Sustainable + Affordable + Equitable: Making Healthy Housing Accessible to Everyone
By Cari Barcas
Community Engagement Director
The value of sustainable, equitable and affordable building is relevant now more than ever.
The importance of green building has never been more obvious than in this year where most of us are spending more of our time at home than ever before while vigilantly monitoring our own health, and at this time when we are being called to step up, speak out and stand alongside our neighbors of color.
As we approach the 20th anniversary of our nonprofit’s inception here at Green Built Alliance, we expected that 2020 would be an exciting start to the new decade, with plans for renewal and refocusing in several of our prominent community programs.
Of course, if recent months have reminded us of anything, it is that expectations do not always match reality. However, the curve balls thrown our way in the first half of 2020 didn’t stop us from marching forward in our work with adaptability and agility.
Our work today
In the first half of 2020, our Green Built Homes program completed and began the roll out of version 3.0 of its certification checklist, which has been updated and revised to stay current with changing building codes and increase simplicity for program participants. The new checklist places more emphasis on regenerative elements, including the addition of an innovative Net Zero Water Ready Certification and a pilot Regenerative Certification. To learn more about the leaner, greener version of our certification program, read the full story here.
Meanwhile, following a Request for Proposals from the city and county, Green Built Alliance was selected to continue implementing the work of the Blue Horizons Project. With more than two years under its belt since launching its community-focused campaign, Blue Horizons Project is excited for the next phase in its evolution. As Green Built Alliance carries forward the clean-energy torch through this work, the program’s founding entity, the Energy Innovation Task Force, is being dissolved and reborn as the Blue Horizons Project Community Council. To learn more about this collaborative approach and the next phases of Blue Horizons Project’s work, read the full story here.
In early 2020, Green Built Alliance also assumed management and operation of Energy Savers Network’s efforts to offer energy-efficiency upgrades to low-income homes in Western North Carolina, with the intention of continuing to expand the grassroots program’s impact and reach. Green Built Alliance had served for two years prior as the fiscal sponsor of Energy Savers Network, which has been operated under the umbrella of the broader Blue Horizons Project.
Last but not least, our nonprofit’s Appalachian Offsets program is celebrating the long-awaited completion of fundraising for the Isaac Dickson Elementary School solar system. With more than 100 donors contributing to the $428,000 system, Appalachian Offsets finished fundraising for the Isaac Dickson solar project in late 2019 and the 300 kW array is expected to be installed on the school’s roof in September 2020. To learn more about the Isaac Dickson project and what’s next for Appalachian Offsets, read the full story here.
Our work continues
Needless to say, the world of green building has come a long way in the two decades since our nonprofit’s formation, and we’re proud and humbled to have been able to evolve and grow along with our industry.
While there has been a great deal of positive transformation worth celebrating in these past 20 years, we know that we still have a long way to go, especially as it pertains to racial equity. For all of our progress, the world of green building still seems blindingly white, and Green Built Alliance is actively engaged in the work of changing that. We recognize that in order for green building to be truly sustainable for any of us, it must also be accessible to all of us.
Though our programs have made commitments toward equity and our staff has participated in numerous training sessions around diversity and inclusion in recent years, we have not done nearly enough. Good intentions are simply not adequate, and we are committed to increasing our efforts toward inclusion and equity by working tirelessly to build healthier homes for all of our neighbors.
Black lives matter. The healthiness, affordability and sustainability of black homes matters. No one says this better than Jacqui Patterson and Mandy Lee of the NAACP, which has launched an initiative on Centering Equity in the Sustainable Building Sector. Learn more about the NAACP’s perspective and initiative, or read a local take on the ties between racial justice and the Asheville building industry.
There are no right words in this watershed moment of such immense suffering and turmoil engulfing communities across our nation, but there are right actions we can begin to take together, one step at a time.
As an anti-racist organization, Green Built Alliance is committed to listening and learning. We are committed to remembering that there is much we do not know. We are committed to advancing sustainability for all people. We are committed to building a community of healthier homes for each of our neighbors.
As Green Built Alliance prepares to mark the milestone of 20 years since our inception in 2001, we invite you to join us in recommitting to this work of preserving our Earth, reevaluating the ways that we are protecting our neighbors, and renewing our resolve to cultivate true sustainability in the built environment.
Thank you for being part of the solution.