Why USGBC-LA Should Be Landscapers’ Industry Association of Choice

Lesly Hall Photography for FormLA Landscaping

The US Green Building Council – with the USGBC-LA as the local chapter that runs from the beach to the Arizona border – is the premier industry advocacy and organizing association for those dedicated to developing environmentally-sound built environments for obvious reasons. The synergy it creates between architects, builders, developers, interior designers and urban planners has enhanced the organization’s impact and success of all within the field.

My own industry of landscape architects, designers, installers and maintenance professionals have much to gain from this organization’s influence as the environment and economic landscape evolve; as rougher weather and natural disasters continue to directly affect green jobs, our health and our bottom line; and as it is up to us to think about environmental and economic sustainability. If you have not yet heard of us, or joined us locally, here’s why you should.

There is no better platform for educating potential clients and policy makers about the value of our work and of unbuilt space more generally. The USGBC is not only receptive to the perspective we bring, we are essential to its ongoing leadership and impact. Perhaps most importantly, USGBC’s new certifications, LEED for Neighborhood Development and Sustainable SITEs, offer ready vehicles for driving increased respect between the landscaping industry and our clients, policy makers and the general public.

USGBC has been effective nationally and regionally, exceptionally so in California. Here, it’s efforts have been so well received that California’s building codes now exceed the organization’s once-aspirational Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) building standards. Elsewhere, LEED is a must-have designation for public buildings in many of the nation’s cities and a desired honor for most higher education institutions. The organization’s multi-disciplinary membership and global network underpin this influence, as does its ability to educate the general public about the advantages of environmentally responsible building practices.

USGBC-LA’s membership – the largest of the US chapters – is a landscaper’s ideal client base. Via USGBC-LA membership, landscapers gain access to drive greater understanding of the value of unbuilt spaces. To be clear, taking a seat at this table brings more than an opportunity to sell-in work. It is an opportunity to educate and advocate for the value of landscapes and open space more generally. Our success not only expands the amount of landscaping work available – it  improves the health and well-being of our communities as a result.

As we step up to the table of USGBC-LA membership, we enter with a distinct advantage. The organization needs us. The organization’s next area of growth is the newer LEED for Neighborhood Development and Sustainable SITEs certifications. These sit squarely in the landscapers area of expertise. These certifications, which represent the organization’s goals for broader public education and social impact, offer the landscape industry a powerful opportunity to become part of a movement unifying all the industries who create the spaces in which we live, work and play. We also can provide valuable insight into the organization’s efforts to influence local water and energy efficiency codes. Via USGBC-LA, we have the opportunity to be in the vanguard of creating codes that elevate our work, rather than needing to respond to forced – and sometimes counterproductive – policy..

It’s this synergy that can be the game changer for the landscaping industry. When builders, developers, municipalities, communities and related audiences understand the impact landscaping has on human and environmental health, they in turn become advocates for our work. It’s hard to define just how uplifting this can be. While other industry organizations advocate for the business interests of landscapers, USGBC-LA and its landscape-related certifications have the potential to unify the landscape industry alongside our ideal client base in pursuit of goals that give greater meaning to work and relationships. It is the difference between going to work and…doing great work.

Right now, our industry is an afterthought for many of our clients. Our work is the space between – the unseen spaces between buildings. This is the case, even as we have the capacity to deliver game-changing impact for developers and builders when brought in at the ground floor. It’s the case, even though we have profound impact on the health of the general public. What’s worse, in many markets, it is not just the work that is devalued; it is the people doing it. We deserve respect commensurate with the value we deliver.

Lesly Hall Photography for FormLA Landscaping

Landscapers face much of the same institutional disrespect and dismissal faced by janitors. Yet, like janitors, our impact on the lives of those we serve and the broader community is profound – for better and for worse. USGBC-LA has proven its commitment to educating consumers and shifting attitudes with its Green Janitors Education Program, and I trust the same can be done to bring a greater understanding about the value of the landscape industry and those driving it. The simple promotion of its existing LEED for Neighborhood Development and Sustainable SITEs credentials will accomplish that.

With no comparisons made, I feel like my fellow landscapers will feel the difference between what I’ve just described and what we now experience. We do have some, mostly design-side, industry advocates who work to educate the general public about the popular shortcuts that shortchange our health and theirs. We also have landscape industry advocacy organizations that do a much better job of advocating for the equipment and chemicals that endanger our health and that of our communities than they do for us. These power brokers have been invaluable because they’ve been the only game in town.

We have better choices now.

I’m hopeful you’ll join USGBC-LA. I have.

Please join the conversation by leaving your thoughts below.

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