Ray Ng

One of the most inspiring and elemental aspects of progress we can see in our industry these days is the vast and varied effort to educate everyone involved in green building from all sectors. From planners and developers to architects and engineers and from builders and trade contractors to performance specialists, professional organizations are generating unprecedented levels of educational materials and opportunities to meet the growing technical demands of our industry.

At the most basic level, the range and scope of regional and national conferences focused on evolving design and construction techniques and technologies bring mainstream access to educational programming that, in my view, removes any excuses for building professionals to fall behind in terms of knowledge or skills. The truth is, given the pace of change we see from every angle, it will be impossible to keep up with crucial changes without engaging in continuing education in one form or another.

This is no longer a matter of whether or not you see yourself as an environmentalist, as it might have been just a few years ago. Rather, when you look to the future, it’s whether or not you see yourself as an architect, a builder, or a contractor. It’s that simple.

At the next level of education lies a vast array of professional certification and accreditation programs with more formalized requirements and curricula addressing advanced concepts and criteria, technical specialties, and a futuristic preview of where we are headed.

This deeper level of educational commitment can bring new confidence to your current practices while helping position you to compete in the future.

Certainly every major industry association and organization now offers continuing education in new areas of sustainability and green building for their memberships and professions. But what about the next generation? Who’s teaching them to take our places? Short answer: Everyone who should be.

We’re in the midst of a thrilling transformation among the educational institutions charged with preparing tomorrow’s planners, architects, engineers, builders, and policymakers to meet the challenges of the future, which will undoubtedly center on sustainability. Universities, colleges, and technical institutes across the country are directing new curricula and resources and developing new programs, focused on sustainability in every relevant discipline.

Just look at the track record of the Solar Decathlon and the notable schools from around the world that have competed over the program’s 10-year history, and you’ll trace the roots of this educational revolution.

Or tune into the national network of educators and institutions drawn together by Massachusetts-based Second Nature, a nine-year-old nonprofit that has worked with more than 4,000 faculty and administrators at more than 500 colleges and universities to bring sustainability into their programs and curricula in every area of study.

In many ways we are all students of sustainability, with more to learn than we can imagine, which makes our era one of the most exciting and challenging in our industry’s rich history. We are faced with nothing short of an epic transformation, which puts the burden squarely on our own shoulders to learn all we can—for everyone’s sake.