'Rain forest' can improve world

S. Richard Fedrizzi

Guest Opinion
Iowa City Press-Citizen
October 13, 2004

To sustain means to continue, carry on, keep up, prolong and nourish. It is with these words in mind that I visualize the Iowa Environmental/Education Project planned in Coralville. Sustainability is not just a matter of conscious choice. It doesn't occur naturally in the environment; we have to work at it. And the first step in any worthwhile endeavor is education.

Simply put, making the choice now to support sustainable design, which is a premise behind the Iowa project, provides a global model for determining how future generations will act and what resources will be available for them. And this is our legacy -- not what we leave behind but what we create and how we create it. No other cause, I believe, is greater, more vital or more rewarding.

Thanks to the Internet, cable television, the rise in popularity of programming related to flora and fauna, and the efforts of many over the past three decades, our children today have a much greater sense of the environment and preservation of natural resources, as well as how we as adults impact the availability of these precious resources. Baby boomers such as myself grew up in an age of endless consumption, only to be shocked by the energy and pollution crises of the 1970s. Our activism, efforts and the results achieved during the past 25-30 years have led us down some very positive paths - "green" buildings, the formation of the U.S. Green Building Council and sister organizations around the world, the development of the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design rating system and many other fine examples of sustainable development.

Opportunity for change

In particular, the Leadership in Energy and Envir-onmental Design Green Building Rating System - a voluntary, consensus-based national standard for developing high-performance, sustainable buildings - was created to define "green building" by establishing a common standard of measurement to promote integrated, whole-building design practices, to recognize environmental leadership in the building industry, to stimulate green competition, to raise consumer awareness of green building benefits and transform the building market.

Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design provides a complete framework for assessing building performance and meeting sustainability goals. Based on well-founded scientific standards, Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design emphasizes state of the art strategies for sustainable site development, water savings, energy efficiency, materials selection and indoor environmental quality.

In the last 10 years I've been part of a highly successful effort to influence some of the best minds in building development - architecture, engineering, site planning, construction, manufacturing and product development - to embrace sound environmental and sustainable building principles.

The Iowa Environmental/Education Project is a tremendous opportunity for some of these minds to collectively influence all those who will come after them in a living, breathing example of "saying what we do, and doing what we say."

I do, and I understand

Whether you look into the eyes of a 2-year-old or a 22-year-old, you see limitless potential, boundless energy and enthusiasm, a zest for living and an insatiable thirst to learn more, do more, and achieve more. Imagine the mind of a child engaged as they experience scientific technology, such as 3-D molecular imaging that can show the aspects of every creature and ecosystem like they've never seen before.

Just imagine the possibilities created and the long-term impact on our children as they gain insight and understanding about alternative and renewable sources of energy, such as fuel cells, solar, wind and geothermal, that will influence our energy consumption and dependence on foreign oil in years to come.

It is more than just a curious metaphor that the proposed energy infrastructure will be transparent and hence a visible part of the exhibit rather than being relegated to a room unseen. The ancient Chinese proverb reminds us that "I hear, and I forget; I see and I remember; I do, and I understand."

Reach S. Richard Fedrizzi, founding chairman of the U.S. Green Building Council, chairman of the World Green Building Council and president of Green-Think, LLC, at asetka@porterandas sociates.com.