Building Green founder Alex Wilson discusses the history, current state, and future of the green building movement. Erin Gorman, CEO of Divine Chocolate USA, welcomes the move by Cadbury to source Fairtrade cocoa from the Kuapa Kokoo cooperative in Ghana that owns Divine, and Bama Athreya of the International Labor Rights Forum also applauds Cadbury’s move. And Karl Frisch of Media Matters brings us the ViewPoint on how the mainstream media is dropping the ball on covering climate change.

Alex Wilson founded BuildingGreen in 1985, when the green building movement was in its infancy. As executive editor of Environmental Building News, the bible of green building, Wilson has provided the information that has formed the building blocks of the movement. In November 2008, Wilson received the Leadership Award for Education from the US Green Building Council, whose board he served on from 2000 until 2005, the crucial period when the organization created the LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification.

Wilson launches the conversation with a primer on green building and its history, starting with an explanation of LEED. He then compares indigenous structural design, such as the Anasazi, who oriented their dwellings toward the sun to capture solar energy, compared to design that developed in the age of cheap fossil fuel, which abandoned age-old principles of efficiency. Wilson points out, however, that the Anasazi civilization collapsed due to reliance on unsustainable water use — a fate our current culture may share with them.

Wilson highlights solutions, such as green roofs and urban agriculture which integrates into the built environment, citing the example of City Farm in Chicago. He then proposes the idea of passive survivability, the notion of designing our buildings to survive the kinds of challenges that will become more prevalent as the climate changes, such as power outages and water shortages. The beauty of this idea is that it’s exactly the kind of design we need to achieve sustainability.


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