Green builders are rightly proud of the environmental and health benefits that come from their projects, but Mahesh Ramanujam, CEO of the U.S. Green Building Council, encouraged them to look past the data and think about the people who reap those benefits everyday. At Rocky Mountain Green in Denver on Thursday, Ramanujam addressed attendees during the opening keynote with a quote from Brené Brown, a research professor at The Graduate College of Social Work at the University of Houston and self-professed storyteller: “Maybe stories are just data with a soul.”
People’s lives are a series of stories, and builders who connect the performance of their buildings to those stories, instead of to data, will go much further in serving their clients and growing green building as a movement.
“What good are our values if they remain in a vacuum?” Ramanujam asked.
It’s human nature to observe, he acknowledged, but “clicking on and pushing information is not the same as acting on it.”
He added, “Collecting data is not our problem. Collecting and telling stories is.”
David Bluestone, co-founder and partner at ClearPath Strategies, took the stage to urge builders to close the gap between knowing and worrying about environmental problems and doing something about them.
In a survey of 1,850 Americans, he found that 80% of people consider environmental problems somewhat or very important, up 6% in five months.
With such a groundswell of agreement—get 80% of Americans to agree on anything else, he challenged attendees—why is motivating action so difficult?
He echoed Ramanujam, urging builders to put environmental issues in the context of people’s daily lives.
Almost two-thirds of respondents said they were more passionate about improving the health of their friends and family over the planet, the study found.
Over half of respondents said they would spend more on food, products and rent in exchange for a healthier environment, Bluestone said. However, only 41% said addressing environmental issues was more important than many of the other issues national governments face like poverty, jobs or violence.
He noted that clients don’t care about a builder’s or building’s certification as much the impact on their or their family’s health.
“As soon as we start talking about this issue through politics, we lose people,” he said. Environmental decline will affect everyone, and positioning healthy change as a political issue will “shrink your voice instead of amplify it.”