Earlier this year, USGBC launched its annual community survey to gather feedback from the USGBC and GBCI community. The survey provides data that is used to set goals and prioritize for the future. This year’s survey was focused on COVID-19 recovery and how the green building industry can thrive post-pandemic. Responses doubled from 2020 (594 in 2020 compared to 1,648 in 2021) and we received responses from people in more than 50 countries.
Survey results show a high level of support for USGBC’s vision, direction and strategy, an appreciation for making credentialing exams available in an online format and offering free online events and education, and a strong interest in both expanding USGBC’s portfolio beyond LEED and incorporating more health and equity priorities. As our economy and society adapt to a “new normal” following the pandemic, USGBC and GBCI occupy a central role in the green building industry and in the reentry process as companies and workers return to the office.
Key takeaways from the 2021 community survey:
- Survey respondents see many opportunities stemming from the challenges of 2020, including the focus on health. Members see more demand for buildings to promote a healthy environment for occupants, and more people understand the link between buildings and the environment, as well as how the connection impacts individual health and wellness.
- Health and wellness should continue to be a focus: A plurality of respondents say health and wellness is one of the top issues USGBC and GBCI focused on in 2020 and that it’s one of the top issues we should continue to focus on in 2021. Nearly nine in 10 respondents (87%) also believe a vision about health will benefit USGBC members.
- Healthy people in healthy places equals a healthy economy: Three-quarters (74%) of respondents say it was the right decision to shift the USGBC strategy amid the pandemic to healthy people in healthy places equals a healthy economy.
- The largest opportunity identified through the survey is a greater consumer demand for buildings to promote a healthy environment for occupants (35%). The connection the general public is making about the impact sustainability has on health and wellness (24%) and the importance of increased monitoring of indoor air quality (22%) were also identified as opportunities.
- Front and center for members are the challenges of financial pressures and tightening budgets, the growth of the remote workforce following COVID-19 restrictions, the increased operational costs for health and safety protocols, and reduced or no occupancy in buildings. The survey also found that while ROI and costs are still important in building decisions, they have currently taken a back seat to the health of people living and working inside buildings.
- The biggest pain points due to the pandemic, the survey found, are economic. No single one stands out, but the top issues relate to costs and reduced occupancy with financial pressures and tight budgets (23%), increased operations costs for health and safety protocols (22%), a remote workforce (22%), and reduced/no occupancy (21%). The pandemic has also put a spotlight on indoor air quality, with that being both the most important issue for the industry due to the pandemic and the biggest way to increase public trust in buildings.
- Importance of equity programs: More than three-quarters of survey respondents believe it is important for USGBC to create an equity program that addresses systematic disparities in the building community. USGBC is seen as a leader in this space, with a responsibility to lead the way on equity and grow beyond its well-established reputation for LEED.
- A majority of community members (70%) believe USGBC and GBCI responded well to the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic: Virtual events, online credential exams, and USGBC’s new health and economy vision were cited as important actions USGBC took during the pandemic. A majority (52%) said they have felt very or somewhat supported during the pandemic.
- USGBC and GBCI investments in virtual events and online credentialing were important and should continue: A large majority of survey participants cited that virtual events were the most important actions USGBC took last year (87%). Other top choices include making credentialing exams available in an online format (84%) and the shift in USGBC’s vision (83%).