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Editor's Note: Giving Thanks for Professional Courage

In our bottom-line world, we do well to remember those who have had the guts to pursue goals greater than themselves, to work and to sacrifice for ends that benefit future generations, often at considerable risk.

As I pondered this editorial for our annual November ‘Sustainability Issue’, it occurred to me that there really is something that connects the Pilgrims’ first harvest feast in 1621, with Abraham Lincoln’s official Thanksgiving holiday proclamation in 1863, and the 18th annual Greenbuild International Conference taking place this month in Atlanta.

That thread is courage.

Specifically, it is the courage to pursue something greater than oneself, to work and to sacrifice for a goal that benefits future generations, often at the expense or hardship of early risk-takers. Now, since most of us know the history of fortitude and perseverance associated with both the Pilgrims and Mr. Lincoln, I will focus here on thanking the resilient pioneers of the green building movement for getting our industry started down this necessary road more than 25 years ago.

In 1993, Rick Fedrizzi, David Gottfried and Mike Italiano co-founded the nonprofit U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) to promote sustainability-focused practices in the building industry. Some 60 firms and several associations helped launch the effort, and by 2002, more than 200 exhibitors and 2,500 attendees had signed on for the first Greenbuild. That growth trend continued until just a few years ago when the number of attendees leveled off in the 20,000-range. Today, LEED Certification is everywhere, and Greenbuild and affiliates have launched complementary conferences around the globe.

And every other industry gathering under the sun seems to have its own sustainability track now.

But 26 years ago, nothing was certain. Just as the question now seems equally daunting about where our industry will be in another quarter century, circa 2045.

  • Fedrizzi speaking last month at the 2019 Senior Living Innovation Forum. 

To its credit, the green building movement has refused to stand still. Just last month, Fedrizzi’s new home, the International WELL Building Institute (IWBI), announced that it will hold its own inaugural event, The WELL Conference, next April in New York City. The program is being “designed for attendees across multiple sectors—the traditional architectural, design and engineering communities, plus real estate developers, corporate officials engaged in advancing best practices in environmental, social and governance (ESG) protocols, public health practitioners, and technology companies who are playing an ever-greater role in the real-time monitoring of building and community infrastructure performance,” according to IWBI’s press release.

“This second wave of the sustainability movement focuses on improving human performance, building on the work done over the past 25 years to improve building performance,” explains IWBI CEO Fedrizzi, a former industry exec with Carrier. We intend this event to be a jaw-dropping, immersive experience that reminds people of why they have taken up the cause to make our buildings and communities work for our health every day.”

Similarly, as you will read in our own Greenbuild Preview in this issue, USGBC’s new “Living Standard” initiative is equally determined to raise the quality of life inside our built environment. Says Fedrizzi’s energetic successor, USGBC CEO Mahesh Ramanujam, “In the future, we will continue to broaden our focus beyond buildings, to making green communities, cities, and even entire nations recognize that sustainability is not limited to the places that we live and work—it is also part of the way in which we lead our lives.”

To be sure, that’s not always a message that everyone in our industry wants to hear. So, I give thanks here for those with the courage and the resolve to keep driving it home.

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