Green building consultant and author Jerry Yudelson is the new president of Portland, Ore.-based Green Building Initiative (GBI), the organization announced today. In taking on the new role, Yudelson is shuttering Yudelson Associates, the green building consulting firm he has run for the past eight years, in order to focus full time on growing GBI and its green building rating system, Green Globes. Positioned as an alternative, less expensive green building rating system than LEED, Green Globes most recently topped headlines after the U.S. General Services Administration named it as one of two preferred systems for use in certifying major federal construction projects (with the other system being LEED).
I recently chatted with Yudelson, a LEED Fellow, about his new role and what it may mean for Green Globes.
You've been a staunch advocate of green building for a number of years, primarily as a consultant. Why switch to an in-house position at a trade organization?
Yudelson: I worked eight years in-house with two engineering firms before spending the last eight years as a consultant. In house or out of house, so to speak, it's all about promoting green building. My consulting business had the motto "Growing the business of green building," so I'm pleased to be back in-house because you get a different look at the world. I'm happy to be working with a professional staff and having something to present to the world of building owners and operators and architects as an option in the green building space.
So are you shutting down Yudelson Associates?
Yes. Everything has it's time. I did a lot of things I wanted to do, wrote a lot of books, and did a lot of speaking. Now it's time to get back and start building something.
On that note, what are some of your goals for GBI?
There are goals with respect to product development. I'd like to see a full range of products serving the needs of building owners and operators in the commercial and multifamily residential space. I'd like to create a brand name for Green Globes, as it doesn't have the same cache that LEED does right now. And we'd like to use new technology to make this whole process more streamlined and cost-efficient for users. I could see migrating it into the cloud, having it where existing buildings have a system for continuous optimization of building performance. That's the short run.
My goal is to really take us from 4 percent market share, where we are today, to 10 percent by the end of the year, particularly in new construction.
You've been a huge advocate of LEED over the years and Green Globes is a competitor to LEED. How will that affect your work?
Having been a LEED Fellow and faculty and proponent, I won't say anything negative about LEED. It's a good system with a tremendous follower base and user base, but it has some significant drawbacks. Cost is one of them and the ease by which people can get into the system is another.
To me, if you want to spur innovation and cost reduction, you need competitors who can help you sharpen your sword. What I'd like to be seen as is an alternative so that we can move from the current rate of having 30 percent of new construction be green certified to 100 percent. I think you need a variety of tools and rating systems to do that. Some buildings will get certified under the Living Building Challenge, some will be certified under LEED,and some will be certified under Green Globes. There will probably be other systems that come into the market. The goal is to reach the levels of environmental performance that we know we need and that are embodied in things like the 2030 Challenge. We're not getting to them in a fast way.
It's time to rethink our approach and to spur innovation so that we can make [ green building certification] as seamless a part of building ownership as collecting the rent.
How would you respond to critics that say Green Globes isn't rigorous enough?
First, I'd say define rigor. Second, I want to keep my eye on the main goal, which is carbon emissions. I want to keep pushing people to go well beyond the ASHRAE standard [ASHRAE 90.1-2013].
There's a lot of work to be done to make the product user-friendly. Green Globes has always focused on integrated design and uses a questionnaire-based system, which I highlighted in a book five years ago. I think there are some good points here.
With respect to rigor, we will, like everybody else, keep tightening our standard as we go forward. But I don't want to go from rigor to rigor mortis. What happens is if it's too rigorous and no one wants to do it? What have you gained? You have to keep persuading people to do a better job within the limits of what kind of money they have available. I think Green Globes is a tool for doing that.