Get to know Nadav Malin of BuildingGreen

Get to know Nadav Malin of BuildingGreen

Fall 2019

Q. What does it take to become a leader in the field of sustainability? The people I look up to as leaders in the green building field are passionate, sincere, and smart—with a heavy dose of emotional intelligence on top of their technical chops. Really strong basic skills in engineering, design, project management, or science are an essential foundation—people with talents in those areas who bring a sustainability lens to their work are more impactful than people who study sustainability without having mastered those skills.

Q. Who do you admire in your field? There are so many amazing leaders in this field—how to choose? The several hundred sustainability leaders in architecture, engineering, construction, and consulting who participate in the peer networks that BuildingGreen supports inspire me every single day.

Q. What has been your favorite journey?
 My whole career, beginning with the launch of Environmental Building News with Alex Wilson in the early 1990s, has been an amazing journey, and connected me with many great people. Following Gail Lindsey and Bill Reed in their search for deeper connections stands out as a highlight along the way. I love that they were reaching for something so impossible—how to optimize “the whole”—that my logical brain had to step aside and make room for magic to happen. I still don’t understand it, which is probably why I keep learning so much each time I try.

Q. What do you consider your greatest achievement? Making space for the naysayer in an early Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) workshop in Newport, Rhode Island, to have his voice heard. After his questions were validated, he was able to meet me halfway. By the end of the day, he became a champion for what I was there to teach. Every once in a while, that kind of transformation happens. When it does, it makes my work as a facilitator incredibly satisfying.

Nadav Malin is the President of BuildingGreen Inc.

Q. What are the industry’s greatest challenges? Getting the public to appreciate the key role that the design, construction, and operation of buildings (and communities) can play in addressing our environmental challenges; including the voices of the disempowered in our design choices for buildings and communities; getting toxic fuels out of buildings (and out of our economy as a whole, but buildings are a good first step)—calling them “fossil fuels” is too neutral; creating a shared universal product ID system for building products so that transparency data can flow freely throughout the infosystem, from manufacturers to suppliers to specifiers to contractors to building owners.

Q. What is your greatest regret? I’ve never been a good businessperson. In the early 2000s, BuildingGreen had the opportunity to become a co-owner of the LEED Reference Guides with USGBC and Paladino & Company. I didn’t want to spend my holiday working on the grant proposal, and of course had no idea how big LEED was about to become, so we passed up the chance. Those Reference Guides generated 10 times more revenue than our entire business!

Q. What is your most marked characteristic? People tell me that I always seem calm and collected. It doesn’t feel that way to me, but I have to believe them, because I’ve seen how it helps me be an effective facilitator.

Q. Who are your heroes in life? I’m totally inspired by some of today’s teenagers, like Greta Thunberg, and Jamie Sarai Margolin of Zero Hour, and the leaders that emerged from the Parkland High School tragedy. Amory Lovins once said something like, “We should have more respect for the boundless ingenuity of our descendants than to make damn sure they need it.” Well, we seem to have failed at that charge, so I’m damn glad to see that they have ingenuity.

Q. What is it that you most dislike? Diversity getting replaced by monocultures—both in the biological and cultural realms.

Q. What is your motto? What is a motto? An idea that can be applied over and over again in different situations? I think that each situation deserves its own uniquely appropriate response. How’s that for a motto?

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