Monday, April 2, 2007

David A. Gottfried: A Leader In Creating An Environmentally Focused Industry

The University of Southern California, shown left, defines its honorary degrees as a means “[t]o honor individuals who have distinguished themselves through extraordinary achievements in scholarship, the professions, or other creative activities, whether or not they are widely known by the general public.” Those selected by the University to receive an honorary degree deliver the commencement address to the graduating class during spring graduation ceremonies. Past recipients of honorary degrees include: former astronaut Neil A. Armstrong, the Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, as well as U.S. Senator John McCain. As commencement approaches, I have decided to honor someone whom I feel is playing a very important role in real estate. I am nominating David A. Gottfried for an honorary degree in laws, an award given for outstanding public service, at the University of Southern California for his efforts in making the real estate industry more environmentally conscious. He might not be well known outside of his niche, but he is leading the transformation of big industries to a less detrimental means of energy consumption, which will play an important role in preserving the future of the natural world.

James Freedman, the former president of the University of Iowa and Dartmouth College, said, “In bestowing an honorary degree [of which there is a long tradition in American higher education], a university makes an explicit statement to its students and the world about the qualities of character and attainment it admires most.” David A. Gottfried, with his many environmentally charged ventures, perfectly exemplifies that statement. Gottfried, shown right, is the founder of the U.S. Green Building Council, a “coalition of leaders from every sector of the building industry working to promote buildings that are environmentally responsible, profitable and healthy places to live and work.” According to their website, the USGBC’s “core purpose is to transform the way buildings and communities are designed, built and operated, enabling an environmentally and socially responsible, healthy, and prosperous environment that improves the quality of life.” This coalition is currently the biggest of its kind in the United States, with 7,500 members and over 75 chapters throughout the country. Gottfried graduated from Stanford University with a degree in Engineering and Resource Management. On top of establishing the USGBC, Gottfried created the World Green Building Council, ASTM’s Green Building Committee, and was one of many to set up the Industry Alliance for Interoperability. He is also the founder and CEO of WorldBuild Technologies, Inc., an environmental consulting firm based in Berkeley, California. Gottfried has published numerous articles, given hundreds of speeches throughout the world on various topics mostly focusing on spreading environmental awareness. Gottfried recently wrote a book entitled Greed To Green, in which he discusses balancing business obligations with social responsibility, and argues that conscientious companies fare better in the long run. It is Gottfried's belief of balancing between successful business and social responsibilty that is beginning to revolutionize the real estate industry.

The U.S. Green Building Council’s most effective tool in spreading environmental awareness is its recently developed rating system called LEED. Their system, Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, has become “the nationally accepted benchmark for the design, construction, and operation of high performance green buildings.” This rating system is revolutionizing building production, offering a set of credible and consistent standards that green builders can use at their disposal. The LEED rating system focuses on five areas of human and environmental health: sustainable site development, energy efficiency, water savings, materials selection, and indoor environmental quality. There are thousands of prominent buildings that have used this rating system, including Accenture’s offices in San Francisco and the Los Angeles Convention Center. If this system were to become mandatory with all new buildings, or a sort of government reward system were established, energy efficient buildings could increase substantially.

As I mentioned in an earlier post, more than 85 percent of the energy consumed in the U.S. comes from fossil fuels such as coal, oil, and natural gas, 18 percent of that coming from individual homes. If not for leaders and visionaries like David A. Gottfried, the future of the natural world would be in great danger. Buildings play such an important role in energy consumption throughout the world, a problem that is not being addressed as frantically as it should. It is important that buildings constructed in the future have as small of an imprint as possible. The number of buildings will constantly increase, however, their energy consumption could be considerably reduced through a number of different methods. If organizations like the USGBC continue to make this issue known, a big step could be made towards a less detrimental way of life.

The environment is becoming an important issue with the American people; it is beginning to shape our everyday life. With that said, if we are to truly save the environment, we must be environmentally aware in every aspect of life. Individual efforts to limit energy consumption do have a powerful effect on the environment; however, it is energy conscious industries that will make the largest impact. David A. Gottfried is leading one of the most prominent world industries towards environmentally conscious energy consumption, and in doing so, is setting an great example for the world to follow. If he were to give a commencement speech at the University of Southern California, he would stress the importance of social responsibility. He would preach that being socially and environmentally responsible does not mean that business will suffer. Most importantly, he would tell the graduating class that their actions over the next few decades, the choices they make, will shape the world for many years to come.

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