These are exciting times for green building. Over a decade ago, when the first edition of this book was published, a number of designers and builders were starting to embrace resource-efficient or "green" building, yet precious few of their efforts focused on affordable housing.

When I joined the newly formed Global Green in the mid-nineties, we had a mandate from President Mikhail S. Gorbachev, founder of our international parent organization Green Cross International: to foster a value shift in patterns of consumption to help create a sustainable future. It was clear to me then, and it remains so now, that in looking at environmental solutions, we must address poverty. But I cannot tell you how many times I've heard that sustainable building practices are luxuries for the virtuous and wealthy few. Or the other refrain, "Why should we experiment on the poor?"

In fact, the opposite, could not be truer: If we can lower energy costs for low-income families, improve their indoor air quality, and connect them to mass transit, we can improve the lives of those who need it most. We simply do not have time to perpetuate the misperception that sustainable building practices are luxuries for the virtuous and wealthy few. By making green building affordable we make it accessible—if you can build green affordable housing, every building can be green.

But allow me to back up. When I was four years old, or so my father tells me, I saw some trash in the park, left over from a busy weekend, and said "Dad, we have to take care of our planet!" Growing up in Modesto, California, I watched agricultural land and open space disappear for suburban developments. It disturbed me, yet I knew people needed a decent place to live.

In 1991, I began what has become a long relationship with Habitat for Humanity when I volunteered for the organization after moving to Los Angeles for graduate school. Amongst my public administration course readings, I self-selected Paul Hawken's seminal work, The Ecology of Commerce—I still have the worn copy full of highlighted passages. Not only did Paul highlight green building, at its core was a message that struck a cord: Whole systems thinking instead of linear solutions to problems! Of course!

Around that time, I joined the Steering Committee for Habitat's Jimmy Carter Work Project in Los Angeles. You can imagine my thrill at being appointed chair of the "green team"! It was a committee of one, and I appointed myself, but it was an important start.

Despite my best efforts and enthusiasm, barriers abounded in trying to "green" the weeklong blitz build. The materials committee would only use a green product if it was donated, the architecture committee had aesthetic objections, the construction committee's volunteers were used to building a certain way, and so on. I took green building pioneer John Picard to meet with the committee chairs. Still, there was little progress until I met David Snell, who was in charge of education at the Jimmy Carter Work Project at Habitat's world headquarters in Georgia. I talked to David about how the Carter project might work differently, and he was intrigued.

In 1994, Diane Meyer Simon asked me to join the newly formed Global Green USA, providing a professional platform from which to pursue an endeavor with Habitat. Not surprisingly, when the organization's first work plan was presented to the board in 1995, it included the goal of influencing Habitat for Humanity and focusing on affordable housing. The plan was approved and Global Green took its first steps toward greening affordable housing.

Reconnecting with David Snell, we quickly identified two opportunities for collaboration between Global Green and Habitat for Humanity. First was a work site recycling plan for the July 1995 Jimmy Carter Work Project. Working with our consultants April Smith and Sid Wales, we insured that everything such as food, construction waste, and hazardous materials was properly disposed of, recycled, composted, or sent to the wood shop at a local high school.

Second, we announced a partnership between Habitat for Humanity International and Global Green USA to identify ways to incorporate green practices into both the design and construction of Habitat projects nationally. The first step in our partnership was holding the Habitat for Humanity and Global Green USA Environmental Initiative Symposium in December 1995. It was said we had one most impressive gathering of green building and sustainability experts in one room at the time: Bob Berkebile, William McDonough, Bill Browning, Gail Lindsay, Steve Loken, John Knott, Dennis Creech, Lynn Simon, and so many others.

The event's goal was to create a plan for Habitat to be good stewards for God's gifts, and improve the lives of the homeowners. I believed we could improve lives and make housing truly affordable and that lower energy costs and significant health benefits could help to transform neighborhoods. The result of the event was the formation of the Habitat Green Team and commitment by Habitat for Humanity International to support green in the work of the many affiliates. This commitment is being borne out today in the way energy efficiency and healthy building practices are integrated into the ambitious Operation Home Delivery for the rebuilding of hurricane-damaged Gulf Coast communities.

Our focus then turned to Los Angeles, where, in 1997, we invited experts in affordable housing design, community development, and green building to participate in a Green Affordable Housing Symposium. At the Symposium four teams explored how to green several affordable projects that were midway through design, including developments led by the Los Angeles Community Design Center, the Housing Authority of the City of Los Angeles, Habitat, and the Lee Group (whose project evolved into the Village Green, where President Clinton launched the PATH Initiative). A concurrent policy team produced recommendations for leaders in local, state, and federal government. The discussion, ideas, and recommendations generated at that event were the foundation for the first edition of this book.

Over the past decade our work has grown to encompass a broad spectrum of research, technical assistance, education, and policy development endeavors. Through the leadership and contributions of Lynn Simon, Mary Luevano, Ted Bardacke, and in particular Walker Wells, Global Green has become a national leader in greening affordable housing and sustainable community development.

But more importantly others have joined us in our commitment to transform communities including Enterprise Community Partners, LISC, NeighborWorks, the U.S. Green Building Council, Habitat for Humanity-International, Southface Energy Institute, AIA Housing Committee, the cities of Los Angeles, San Francisco and Santa Monica, and the States of California and Louisiana. The funding community has also provided essential support and we are grateful for the support of The Home Depot Foundation, the Oak Hill Fund, Blue Moon Fund, Marisla, Turner, David & Lucille Packard, and San Francisco foundations, the U.S. Department of Energy, and United Technology Corporation's Sustainable Cities Program.

In the early days of the Green Affordable Housing Initiative, we faced a great learning curve; thankfully today it is more broadly understood that the construction and maintenance of buildings accounts for 40 percent of the world's energy use, a major portion of overall resource use, and is a major contributor to climate change.

As the case studies in this volume demonstrate, the concept of green affordable housing is not an oxymoron; but rather, it is at the core of a new axiom for community development. To make affordable housing truly affordable, we must embrace green building in all affordable housing. To make green building truly accessible, we must learn to apply it universally in affordable housing.

Green affordable housing also provides us with the unique opportunity to engage an entirely new constituency—designers, developers, community advocates, and policy makers—in the broader, all-encompassing challenge of global warming. We can and must embrace this chance to tackle the enormous challenge of global warming while improving a sizable corner of the world—our communities and our most at-risk citizens—if we are to turn it around for the sake of future generations.

Matt Petersen President and CEO, Global Green USA

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