Q&A with Kevin Hydes

Kevin is internationally recognized for his contributions to the building industry. He is an innovator, pioneer, and green business leader, creating transformative strategies.

Illustration by: Tristan Chace

Q.What is your greatest fear?

My biggest fear is that we get ahead of ourselves in the green building industry with our successes and think the job is done. We have a long way to go and as a great man once said after winning a famous battle, “This is not the end. This is not even the beginning of the end. Rather the end of the beginning.”

Q.Which living person do you most admire?
President Clinton. He takes on the world’s greatest challenges—AIDS epidemic, climate change—with unique approaches to harnessing global collaboration with business and leadership.

Q.What is your greatest extravagance?
My Tesla. I love the vote of confidence in the future that Tesla represents and the world of EV [electric vehicles] and renewable transport. The leather is nice, but maybe I should have gone with standard upholstery.

Q.What is your favorite journey?
Driving up Highway 1 in California with my family—the ocean on one side and redwoods on the other. Winding up and down the mountains of the west coast with infinite beauty and nature in all directions. The smell and sound of the salt laden air makes me feel alive and realize why we have to fight to preserve our precious earth.

Q.What do you consider the most overrated virtue?
Success. Anyone who has ever succeeded knows that the journey to success has been littered with failures, mistakes, and dead ends. Success is the end result of continuous improvement and refinement—journey rather than an event.

Q.Which words or phrases do you most overuse?
Ready, willing, and able! I use this phrase as a standard measure for myself and others. I think my colleagues tolerate me as I repeat the mantra. Truth is, as long as we are willing, everything else will fall into place.

Q.What is your greatest regret?
Not having started to focus on green building earlier. In my formative career, I designed inefficient, overly complex buildings and systems. I suppose it’s why I continue to redouble my effort every day to change the industry and my profession.

Q.Which talent would you most like to have?
Musician. I love to sing, especially in large crowds, and I love to create singalongs. I would love to play a guitar, or better still, an accordion to lead the songs. In the meantime, I will continue to lead from the front with voice alone.

Q.What do you consider your greatest achievement?
Becoming chairman of USGBC. It was at a critical point in the history of the organization and I felt privileged and honored.

Q.If you were to die and come back as a person or thing, what do you think it would be?
Bruce Springsteen. Storyteller, activist, amazing performer, and always delivers at his concerts and plays as the lights are getting turned off. He leaves memories that last forever.

Q.If you could choose what to come back as, what would it be?
A great explorer. A person that is doing something that has never been done before and that nobody believes humanly possible. Beating insurmountable odds and reaching the peak of Everest or the North Pole for the very first time and standing on that spot in that moment with a simple smile.

Q.What is your most treasured possession?
My briefcase. Given to me by grandmother just before going to high school in the UK at age 10. I still have it and keep my most important memories inside.

Q.What do you regard as the lowest depth of misery?
Losing, definitely. Not the actual losing but the fact that I probably could or should have done something that would have prevented a loss. It could be a soccer game, a competition—I am particularly low when I am part of a team that underachieved.

Q.What is your favorite occupation?
Engineering. I am an engineer and proud of what we do as a profession. Solving problems, designing amazing structures and focusing on elegance, being creative, doing the most with the least and always being resourceful. As a mentor of mine said many years ago, and has always been my charge since, the definition of a good engineer is one that can design something for a dollar, that any old fool can do for two!

Q.What is your most marked characteristic?
Determination. If it’s possible it can happen. If you believe, you will succeed.

Q.Who are your heroes in real life?
Bob Berkebile. One of the truly great leaders of our movement and a daily personal inspiration to me, and thousands of others.

Q.What is it that you most dislike?
Narcissists. Nobody has ever achieved anything without the help of many others.

Q.What is your motto?
Carpe diem. Seize the moment. Grab hold of an idea and act with true vigor and passion.

Q.What will you have them put on your tombstone?
Be the best you can be and always smile.