California inspires through green building leadership: Roger Platt

Roger Platt

The future is already here. It’s just not very evenly distributed.

—William Gibson

On a recent trip to San Francisco, I had the privilege of connecting with a range of leaders in green building who are making a measurable difference. They shared a recognition that they were very fortunate to live in California, where the statewide GDP makes it the eighth largest economy in the world. It is an economy supported by a strong consensus that environmental progress is fully consistent with strong economic performance and growth. 

With Brenden McEneaney steering the fully integrated Northern California region, I was quickly debriefed on exciting developments inside and outside the city of San Francisco. The region’s connectivity with powerhouse institutions born in Silicon Valley allows for a valuable peek into the future. Companies such as Google are trendsetters in so many ways, and USGBC Northern California’s engagement with companies of that stature raises the profile of the green building movement in important ways.

During my 17 meetings in San Francisco, I had the opportunity to discuss the PEER and SITES programs with leading architects, including the Heller and the Manus in Heller Manus Architects and principal Robert Anderson at Field Paoli Architects. Will Rogers, the president and CEO of the staggeringly successful environmental NGO Trust for Public Land, was also in fine form and able to offer invaluable insights into the status of public park initiatives throughout the United States.

The next day, our friends at Shorenstein Realty Services, LP convened a powerhouse group of national real estate companies, including CBRE, Hines, Pro-Logis, Alexandria and Digital Realty, to discuss the data-driven and new data-driving success of GRESB. GRESB is yet another of the exciting range of tools available by and through USGBC’s sister organization, GBCI. Engagement with GRESB globally is reaching new heights. The organization makes the economic case for green building and earlier this month released its sixth annual survey, the results of which will support institutional capital of $8.2 trillion in making more informed investment decisions. Those decisions can be improved when informed by GRESB assessments for real estate, infrastructure, debt and new development, plus a new health and well-being module.

On Wednesday, I had more extensive meetings with the folks at Hines. In partnership with Boston Properties, Hines is building the tallest office building in San Francisco, Salesforce Tower, to ambitious LEED standards. Even before the new 1.4 million-square-foot tower, Hines had 105 million square feet of LEED-registered or -certified projects under its belt. I sat down for a very lively and productive discussion with Gary Holtzer, Hines senior managing director and global sustainability officer. I was equally inspired by a great briefing from former USGBC Northern California board member Mead Boutwell (with CBRE). He has a unique insight into the intersection of sustainability and high-performance office space in the Bay Area.

On Thursday and Friday, I met with key public sector and foundation leaders on how PEER can help advance distributed generation and microgrids. Notably, I met with John Wilson and Curtis Seymour at the Energy Foundation, the leadership of the University of California’s Energy and Sustainability program, and the Berkeley National Laboratories, where I met with Mary Anne Piette and her impressive colleagues.

Throughout the wonderful trip, I benefited from the seasoned advice and perspective of Kevin Hydes, of Integral Group, former chair of USGBC Norther California, as well as USGBC National. In between these meetings, I still had the opportunity to spend time with my daughter, who works at the battery plus storage software startup GELIas well as former USGBC staff members Lane Burt with Ember Strategies and Lauren Riggs with the sustainable operations team at Google.

California provides an extremely inspiring taste of the future. At GBCI and USGBC, as we develop and further hone our strategic thinking, California will continue to provide invaluable evidence of what market transformation looks like on the ground. I encourage those of you lucky enough to live in that part of the world to become engaged with the local community. It is making a real difference.

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