Sustainable Chicago, Spring 2017 - page 9

As a result of this track record, in places where
interest in green building is growing exponentially—
places like China, Brazil and India—builders are
turning to Chicago-based design, engineering and
manufacturing firms. Illinois continues to be a leader
in clean energy jobs, with over 100,000 jobs di-
rectly tied to the industry sector. The Illinois Small
Business Development Center's International Trade
Center has documented the huge potential for job
creation in Illinois in these emerging markets.
These achievements and the growth of the sus-
tainability industry wasn’t happenstance. It has
been the result of the long-standing commitment Illi-
nois companies and green building advocates have
had for decades.
As a membership driven non-profit, the U.S.
Green Building Council - Illinois Chapter (USGBC-
Illinois) is proud to have been a part of helping foster
and grow this vibrant community of green building
professionals. The organization was founded in
Chicago in 2002 by passionate, sustainability-
minded professionals who were inspired by the im-
pact green building could have on our communities
and the environment. Many of these founders
worked on those first LEED projects, like the
Chicago Center for Green Technology, the first LEED
Platinum municipal building in the world.
Of course, keeping our green building leadership
mantel requires innovation. It isn’t good enough to
point to the number of green roofs and LEED build-
That’s why the USGBC-Illinois board of direc-
tors, reflecting on these achievements, decided it
was time for a new epic challenge for the green
building community, one that builds on the experi-
ence with advancing LEED in Illinois, but will help
bring the benefits of sustainability to more buildings
and more people who have yet to benefit from the
green building revolution.
To achieve that goal, USGBC-Illinois leaders
were inspired by Paul Hawken’s new work around
carbon drawdown. These strategies are quantitative
technologies, building practices or methods that are
already in existence. And they are “no regrets” solu-
tions—actions that make sense to take regardless of
their environmental value since they have intrinsic
benefits to communities and economies. These so-
lutions improve lives, create jobs, restore the envi-
ronment, generate resilience and advance human
To further these strategies in a scale that can
make an impact, USGBC-Illinois has launched a
new strategic plan, an Epic Challenge for the green
building community. Going beyond LEED and new
construction, the plan focuses on Chicago neighbor-
hoods, every Chicago neighborhood, implementing
these no-regrets carbon drawdown strategies. And
just like with LEED, it will require leveraging the ro-
bust network of passionate professionals in a way
that would bring the benefits of green building to a
broader audience.
The Epic Challenge vision is simple: to promote,
socialize and implement carbon drawdown strate-
gies in all of Chicago’s 77 neighborhoods by 2020.
And we’re going to look to our statewide network to
build on our work and impact communities across
Critical to our success are three strategic goals.
First, engage with 3,500 buildings in adopting one
or more carbon drawdown strategies. Second, ally
with partners in every Chicago community to ad-
vance resiliency and livability at neighborhood-
scales. Finally, educate and equip 30,000 green
building professionals and community members to
advance carbon drawdown strategies throughout
While the goals of this new strategic plan are
ambitious, there’s confidence because of the suc-
cess the green building community has had in the
past. 15 years ago, we set out to make LEED the
premier green building rating system used in Illinois.
Today, USGBC-Illinois has grown into the largest
non-profit in the state dedicated to promoting green
buildings. It is the diverse and engaged network of
individual members, volunteers and industry leaders
that make possible nearly 75 educational events
each year promoting the latest and greatest in envi-
ronmental performance, technology and design.
With support from industry leaders, there is policy
development to expand demand for green building
know-how in Illinois. And members give back with
thousands of volunteer hours with community en-
gagement initiatives, like the Green Apple Day of
Service program to help build green infrastructure
in schools around Illinois.
It’s going to take the passion and expertise of the
sustainability community to achieve this vision and
put Chicago on a path towards a carbon-positive fu-
ture in a way that improves the health, economy
and social well-being of every resident in every
neighborhood. You can learn more about the plan
and carbon
drawdown strategies at
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