Creating a Living Standard

Mahesh Ramanujam

President and CEO
USGBC and GBCI

After celebrating the first 25 years of USGBC nearly a year ago, we’ve had some landmark developments in our work.

In addition to LEED v4.1, recertification, LEED Zero, and updates to the LEED for Cities and LEED for Communities rating systems, last November USGBC launched its Living Standard campaign, an initiative designed to explore the power of storytelling in creating a more sustainable world.

But why now?

Well, because the stakes around sustainability are greater than ever before. And because as an organization, so many of USGBC’s existing programs already embody and embolden the mission of Living Standard: that everyone, regardless of background or circumstance, deserves a safe and healthy place to call home. In short, our best practices are already uniquely positioned to solve our biggest problems.

For example, the RELi rating system addresses resilience at the building scale; SITES improves coastal resilience and ecosystem services; PEER helps with power resilience, especially during extreme weather events; and LEED—which prioritizes and rewards resource conservation, energy use reductions, indoor environmental quality, and thermal, visual and acoustic comfort, to improve occupant health and productivity— has now expanded with LEED for Cities and Communities, making resilience possible at the city and community scale.

We should celebrate our collective successes—and with good reason. From USGBC membership to community expansion, from LEED certification to LEED professionals, from Learning Lab to Greenbuild, we have shared our growth and achievements with the hope that in doing so, more people would adopt better building standards and, in effect, renew their commitments to a brighter, greener future for all. But while developing the long-term strategy for Living Standard, we quickly realized that it would be far more effective if, as a community, we did a little less trumpeting and a lot more listening.

So that’s exactly what we’ve done. This past year, we have traveled across the United States and created not one, but two research reports, as well as an action toolkit—all in an effort to first examine the general public’s awareness around green building and then to empower people to take personal strides in an age of increasing climate-related risks. And now, we are taking a deeper dive into understanding how people beyond the green building industry experience sustainability— because we know that listening is the first step in improving the reach and impact of our work. This initiative is already energizing and inspiring green builders to think outside the box and consider how sharing our best practices can help people outside the scope of our industry—people who want and deserve what we all deserve—a universal standard of living.

Fittingly, the theme of this year’s Greenbuild is “A New Living Standard.” As the world’s premier green building organization, we have always prided ourselves on performance metrics—and, of course, the LEED plaques that signify a dedication to a stronger, healthier way of life. But as we gather in Atlanta, we are poised to discuss moving beyond those plaques—shifting from a narrative focused on statistics to a foundation in storytelling. After all, innovation without inclusivity is not the future we are striving for. What we hope to create is a world where better buildings equal better, longer lives for all.

More than ever before, our green building community is prepared to make this future a reality. However, this goal is ambitious, to say the least. We cannot do this without each and every one of you. We mean that literally. The stakes are in the stories—in your stories.

Please join us at livingstandard.org and at this year’s Greenbuild in Atlanta, as we further open this dialogue and usher in a new era of USGBC, one dedicated not just to better performance of our buildings, but to the most important metric of all—the quality of life for the people inside them.

LEED ON,

Mahesh Ramanujam signature

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