This piece by Gina McCarthy, administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, appears in the just-released July/August issue of USGBC+, the new membership magazine of USGBC. Read thefull article and browse the entire issue at plus.usgbc.org.
I recently visited Salt Lake City’s Public Safety Building, one of the largest net-zero buildings in our nation. That tour reinforced for me that the buildings where we live, work, and play have a profound impact on our health and the environment.
The way we heat, cool, and light our buildings contributes to climate change—and climate change supercharges risks not just to our health, but also to our communities, our economy, and our way of life. President Obama calls it one of the greatest challenges of our time.
That is why earlier this summer, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency proposed carbon pollution standards for existing power plants, the single largest source of carbon pollution in the United States. The EPA’s action is designed to turn climate risk into business opportunity, to spur private sector innovation and investment, and to build a world-leading clean energy economy.
The U.S. Green Building Council and its members have been at the forefront of solutions to combat climate change, reduce energy consumption, and reduce health risks from the built environment. Your work is a great example of the innovation the EPA’s proposal aims to encourage.
USGBC knows that a clean environment is a matter of public health and that great design can fight climate change not only by using smart materials and increasing energy efficiency, but also by encouraging physical activity and access to healthy foods. And through programs like the EPA’s ENERGY STAR, even existing buildings can significantly cut carbon emissions.
History has shown that we do not have to choose between a healthy economy and a healthy environment. We can—and should—have both. Since 1970, the Clean Air Act has reduced air pollution by 70 percent while the U.S. economy has more than tripled in size.
By prioritizing ideas such as active design, USGBC is promoting buildings that boost vitality, health, and happiness. USGBC members are pushing the design envelope, building gems like the Department of Energy’s new Research Support Facility—the world’s largest net-zero building.
We cannot solve climate change overnight, but we can take steps toward progress. The green building community is catalyzing meaningful change for our environment and our future, and your work is more important than ever. Let’s celebrate our successes, while rolling up our sleeves to tackle the challenges to come. I am eager to see what we can build together.”