The Delaware Valley Green Building Council, a chapter of the U.S. Green Building Council, has served Philadelphia in promoting sustainable communities since 2001. However, some may take its name at face value.
“We really are focused on more than buildings,” said Heather Blakeslee, deputy executive director of operations, programs and community at the Center City-based council chapter. “That encompasses planning, building operations, zoning and policy and advocacy that effects the environment.
“Green building is at the intersection of social equity, environmental responsibility, economic competitiveness—it affects all of those areas pretty equally and all of them are important to a thriving region,” she said. “It’s exciting to be able to work on these initiatives.”
The council serves as a primary point of contact for community members, agencies and companies interested in goals such as implementing green building practices to improve site planning, safeguarding water to ensure efficient use, maximizing energy efficiency, conserving materials and resource, and insuring indoor environmental quality.
“Our organizational vision is really around sustainable communities that are healthy places for people to live, learn and work,” Blakeslee said.
Blakeslee said the council currently has three initiatives of focus, including its Green Schools campaign, a policy of advocacy and preparation for Green Build 2013, the international sustainable building conference it is hosting in Philadelphia this fall.
The Green Schools campaign is “a chance to accrue the benefits of green building, which are not just cost and energy savings, but also health benefits and potential performance benefits for students,” Blakeslee said, who noted there are schools in every community in the council’s territory.
Blakeslee said a policy of advocacy focus is crucial, noting the example of the Commercial Benchmarking legislation, passed unanimously last October, which requires commercial building owners to benchmark and disclose energy.
“You’ll be able to look at that building’s energy use as part of your consideration, just like you would if you with the mpg on a car,” she said.
In 2013, the Greenbuild International Conference will be hosted in the City of Brotherly Love and is expected to bring 30,000 people to the Pennsylvania Convention Center from Nov. 20 to Nov. 22.
“We want to use it as an opportunity to showcase all of the great sustainability work that has happened over the course of the last 15 years,” Blakeslee said.
Alex Dews, policy and program manager at the Mayor’s Office of Sustainability said all of that effort, even before the chapter’s establishment, is perhaps a reason the national organization decided to host Greenbuild in Philadelphia.
“It’s really a broad spectrum of people who are involved with the organization,” Dews said. “It’s just been amazing to see the amount of change that’s happened during that time in the area in terms of the level of awareness and amount of participation in those kinds of practices.”
Dews also commended the efforts the council has made on the community level.
“If you look at the number of Energy Star and LEED certified buildings a couple of years ago, as opposed to today, you’ll see that the numbers have really tripled, quadrupled even, over that time,” he said. “A lot of that is because of the capacity that the DVGBC has brought to the region.
“I think they’re doing a phenomenal job of organizing the city to maximize that potential to show the rest of the country, and our international guests, what the city is doing around sustainability and green building,” he said.
The council also offers general education and networking opportunities, along with volunteer branches across entire Delaware Valley. Click here to become involved with the initiatives.