My second major in college was American history. I never tire of reading about brave Americans who faced adversity to make our nation a better place. One of my favorite stories is about Alice Paul, a suffragette whose fortitude helped bring about the 19th amendment, giving women the right to vote. I think about Alice every time I cast a ballot. On Nov. 4, 2008, after I voted, I got to be part of history when I attended the postelection rally for Barack Obama in downtown Chicago.

  • Christina Koch
    Christina Koch
No matter your political beliefs, the experience in Grant Park that night was unique. A small-town girl like me couldn’t guess how many people flocked to the park. All I know is that after Obama's speech, the crowds packed the city’s streets, building to building, for several blocks. Although my friend and I didn’t have tickets to access the area where Obama spoke, we found room in front of a JumboTron. As Obama addressed the crowd, nobody spoke and many people wiped tears from their eyes. Afterward, people hugged and took photos to commemorate the moment. Although you could only shuffle your way out of the park, there surprisingly was no pushing or hurrying; there were only smiles, cheers and a sense of excitement in the air.

Obama’s rally and people’s faith in him inspired my optimism that our nation will come out of our current economic crisis a better place. Two weeks later, my optimism was reinforced by the Greenbuild International Conference and Expo in Boston. Greenbuild always has been a source of motivation for me, but the recent show marked a turning point for the green-building industry. Although other trade shows and industries are suffering from a downturn, Greenbuild continues to grow. Everyone I spoke with at the show agreed this is our industry’s moment to leap from relative obscurity to mainstream acceptance. Americans are thinking seriously about saving money through the efficiency of their buildings, and with Obama promising to cultivate renewable energy and greencollar jobs, as well as achieve carbon neutrality for all new buildings by 2030, Greenbuild exhibitors and attendees seemed to believe his leadership will support what each of them does every day.

As always, this issue of eco-structure provides examples of the great work occurring in the greenbuilding industry. We did our best to provide more energy-consumption data for each building to demonstrate that green structures truly are more cost effective than traditionally constructed buildings. "Flashback," page 46, illustrates how lessons learned from a green building were incorporated into a more-efficient second building on campus. We also included some thought-provoking articles, like “cool roofing,” page 38, because to achieve success we must recognize our setbacks.

Obama has a big job ahead of him, and there will be struggles. But politics aside, each of us owes it to our country to do our part to fulfill the promise of positive change.