My summer vacation began last Friday at a U.S. Green Building Council Chapter Leadership Retreat at the rustic National Conservation Training Center on the lovely wooded banks of the Potomac near Shepherdstown, West Virginia. The three-day event included 160 chapter leaders collaborating with national leadership and staff. The not-for-profit U.S. Green Building Council has grown by an average 50% per year since its founding in 1993. The Indiana Chapter is currently exceeding that growth rate (from 80 members at the beginning of 2007 to 355 now). Rapid growth comes with growing pains and growing opportunities, so the attendees had plenty to share.
Beyond the nuts and bolts of operating chapters, much of the discussion centered around the newly-revised and not yet final USGBC Strategic Plan. While I can't go into the details yet, two new areas of emphasis will be sustainable cities and social justice. In other words, this organization with 17,000 member organizations representing millions of employees has decided to expand its focus beyond buildings to encompass broader local and regional design and societal issues.
Expect more tools, more data, more grants and more research coming from USGBC to enable more regional and local progress. The Playbook for Green Communities , developed in collaboration with ICLEI, is an example of the type of tools and resources that will be made available. This type of collaboration with other allied organizations is another aspect of the Strategic Plan.
One of the participants noted that they don't call their leadership gatherings "retreats;" they call them "advances." Get ready for some major new advances from the U.S. Green Building Council and your local chapter .