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NorCal Green Building Challenge Fires Up

Author: Ashleigh Talberth
December, 2012 Issue

When the White House issued the Better Buildings Challenge in February 2011, the U.S. Green Building Council-Northern California Chapter (USGBC-NCC) and a handful of local businesses, including Adobe and Google, started talking. Genentech, Prudential Real Estate Investors, SAP and Zynga jumped into the conversations, which went something like this:
Better Buildings Challenge? We’re home to the nation’s first green building code and leading sustainability policies. If California companies take on a challenge, it must be unprecedented…”
The result: the California Best Buildings Challenge was born.
The California Best Buildings Challenge goes beyond the Better Buildings Challenge’s goals of 20 percent energy reductions by 2020 and asks local companies to commit to 20 percent reductions in energy, water and waste in their buildings in a landmark short time frame of just two years.
When former President Bill Clinton and USGBC first launched the initiative in June at the Clinton Global Initiative America conference, Clinton remarked: “This [the California Best Buildings Challenge] is a huge deal. It’s a lay down economically. It’s a lay down in the fight against climate change. And in our fight to become both more energy efficient and energy independent.”
But then again, who wouldn’t expect this competitive edge from California companies?
“California companies have always been trail blazers,” says Dan Geiger, executive director of USGBC-NCC. “In the lead-up to the largest industry conference worldwide—Greenbuild International Conference and Expo—coming to its birthplace in San Francisco in November 2012, these firms stepped up to pursue aggressive environmental goals in a landmark accelerated time frame and, most important, to inspire others to do the same.”
Green building is a win-win, offering both environmental and economic opportunity. Greater building efficiency can meet 85 percent of future demand for energy in the United States and a commitment to green building has the potential to generate 2.5 million jobs. Since some of the companies committing to pursue these goals are already very efficient, even LEED platinum-certified, this challenge could kick-start a new wave of innovative sustainability.
The California Best Buildings Challenge continues to rapidly build steam, recently doubling the number of participating companies. The announcement brings in seven new partners since the June launch, and puts the challenge at more than 6 million square feet of collective building space. New particiants include Bayer, Intergral Group, Lockheed Martin, Onyx Pharmaceuticals, Webcor Builders and XL Construction.
“Watching the California Best Buildings Challenge gain momentum and grow has been exciting and cements the idea that green building and efficient business practices go hand-in-hand,” says Rick Fedrizzi, president/CEO and founding chairman of USGBC. “The challenge participants are bona fide leaders in the sustainable business movement, and we hope more California-based companies and beyond will follow suit."

North Bay companies invited to join

This is a unique opportunity for a handful of regional companies to showcase their sustainability stories and propel the movement forward through education. Companies of all sizes and industry sectors are encouraged to learn more about joining the Challenge, and serve as case studies to the wider industry. Small businesses are particularly encouraged to join.
Participating firms will have access to peer-to-peer best practice sharing, education and ongoing visibility through participating in the Challenge. The Challenge will continue to consider new partners through January 11, 2013.
The U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC; is made up of a diverse group of builders and environmentalists, corporations and nonprofits, teachers and students, lawmakers and citizens. Its 14,000 members share a same vision of a sustainably built environment for all within the next generation.
Ashleigh Talberth is director of California Best Buildings Challenge (, U.S. Green Building Council-Northern California Chapter. Contact her at


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