5 Questions for USGBC’s Mahesh Ramanujam, COO

October 03, 2016
USGBC's Mahesh Ramanujam

USGBC’s Mahesh Ramanujam

Fall 2016

HOW HAS THE TERM “GREEN” EVOLVED IN THE A&D COMMUNITY OVER THE PAST DECADE? DOES THIS TRANSLATE GLOBALLY?

The idea around making things “green” started initially as a nice- to-have or a way to differentiate yourself in the marketplace. Today, being green is an absolute requirement — across products, projects, processes and the like. And yes, this evolution is on a worldwide scale. From a global point of view, not being green is simply not a choice because developed and developing countries realize this would be in direct conflict with having a better lifestyle and a meaningful economy. Today, it’s about people, planet and profit.

WHAT IS ONE THING MOST OF THE A&D COMMUNITY PROBABLY DOES NOT KNOW ABOUT USGBC?

We have a major announcement coming this fall, where we will discuss plans to scale our platform and focus on performance — turning focus from individual buildings to cities, communities, neighborhoods and beyond. We are changing things every single day. Through GBCI, we have multiple new rating systems and programs that complement the LEED green building rating system and address different areas of sustainability, from landscapes to electrical grids to health and wellness and more.

WHAT ARE THE TOP THREE CHALLENGES FOR THE COMMERCIAL BUILDING MARKET WITH RESPECT TO SUSTAINABILITY?

The most pressing opportunity is to show how sustainability connects to the bottom line. Being green is great, but you need to show the cost savings with building sustainable, efficient projects. Next, when you look, there are numerous examples of operational savings on commercial projects, but these are not always classified as sustainability driven savings. We need to make that connection for people. Finally, most people don’t actually know with confidence how sustainable their building is. They simply don’t have the right tools. Think of it as having your own credit score, but nowhere to go measure it against other people’s scores. That part is missing, and it’s a huge challenge and opportunity that USGBC is addressing head on with our new platforms that improve transparency, data collection and metric tracking.

HOW IS THE PUSH FOR TRANSPARENCY AFFECTING THE INDUSTRY?

Transparency in any industry sometimes creates fear in the market, but it also offers opportunity and at USGBC we are embracing it. Some developers may be nervous that it will challenge their brand or slow down investment interest, but most of what they do is already public and their sustainability efforts should be no different.

WHAT DOES SUSTAINABILITY LOOK LIKE IN 2026?

It’s all about real-time data and metrics when it comes to sustainability measurement, as this will be the most powerful decision- making tool. Developers will be bored with showcasing stagnant environmental scorecards, and they will be more confident and able to easily calibrate data to tell their own sustainability stories and find their own improvement opportunities. We will see a more sustainable built environment that focuses beyond the building, tying in health, wellness, climate change and other environmental issues more than ever before.

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