How Green Was My Valley?

How Green Was My Valley?, 1941 Movie Poster

No, I’m not talking about the iconic 1941 movie that beat out better known competition, including Citizen Kane and The Maltese Falcon, to win Best Picture at the Academy Awards.  I’m talking about the sustainable legacy that each of us will leave at the end of our careers. 

How green will the valley be at the end of my watch?

For many of us in the design and construction community, the LEED Green Building Rating Systems have been the means of introduction and engagement to thinking and acting more sustainably.  The numbers are certainly impressive – more than 175,000 LEED Professional Credential holders, nearly 9 billion square feet of building space participating in the suite of rating systems and 1.6 million feet certifying per day. 

Who would have thought a decade ago that such a transformation would take place?  I can remember our earliest discussions with commercial developers about certifying their buildings.  Everyone had the same concern – if it costs more and my project is less competitive as a result, then I can’t do it, even if I kind of like the idea.  It took a lot of education and advocacy to convince many to do it, assuring that any additional costs, if any, would be offset by lower operating costs, increased market demand and higher long term value. 

 That’s the brilliance of LEED.  Better buildings, designed and constructed with a more rigorous and collaborative process that result in improved economics.  Who wouldn’t want a slice of that pie? Now that the individual building process has gained considerable green momentum, we need to expand our field of vision to a larger scale. 

 How can an entire community become more sustainable?  The same concept of fundamentally better buildings with reduced impact, higher value and improved economics still applies, just bundled together into a larger package.

 Envision Charlotte is a unique public-private collaboration that is leading Charlotte to become a global model for environmental sustainability and measurable community results: 

  • The first established goal is ambitious: to reduce energy use in Uptown Charlotte by 20% in five years.
  • Establish and implement goals for water, air and waste that combine with energy to create a holistic sustainable community.
  • Back up the goals with rigorous monitoring and reporting metrics.
  • Educate those who live, work and play in the community that individual actions have significant impact on overall goal.


By implementing the program, Charlotte will be positioning itself as an international model for community sustainability – strengthening its momentum as the premier location for energy-related companies, lowering its costs, attracting new talent and businesses and reducing its impact on the environment.  What’s not to like about that?

So, what can each of us in the design, construction and real estate industry do to play our part in accelerating progress in the sustainable movement? 

  • Continue to advocate for green building at the individual project level.
  • Find a way to raise the discussion to a community, regional, state, or national platform.  This will be done by engaging and advocating on energy and environmental policy issues with elected officials and administrators.


The goal is to find the sweet spot that results in healthier communities that minimize impact on the environment while promoting positive economic results.  I want to be able to look back and see a valley that is lush and green, both environmentally and financially.  How about you and what can we do to make that happen?


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