The LEED Fellow credential implies that I am a LEED expert, right? An outsider may look at the credential title and view me as technical insider within the USGBC community. The title of LEED Fellow distinguishes me from sustainability pros that may have a slew of sustainability skill endorsements on LinkedIn, but haven’t received this third-party endorsement.

However an outsider may also look at the title and assume that LEED is all that I do, or worse, that I have a bias to only follow the LEED rating system – neither of which could be further from the truth. I never imagined that being recognized as a LEED Fellow could be limiting, but it can be.

So I’ve begun to think about the role that the LEED Fellow should be playing in the industry, and the opportunity the mark now affords me that I did not have before. There has to be more to being a LEED Fellow than just updating my business card.

If you want to be an effective change agent, you must be both credible and impartial. An exceptional article by David Brooks, ‘At the Edge of Inside’, describes a similar challenge. Brooks describes the difference between the insiders and outsiders, and the significance of the person seated on the edge of both. The person on the edge of inside is most capable of creating real change.

LEED Fellow

The article holds some clues for LEED Fellows. We are ideally positioned to be the change agents USGBC/GBCI needs if we can reset the frame that the title implies. Sure, LEED Fellows need to be top technical experts in LEED, but technical proficiency is only one small part of the requirements. Fundamentally, to be an effective change agent you cannot be just the technical expert, you must be an advocate with capacity to lead.

The industry needs the LEED Fellow more than ever

Last year, when I was recognized as a LEED Fellow while attending Greenbuild 2015 in Washington, DC, it was wonderful to be a part of the Leadership luncheon and be inspired by others being distinguished. The brain trust in the room was a mix of the founding members of the green movement, and those who have come along more recently. To be associated with those people was truly an honor.

But not much has changed since becoming a Fellow. I still advocate for the industry. I still push my clients to achieve what they had not previously imagined. I still help people to navigate the ins and outs of third-party certification. I fight every day to change the course and discourse of the building industry to be better than it is today. Just like I always have.

I highlighted my work to make the program better, easier to use, and more widely adopted in my application. My recommendations were crafted after spending hundreds of hours with the people on the inside – talking with program directors at USGBC and GBCI, actively participating on volunteer committees, and commenting every time solicited by USGBC during public comment periods. As an edge-of-insider, I often fought against rules that didn’t work, and made the case to improve the system. I was an ardent critic of processes, rules, and systems that were counter to the objectives of the program. I believe the rating system is better than it would have been had I stayed silent.

LEED Fellow - Edge of Inside

Could the rating system be even better if you used your position on the edge-of-inside and spoke up, too?

Those people who built the LEED program from scratch, those leaders, are still among us. They led the first green building revolution by sitting at the edge of inside – straddling the line between the building business and sustainability. They must increase their influence through others because there aren’t enough of them continue to innovate at the pace that our global challenges demand on their own.

LEED Fellows are the LEADERS within the USGBC community; we are cut from the same cloth as the innovators who started the movement that created the space for us to be recognized.  And we LEED Fellows have all of the skills and experience to lead the next green building revolution by taking our role on the edge of inside and making some change.

We LEED Fellows need to hold each other to a higher standard. Our role is NOT to help reluctant building owners to tolerate LEED and efficiently achieve points and plaques. Our role is to help all building owners to embrace sustainability as a business practice. We need to fight the fatigue that has set in with LEED by talking about the substance and not the thing. LEED Fellows should address the barriers to change rather than use our knowledge to exploit an imperfect system.

LEED Fellow -Edge of Inside Quote

As we head to Greenbuild 2016, we have everything we need to reinvigorate the industry and fight for more and better tools than we have right now.

Together, let’s create an innovation hub and connect thought leaders to each other. This simple idea is what founded USGBC the first time around. We don’t need a committee or a white paper, or approval from anyone or any organization – we can start with what we have – a collection of the best and brightest in Los Angeles, California on October 5, 2016.

If you are a current LEED Fellow, you must push yourself further. Get out of your comfort zone and standard lane at Greenbuild. Advocate for the change that is needed from within the inside of the USGBC community.

If you agree, please don’t hesitate to reach out with your thoughts. Contact me here.

Brad Pease

Brad Pease, LEED Fellow, is Vice President at Paladino and Company. 


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One Comment

  1. Let me know if you are organizing the movement to recapture the soul of USGBC. I would certain applaud anyone who is trying to reinvigorate USGBC. Many of us have tried to advocate for change within LEED and grown weary of trying to fight the forces of inertia. In many respects we got what we wished for, greater awareness and market impact, but with that change comes the discomfort of further changes. I told Scot Horst 15 years ago that it is the nature of these kinds of standards to get watered down and fall back toward the middle rather than continue leading at the edge. The question becomes is LEED the right vehicle anymore to affect the change we seek? While we still use LEED (as a backdoor assessment rather than a front door design tool) we are actively exploring what is next, what gets people motivated and excited, what permeates our souls as we continue down the trajectory of working to enhance living systems. For the first time, sadly, I won’t be making the trip to Greenbuild. What seems to be missing from LEED is the developmental nature of life itself.


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