Growing Green: How Green Built Alliance Changed Our Region During the Past Two Decades
By Mary Love
Green Built Alliance has a special place in my heart. In fact, it was one of the main reasons I moved to Asheville.
Green Built Alliance turns 20 this year. The milestone prompted me to sit down with Boone Guyton and Cindy Meehan-Patton, our concept founders, to reminisce and celebrate our success.
Boone wanted to create a green-building directory and Cindy wanted to establish green-building guidelines for builders. After talking to a small group of friends, they established the nonprofit in 2001 as the Western North Carolina Green Building Council (WNCGBC).
In the first few years, dedicated volunteers and a couple of part-time employees educated the public through a series of forums, field trips and classes. Our hotline, newsletter and oversight of the NC HealthyBuilt Homes program (today known as Green Built Homes) provided valuable information to both contractors who strived to improve their building skills as well as homeowners who wanted to build green.
“I am deeply grateful that the Green Built program has been and continues to be such a major influence in how homes are built in our area and in North Carolina,” Cindy said.
After two decades of growth, our organization has expanded to encompass 10 ongoing programs, 10 dedicated employees and many volunteers.
Two important factors have led to the continual success of Green Built Alliance: ongoing partnerships with other nonprofits and government officials, along with the long-standing dedication of our core members.
As an organization, we have accomplished so much that it is impossible in this short article to mention all of the people and programs that have been formative in our evolution. It is also important to honor our success over these past 20 years.
“We have become more than I imagined and I am grateful for all the original and continual volunteers, the past and current staff,” Boone said with a smile.
It was fun to try to remember the people who were the grassroots volunteers. We couldn’t remember everyone. Boone and Cindy did want to give a special thanks to the following: Bobbi Tousey, Duncan McPherson, Ashley Featherstone, Terry Albrecht, John Senechal, Sam Zimmerman, David Tuch, Claudia Cady, Traci Kearns, Isaac Savage, Matt Siegel, Mary Love and Maggie Leslie.
We started with strong partnership and have continued to benefit from these relationships. We are grateful for our ongoing collaboration with community partners including Waste Reduction Partners, North Carolina Solar Center, Mountain Housing Opportunities, Advanced Energy, Asheville Area Habitat for Humanity, Asheville Home Builders Association, Land of the Sky Association of Realtors, Land of Sky Regional Council, the city of Asheville, the town of Black Mountain, Buncombe County, Duke Energy, Community Action Opportunities, On Track, and Green Opportunities.
Boone, Cindy and I talked about the beginning and the success of our flagship programs — the Green Building Directory, hotline, and green-building certifications — and wanted to give a quick history.
Boone envisioned a directory full of information about green building. He wanted to support the local green-building providers and help homeowners find necessary resources. The only way to pay for the directory was to have businesses place ads. Duncan McPherson did most of the layout and proofing for the first few years. Today, our directory still follows the same format.
Both Cindy and Boone wanted to get as much information as possible to the general public. Thankfully, Terry Albrecht with Waste Reduction Partners helped fund a small grant that allowed Matt Siegel to answer a hotline and help people learn more about green building and our organization.
Cindy’s dream of green-building guidelines came true through a joint grant from the State Energy Office with the North Carolina Solar Center, Mountain Housing Opportunities, and Waste Reduction Partners.
Meanwhile, I was hired to oversee the first certification project in the state at Prospect Terrace, which included single-family homes, low-income homes, a six-unit multifamily building and one historical duplex renovation. Part of my job was to educate local builders, Realtors, and homeowners on the advantages of a true green home, which must be certified and overseen by building scientists. I have gone on to make a career of carrying this message to the masses.
The HealthyBuilt Homes program took off in Western North Carolina and, in 2006, Maggie Leslie became full time director of the program. During the recession, the North Carolina Solar Center closed and WNCGBC took over the statewide program, rebranding it as Green Built NC and later as Green Built Homes. This year, as Green Built Alliance celebrates its 20-year anniversary, Green Built Homes marks the milestone of 2,000 projects certified.
The Green Built Homes program has been directed by Maggie Leslie for the past 15 years. During this time, Maggie has answered millions of questions and helped certify more than 2,000 homes. She has worked to improve the standards and set a higher bar for all builders. This year, Maggie has decided to move on to new adventures. When you see Maggie Leslie, be sure to say thank you for all the years of dedication and for her contribution to building science and Green Built Alliance.
To get a good sense of how much this small nonprofit has accomplished over the past 20 years, you would need to go back and review our past directories. Some of our programs have come and gone, while others have come back around with a different name.
We have touched the lives of countless people in the greater Asheville area, as well across the state of North Carolina and beyond throughout the U.S. We have been leading the way, and the world is finally catching up with our vision.
Through it all, our organization has never stopped evolving. Today, our scope of work includes: certifying new residential construction through Green Built Homes; making energy-efficiency and clean-energy upgrades to local schools and nonprofits through Appalachian Offsets; managing the Blue Horizons Project community clean-energy campaign; weatherizing the homes of our low-income neighbors through Energy Savers Network; and educating the public by hosting sustainability-focused classes throughout the year and distributing our annual Green Building Directory.
I want to personally thank anyone and everyone who has been a part of our work over the past two decades. We made it to 20 years with the loyal support of our members, and we need you to help us continue to thrive and change the world.
Mary Love is the president and broker in charge for Love The Green Real Estate Consulting Firm. A lifetime supporter of Green Built Alliance, Mary currently sits on its Board of Directors and is grateful to be part of this organization that is changing the world for the better. Connect with Mary at lovethegreen.org.
You can also view this article as it was originally published on page 40 of the 2021-22 edition of the directory.