Ray Ng

When I first met Alex Wilson back in 1980, he was a softspoken, earnest, and entirely straightforward young man who wanted to protect the environment, inspire and effect improvements in building design and construction, and basically change the world. And now, as we prepare to present him with The Hanley Award for Vision and Leadership in Sustainable Housing, I can honestly say he hasn’t changed a bit. He’s still the real deal. Alex will receive The Hanley Award, sponsored by The Hanley Foundation, EcoHome, and EcoHome’s parent company, Hanley Wood, LLC, at the USGBC Hanley Award Dinner during the USGBC’s Greenbuild Residential Summit in Chicago in November. The award comes with a $50,000 grant funded by The Hanley Foundation.

As you’ll see in Jean Dimeo’s fine cover story starting on page 12, Alex was named as this year’s Hanley Award recipient for his pioneering research and education in creating and leading the ongoing dialogue surrounding all the complexities and attributes we now consider for sustainable design.

I was a solar home builder in Vermont when we met; Alex was moving there from New Mexico to take the reins at what is now the Northeast Sustainable Energy Association (NESEA) in Brattleboro. And of all the people I’ve known working to move our industry toward a sustainable future over these three decades, Alex has maintained the steadiest focus, clearest vision, and perhaps the most understated profile of anyone leading the charge, while sharing a career full of unique contributions that have advanced the state of the art in building products and sustainable housing. Now this humble, brilliant pioneer is being honored for his work.

For more than 30 years, Alex has helped define green building product standards, promoted performance-based thresholds for projects, and challenged all sectors of the industry to become active and honest brokers in advancing environmental building.

You may recognize Alex through his illuminating technical articles in Environmental Building News (EBN), the newsletter he launched in 1992 and continues to lead. Over the years you may have heard him speak at conferences or attended one of his webinars. But what you may not know is that at least 20 years ago, while many of us were still focusing somewhat narrowly on energy efficiency and renewables, Alex was developing a broader perspective and laying the foundation for sustainable housing; he became one of the earliest proponents encouraging us to think of the homes we were building as integrated, whole-house systems.

His timing couldn’t have been better. He exposed indoor air quality considerations, health and safety issues, and material and resource concerns just as we were beginning to wonder if our homes could be too tight, if the materials we were using contained harmful ingredients, and what implications our product selections might have on the environment.

I clearly remember receiving the first issue of EBN in my Vermont office and thinking, “This guy is answering questions we didn’t even know to ask.”

Throughout his career Alex has bravely initiated debate and driven research on tough issues that have influenced and benefited every sector of the building industry with unmatched clarity and credibility.

Congratulations, my friend.