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ADVANCE: A Framework to Expand Access to Green Building for All

If you're reading this article on our website it's probably because you're a fan of green buildings. The environmental, health and economic value of green spaces and places is clear to you. But when you look outside your window, how many 'green buildings' do you really see? 

For us "Greenies" who drank the Kool-Aide years ago, the value proposition is crystal clear. So why isn't everyone on board? Why aren't allthe buildings outside my window green? The knee-jerk reaction for many people usually comes down to cost.

Frankly, I don't buy it.

There are plenty of actions, technologies and processes we can do that increase health, energy and resource performance without any added cost. For example—turning off lights when not in use is free.

2013 study estimated $17 billion in savings across the entire U.S. commercial building stock if simple behavioral tweaks and small automation changes were employed. We need to broaden the tent of the green building community, engage more people, including regular citizens, and redefine the value of green in terms attractive to a wider audience.

USGBC's Community Advancement team has worked with a diversity of community and faith-based partners to identify ways to engage new, underserved and underrepresented audiences over the last few years.

Events like the 2013 Community-based Sustainability Forum2013 Faith-based Professional Peer Group and 2014 Affordable Homes & Sustainable Communities Summit expanded this dialogue through the Greenbuild platform.

We've learned that the values and aspirations of non-traditional audiences are resoundingly similar to those of the green building community: stewardship of land and resources, increased health and prosperity, and the need for justice and equality. Of course, no conversation about buildings could be complete without the ubiquitous desire to reduce operating costs! 

While our values are aligned in many ways, the approach and resources offered through the existing green building community have not always met these important stakeholders on their own terms. Perceptions of increased cost, overwhelming amounts of technical information, and value propositions that don't match their realities abound.

Simply put, the largest barrier to entry for many new audiences is finding the right starting point where they can access easily digestible, high-quality, and credible resources and expertise. In response, we've developed ADVANCE.

ADVANCE is a framework to increase access to resources and expertise for new, underserved and underrepresented audiences. ADVANCE is built to meet organizations and communities wherever they are on the path to sustainability and assist them along that path.

Through a series of launch events and follow-through activities, community partner organizations work collaboratively with the USGBC community to advance energy, resource and health performance in the places they occupy.

The four phases of ADVANCE

ADVANCE progresses through four phases: START, PLAN, FOCUS, and LEAD.

  1. A values-based dialogue and assessment of people and resources begins in the START phase. 
  2. The PLAN phase engages key decision makers within the organization to define performance goals and identify appropriate strategies to meet these goals.
  3. Through the FOCUS phase, strategies are implemented one-by-one and supported by targeted tools such as building operations worksheets and tools like ENERGY STAR Portfolio Manager. As progress is made, some organizations may become eligible to pursue leadership marks such as ENERGY STAR Certification or LEED for Existing Buildings.
  4. To achieve these certifications and celebrate success, the LEAD phase engages green professionals in experiential learning opportunities like USGBC San Diego's Green Assistance Program and the LEED Hack-A-Thons (developed by Community Advancement team member Shane Gring prior to joining USGBC).

Four initial alpha pilots included 1) a Minnesota school district, 2) 39 senior living facilities managed by the Chicago Housing Authority, 3) a 54-acre campus of 12 Jewish organizations at Shalom Park in North Carolina, and 4) 15 St. Louis area houses of worship in conjunction with Interfaith Power & LightLearn more about the pilots

A second round of pilots are in development to test the long-term engagement of partners and volunteers at different scales, types and locations throughout 2015. Get in touch if you want to know more.