By Laura Case
My journey in sustainability and the built environment began almost 20 years ago. At the time, I was a project manager on Emory University’s campus charged with understanding and implementing a nascent, green building certification program across new building projects for the university. The first of these projects for Emory was the eight-story, 325,000 square foot Joseph B. Whitehead Biomedical Research Building. Upon its completion in 2002, the building became the first in the Southeast to receive Silver certification under the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) program. That project began my journey into sustainability, LEED and the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC), which governs and administers the LEED program.
Due in part to the Whitehead Building’s LEED success, including indoor air quality, energy and water savings, Emory committed to requiring LEED Silver certifications for all new campus buildings. All of Emory’s facility project managers became LEED Accredited Professionals, and the Campus Sustainability Design Guidelines were developed. When I left the university, over two million square feet of buildings had been LEED certified – the largest of any campus in the country.
Upon learning the LEED program, I immediately became a passionate advocate for high performance buildings. I challenged designers to infuse LEED elements into my projects and developed the Emory University Campus Sustainability Guidelines. I led building tours for individual groups and for the USGBC’s annual Greenbuild International Conference and Expo, providing information and resources on the merits of energy efficient buildings. I began speaking on the benefits and need for continued growth in the green building space, and I eventually got more involved in the outreach and development of LEED at the local level.
During my time at Emory I worked on the formation committee for the Atlanta and Georgia branches of the USGBC – a quickly growing organization. I served as a board member, and once the local organizations were established, I provided guidance to emerging new chapters and branches by working on the Southeast Regional Committee (SERC).
I joined the Sustainable Sites Technical Advisory Group, guiding LEED project teams on technical issues and most recently helping to develop LEED v4, the most current LEED rating system available. From there, my interest grew to include healthy schools, an initiative started by the USGBC to promote student health and reduced operation costs through energy and water savings. To this day, I continue to serve on the USGBC Georgia Schools Committee.
When I was at Emory, I had been introduced to and became a close partner with Southface. They too were working hard for the built environment, promoting energy efficiency and sustainability in homes, offices, and communities. With my experience forming the USGBC Georgia chapter and my technical background, coming to work for Southface was a natural next step. I was looking for a change as Southface was looking for an employee – it was kismet.
Since being at Southface, I have been able to expand my LEED project experience, working on many New Construction and Commercial Interiors throughout the US and Canada. In 2014 I began working on a Retail Volume program development for Chick-fil-A. Over 50 stores have been certified using this program.
My work also grew beyond LEED, allowing me to work on the EarthCraft Light Commercial (ECLC) program development and upgrade. EarthCraft is a high performance and green building certification founded by Southface and the Greater Atlanta Homebuilders Association.
When I was recognized as a 2017 LEED Fellow earlier this month at the USGBC’s Greenbuild in Boston, I was humbled. To me, high performance buildings have been a passion and an opportunity for me to positively impact the world around me. I continue to be amazed at the steps we’ve taken as a community to build healthier, more efficient and sustainable offices, homes, communities and schools. I am extremely honored to be included as one of the 23 LEED Fellows in the 2017 class, and I am inspired by what lies ahead.
The LEED Fellow designation demonstrates a minimum of 10 years of exceptional impact in the green building industry, demonstrating exceptional achievements in teaching, mentoring, service and advocacy for green building and sustainability. The evaluation process includes an extensive portfolio review.
Learn more about LEED Fellows here.