Yesterday we hosted at Darden Elizabeth Heider, AIA LEED AP, Senior Vice President at Skanska USA Building Inc. and board member of the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC). The title of her talk was Green Leadership Evolution: Green Opportunities in Construction. She was also a guest in the first year Decision Analysis class, which discussed a case written by Prof. Casey Lichtendahl on Skanska’s choice to seek Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Platinum certification (or not) for its flagship offices at the Empire State Building.
As Senior Vice President for Skanska, Ms. Heider, a graduate of UVA’s School of Architecture, is responsible for the pre-construction management of multimillion-dollar construction programs. She is helping transform the building industry, which is in great need of change.
Buildings generate an estimated 40% of the world’s carbon emission, making innovation essential. The good news is that the USGBC has experienced explosive growth in the number of LEED certified projects, and in the number of people taking the exam to become LEED accredited professionals. Companies like Skanska help their clients achieve LEED certification, whether through new construction or renovation.
I was particularly interested to learn from Ms. Heider about The Living Building Challenge, a program operated by the Cascadia Region Green Building Council. The characteristics of a “living building” are, for the most part, beyond our grasp now. However, we are charged with achieving “a building designed and constructed to function as elegantly and efficiently as a flower,…informed by its ecoregion’s characteristics, and that generates all of its own energy with renewable resources, captures and treats all of its water, and operates efficiently and for maximum beauty.”
Suppliers to the construction industry are adapting to the demand for sustainable materials but have a long way to go. Organizations like the USGBC and corporate leaders like Ms. Heider are pushing them faster.