Explosion Green: One Man's Journey
to Green the World's Largest Industry

Reviewed by Kelly Hart

Little did David Gottfried know back in the early 1990’s, when he conceived of the idea of creating a council of organizations and industries devoted to exploring ways to make our buildings greener, that his dedication to manifesting this vision would blossom into what is it today. The U. S. Green Building Council is the preeminent model for similar councils around the globe and David also spawned the formation of the World Green Building Council, with over a hundred countries sharing their visions for sustainability.

David’s book, Explosion Green: One Man’s Journey to Green the World’s largest Industry is his story of how all of this came about. He tells how, as a young Stanford graduate, he embarked on a career as an upscale real estate developer in Washington D. C., complete with all of the trappings of expensive clothes and furnishings. Eventually he began to listen to an inner voice that reminded him that there was something more important for him to focus on. He realized that he needed to try to move his development projects toward resource conservation and the use of non-toxic products and materials.

Around this time David was invited to chair a subcommittee of the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) to develop guidelines for green building. He took on the challenge of drafting a comprehensive manual of standards and practices for green building that put the spotlight on him as an effective and knowledgeable consultant in this realm, and helped him move forward with some of his green projects.

By the time that David left Washington to set up his own consulting company in San Francisco, he was armed with a good deal of experience in navigating the corporate and governmental world. It would take a person with these qualifications to even consider the next big undertaking, with a few other associates, of creating a council of players with interests in green building from all perspectives: governmental agencies, manufacturers, environmental organizations, and trade organizations. The vision was that if enough of these movers and shakers were brought to the table, some real change could evolve in the way that buildings are put together.

One of the carrots that he used to entice them to pursue greener options is the fact that not only is it good for the environment, and consequently those who live in it, but it is good for a company’s bottom line. While it may cost a bit more initially, the eventual savings in energy costs and employee productivity resulting from a healthier indoor environment can be substantial.

David was the only partner in this quest willing to put his own money on the line to make it happen, and it almost bankrupted him. But as the idea began to manifest with actual meetings and various entities began to sign on to the concept and commit funds, the US Green Building Council became a reality. And it has been expanding ever since, with over 12,000 member organizations now.  The USGBC has developed the well-known LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) green building certification system that has become a model for similar certification systems around the world, and is responsible for greening a considerable portion of the built environment.

But David didn’t stop here; he realized the potential for organizing a World Green Building Council to bring together similar councils from a diversity of countries to make this a truly global movement, and he has done just that. His vision is making a real difference in the way that we design buildings and use our finite resources.

If only David could clone himself to implement similar transformations in other industries! But, in writing this book, he spells out all of the important steps to create successful organizations that can take on such monumental tasks. David Gottfried deserves our heartfelt appreciation for all he has done to foster a more sustainable world.


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