyond Hazard Disclosure: Are Building Materials Safe (H11) we will focus on needed refinements to hazard disclosure tools in order to promote transparency and hazardous chemical substitution in the building products sector.  We will help participants begin to understand how to know whether a chemical ingredient in a building product might pose a health and safety risk.

I hope to bring insight to this session by offering the knowledge I have acquired from my professional life. I have a long history helping decision makers in business and other non-technical fields make decisions about healthy and sustainable materials, including work with Walmart, Staples, Starwood Resorts, and several international architecture and design firms to develop and refine their tools for material selection.  I have also examined green chemistry and materials through the lens of biomimicry and am a certified Biomimicry Specialist.  Fun fact: I was the personal manager for environmental legend David Brower (dubbed “The Archdruid” by John McPhee) for the last 3 years of his life and organized the design charrette in 2002 that led to the creation of the LEED Platinum David Brower Center in Berkeley, CA.

So what else makes this session one worth attending?  

  1. We have Meg Whittaker, who is the most interesting, helpful, practical toxicologist that we know.
  2. This session will help participants take the next steps needed to translate data found in the transparency tools popularized by LEED v4 into quality decisions (without needing a degree in toxicology).
  3. My session at Greenbuild last year was one of the highest rated and most interactive sessions on the potentially very technical topic of materials.

According to Greenbuild Amanda Langweil, Architect with Perkins+Will and Greenbuild Project Work Group Member  “ I like that this session goes beyond just understanding only material health of products, but how the usage of that product impacts our exposure to the ingredients. For example, what about worker health during manufacturing of these products? Or what about the construction workers installing them?  This session will also help individuals without a background in science learn how to interpret product disclosures.”

David Lake

David Lake
Partner at Lake|Flato Architects
San Antonio, TX

David Lake 

As more communities are going through redevelopment, existing historic fabrics and potential for future development are the two sides of the coin that must be looked at simultaneously.

During Master Planning: A holistic Look at building for the Past and the Future (H07), we will focus on the process of successfully transforming a deserted industrial district into a destination and a catalysts for urban revitalization. Using The Pearl Brewery redevelopment in San Antonio, Texas as a case study, the focus will be on four urban design principles:

  • Preservation and adaptive reuse of the historic building stock.
  • Strategically adding new structures within the historic fabric to generate new connections, complement existing buildings and create human scaled interstitial spaces.
  • Extend the project into the urban fabric using connectors such as roads, paths, or in this case, the Historic River Walk.
  • Planned phasing to ensure that the project at each phase can exist on its own

This session will look beyond the scope of this project and show how a well thought out and designed urban scale development can be a catalyst for densification and downtown revitalization. It starts with a master plan that has purpose. We will discuss what that means and the importance as a guiding element to the master planning efforts.

Why should you attend this session? We will present to you a variety of solutions and show what can be accomplished through thoughtful master planning. A major topic that we will address is maintaining and creating authenticity. People enjoy and gravitate towards places that are “authentic” and the success of an urban scale project could depend on its ability provide the authenticity that people desire. We want attendees of this session to learn what steps can be taken to preserve authenticity where historic fabric exists, and how new development can foster this sense of place.

Greenbuild Program Working Group member and residential sustainability advisor Pepper Smith says “As a builder I have worked on or within master plan communities. There were many times I found myself wondering why the same issues kept coming up that were never thought about during the planning stages. No one thought about these projects from start to finish in a big picture view beyond the basic entitlements. I think that this course will help us to start taking the time to look at the whole area and everything that affects it rather than constantly dealing with issues in the field that could have been prevented.”

I want attendees to hear about what an exciting experience it has been to watch a deserted part of the city transform into a major downtown destination. It has been fascinating to see, barely two years after completion of the second phase, what seems to be the entire city of San Antonio descend on The Pearl for the Saturday morning farmers market and for various public events such as the outdoor summer movie series. The project created an urban environment that didn’t exist in San Antonio before and residents are starting to rethink what is possible in their city. A downtown renaissance is now underway and this project was the catalyst.

Mr. Lake has a long-term commitment to sustainable design. Among many things he’s involved with, he is has served as the Chairman of the Texas AIA Natural Resources Committee. He was the design principal for the first LEED Gold project in Indiana. He served for five years on the San Antonio Master Plan Advisory Board, redirecting growth towards infill and neighborhood preservation. As a member of the Downtown Advisory Board, he worked to fulfill the Downtown Strategic Master Plan.

This session also features:

Jason Adam
Project Manager at Joeris General Contractors / San Antonio, TX

GEA-bannerThe Green Exhibitor Award is an optional program that rewards booths for innovation and exceptional performance. This unique program recognizes winners in three categories that we feel truly designate the best from the rest:

  • Best in Show
  • Smallest Impact
  • Most Innovative

To participate, exhibitors simply log into the Exhibitor Dashboard and visit the “Booth Greening” section to launch the application. The application consists of 10 questions relating to a booth’s features, and points are associated with each response. Exhibitors are eligible to earn between 0-20 total points depending on the level of each booth’s sustainability efforts. So go ahead, login and take a look.  You will be pleasantly surprised at how easy it is to complete this survey.

Those companies scoring 17 points or higher are entered into the pool to win one of the three Awards. Finally, our Exhibitor Advisory Working Group pours over the submissions to identify those three booths that have really gone the extra mile to ensure a smaller impact while exhibiting at Greenbuild.

The three winning booths will be recognized in a variety of ways both pre-show and onsite, including a press release, online presence at greenbuildexpo.com, and a special plaque to display in your booth at Greenbuild 2014. In addition – Best in Show wins a free 10×10 booth at Greenbuild 2015 in DC!

If you are a Greenbuild exhibitor, show us how you walk the walk by entering to win the 2014 Green Exhibitor Award. Your unique sustainability practices and innovative exhibition operations could earn your company some serious recognition among our community of industry leaders. A very small portion of your time can end up providing you with some great benefits!

Applications are due September 17. Good Luck!