Sustainable / the pursuit of green

Sustainability Graphic for Chickasaw Nation Visitor Center

Green, sustainable, what does it all mean?

The sustainable design movement began around… well, I’m not sure that a specific date can be pinned down. While the notion of sustainability began to surface in the 1970’s, the term “green” became a serious buzz word in the late 1980’s. The first book I read on the subject was Green Architecture / Design for an energy conscious future published in 1991. The underlying message is presented as an argument for resource-conscious building calling on architects to realize a shared responsibility for the earth’s resources. Over time, the movement has become a call to action with the focus being a matter of human sustainability on planet earth. I believe that sustainable design is here to stay and only a matter of time when it will be the norm.

The Latin derivative for sustainability is “sustinere” broken into two parts; tenere – to hold and sus – up or “to hold up.” Webster’s defines sustain with words like maintain, support and endure. The global question posed in the 1972 book The Limits to Growth was “what is the ultimate carrying capacity of planet earth?” A widely quoted definition is that of the Brundtland Commission of the United Nations from March 1987: “sustainable development is development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.”

As “green” gained momentum, there were efforts to organize the movement. The US Green Building Council (USGBC) which emerged as the leading organization was founded in 1993 by Mike Italiano, Davie Gottfried and Rick Fednizzi. Scientist and environmentalist Robert Watson founded and spearheaded LEED in 1994.  The early LEED committee included 2 architects, a builder and an engineer. LEED is an acronym for “Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design” and is the key name of the design green effort.

I view LEED as having two parts.

The first is accreditation. This designation is for individuals that have achieved a level of knowledge and experience in sustainable design and passed an examination. The early designation was LEED AP for “accredited professional” but now credentials can be sought in a variety of design areas.

At FSB, we currently have 26 accredited professionals that include designers, architects, engineers and principals. We have placed a high level of importance in being LEED accredited and the application of sustainable design principles. The accreditation process has been evolving and up through June of 2010 it was a matter of studying and taking the exam. We had a mad scramble at our office to get as many people as possible accredited before the credentials process changed. I was one of those who made it under the wire. You forget what it’s like to study for an exam after being out of college for a while.

The second is certification. This designation is for structures (buildings) and there are a variety of rating systems. Certification is achieved based on a point system; the more points higher the level of certification. The total number of points that can be achieved for a new construction project is 110. The current levels of certification defined by USGBC are:

LEED Certified             40-49 points

LEED Silver                  50-59 points

LEED Gold                    60-79 points

LEED Platinum             80 and above

Our goal with the Chickasaw Nation is to achieve LEED Platinum which is a prestigious accomplishment. You can leave very few points on the table and considering some of the points are either not applicable or achievable for our project we absolutely have to get every point we can. Our next step is to have a LEED workshop where we will explore in detail the points we believe can be achieved for the Visitor Center.

Interested in how green your community is? Go to the directory of LEED certified projects at

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Filed under Design, LEED ®

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