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Ten years after: USGBC Mississippi forges ahead

USGBC_logo_4CBy NASH NUNNERY

The Mississippi chapter of the U.S. Green Building Council is alive and well.

Rumors about the demise of the decade-old organization are greatly exaggerated, according to chapter Chairman Perry Richardson. In the midst of a transition period, USGBC Mississippi remains a viable organization with a planned strategy to recapture former members and add new ones.

“We’re still here – (USGBC Mississippi) isn’t going away,” said Richardson. “There’s been a shift from a board of directors to a local market advisory board, and I’m pleased to serve as its chair. You have to coax membership and offer them something for their dues. Re-contacting former members will be made a priority.”

Established in 2006, USGBC Mississippi advocates “the design and development of environmentally sustainable, healthy buildings and communities”.  Members and volunteers include architects, builders, contractors, interior designers and facilities maintenance personnel. In the last decade, over 11 million square feet of building space in Mississippi have been certified using the USGBC’s LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) green building rating system.

PERRY RICHARDSON

PERRY RICHARDSON

Richardson, who is retired as an architect but keeps active in the green building movement, said membership in USGBC Mississippi faded in recent years for various reasons. But, he added, green building has continued to prosper in spite of the 2008 recession that stifled the building trades industry.

“Credit (for lower membership) is often given to the economy but there are many reasons,” Richardson said. “I just think we need to get back to offering opportunities to learn new things, meet other professionals and build community support for sustainability in our state.”

The former Canizaro Cawthon Davis architect stressed that membership in USGBC Mississippi isn’t limited to building and design professionals.

“Anyone interested in a more environmentally, economically, and socially responsible Mississippi is welcome to join,” said Richardson. “Sustainability is a complex issue that touches every aspect of our lives. There’s a lot to talk about.”

Bringing back former USGBC Mississippi programs such as First Friday Lunch meetings and Continuing Education Units (CEU) days are tops on Richardson’s ‘to-do’ list. The initial First Friday Lunch meeting is slated for May 5 at the MSU College of Architecture lecture hall in Jackson. The program will outline the need for sustainability, environmental awareness and, of course, the value of membership.

‘Green education’ in the public schools also is a primary target for the Mississippi chapter, said Richardson.

Last week, USGBC Mississippi recognized the first two public schools in the state to earn LEED certification. School officials from Hancock North Central Elementary School and Oxford High School were presented plaques during an Earth Day ceremony in Oxford.

To become LEED certified, the schools had to meet rigid criteria, including using 30 percent less water than schools of similar size, 20 percent less energy, and use construction materials made within 500 miles of the building site, with 30 percent of those materials utilizing recycled content.

“Green schools are a perfect way to bring green education to our students,” he said. “We want to educate them on best practices in the built environment.”

According to the national USGBC, more than 500 U.S. companies are involved in the design and construction of green buildings. While advocacy has enhanced awareness of sustainable design, Richardson believes that green building is past the ‘trending’ stage.

“There’s a groundswell of support for sustainability among people from all walks of life,” he said. “It’s like the Stone Age didn’t end because there were no more stones to find – we just found a better way. Everyone wants a clean, safe environment to live in.”

Ironically, Richardson’s interest in green building began not as an architect but rather as a roofing materials sales rep in the early 1980s. He returned to his architect practice with a fresh outlook in 1992.

“This was a rewarding period where I started to understand the importance of water barriers and insulation systems,” he said. “I learned there are lot of integrated processes for designing buildings. Builder, engineer, architect, client – all must be involved and in-sync. Green building is about everyone being on the same page.

“USGBC Mississippi’s vision is making a sustainable Mississippi a larger reality.”

To learn more about the USGBC Mississippi chapter, visit www.usgbc.org/usgbc-mississippi.

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