USGBC-LA is a teenager, with all that brings

This week, USGBC-LA is celebrating 15 years. So, it’s a teenager. And like most teens, we can still remember its birth, we see much hope for the future, and in the present, there can be a lot going on and the choices made can set the path for adulthood.

I learned about USGBC like I learn about most things – by a chance meeting or mention that inspires me to learn more. A little over two years ago during class on Climate Change at Loyola Marymount University, a guest lecturer spoke about LEED and invited us to a conference on Biomimicry. This is where I heard Heather Rosenberg speak and was struck by her presence and thoughtful, while challenging, ideas. Through her I met Dominique Hargreaves, and through them I have been having inspiring conversations with change-makers and thought-leaders ever since. These conversations have changed my own career path choices.

To me, this is what USGBC-LA is – it is a space that fosters learning, that connects community and recognizes those who—by the nature of doing what they are passionate about—are changing the world we live in, moving our urban landscape toward a more sustainable, more thoughtful experience.

I recently spoke with John Zinner and Deborah Weintraub who were involved with USGBC-LA in the beginning. Both were already ‘doing green’ from their own perspectives and saw their involvement as an extension of their daily work. John remembers the many groups trying to get started at the time and trying to define themselves. He recalled how USGBC-LA struggled as most young groups do to find its niche. Deborah remembers the intention of bringing those beyond architects and engineers to the team to contribute ideas. Both attribute USGBC-LA’s success to being flexible, thinking broadly about where impact can be had, being inclusive of people’s backgrounds and areas of expertise, taking a longer view, and its leadership. Deborah spoke about being nimble as the future unfolds, articulating the benefits of green buildings so the message resonates with future professionals.

When the ideas that formed LEED certification began, they were striving for an ideal that seemed almost beyond reach and the challenge of certifying buildings seemed like a hurdle that would require great effort. Now, there are over 80,000 LEED projects across 162 countries, including more than 32,500 certified commercial projects, and over 770 v4 projects registered. When I talk to people about LEED, they tell me that even if their projects don’t go for certification, they design and build to many of the standards, as this is growing into the market standard.

In response to other focus areas, new rating systems (SITES, PEER, WELL, ParkSmart, EDGE, Envision, etc.) have been developed and each helps push sustainability and energy efficiency efforts forward globally. Projects can find the rating system that works within their goals and constraints. And I see USGBC-LA working with many of these, providing information, resources, and training to help professionals better meet the needs of their clients across the spectrum of options.

To move the needle of how buildings are designed, built and maintained requires a huge effort in education, policy, and community engagement. I see USGBC-LA as a strong voice and partner in each of these areas, navigating a path and keeping conversations open about where the organization is going and how to define this unique brand.

Like a teenager, the USGBC-LA has been finding its most appropriate messaging and focus these last few years and is now emerging into the identity that fits. Through these phases, the intention has been consistent: to learn, to grow, and to be nimble in an ever-changing world. I’m curious how you contributed to what USGBC-LA is and what you hope to see it grow into in the years ahead. What are the opportunities and how would you advise the group to navigate toward them? I hope you will join the conversation by contacting me directly at or leaving your thoughts here.

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