Greenhouse Pioneer: Colin Powell, World Green Building Council

Colin Powell from the World Green Building Council has established himself as a pioneer of combating the adverse environmental effects of the built environment whilst boosting the health and experience of their occupants. Colin is Project Manager for the Better Places for People campaign. Run under the World Green Building Council, and nine global sponsors, it aims to increase the supply and demand of buildings which improve the health and wellbeing of those who occupy them.

Tell us about World Green Building Council’s mission? 

Our mission is to build more green buildings that are healthy for the people who occupy them.

What drives you? 

Climate change. Buildings are right now part of the problem – but can be the solution: building greener, and ultimately, zero carbon buildings are the way to do this. And we can do this while still considering the impact buildings have on human health. We can build healthier, green buildings that can mitigate and reverse climate change and make people healthier and more productive.

What is your greatest achievement to date? 

We recently released a report on the economic benefits of healthy, green buildings. That was a great achievement for us, but it’s an even better achievement to have people come up to me and say they’ve used our reports to actually build more green buildings – that is our goal. So to hear our actions have produced healthier green buildings is my greatest achievement.

What are the challenges you face?

That healthy, green buildings are seen as a luxury. But 90% of a business’ costs are staff costs – the cost of healthy, green interventions are dramatically less than the cost of not taking care of your staff and the benefits of healthy, green interventions far outweigh their costs.

What are you working on that’s getting you fired up and excited?

We’re making a push for more and more case studies so we can demonstrate the benefits of healthy, green buildings. We’re also going to be pushing out much more educational tools so GBCs can help their members learn and build healthier, greener buildings. Stay tuned!

Where do you want to take World Green Bulding Council next? 

We’re a global organization, so we need to take our mission for healthier, green buildings to all regions of the world. We’ve expanded our project to almost 50% of our member Green Building Councils – we want to get to 100%.

What can we, as individuals, do to make a difference?

There are small things you do to your own office or home – get plants that clean the air (plants improve indoor air quality but the colour green also can make you feel healthier and calmer), stand up more during the day (sitting for 8 hours a day at a computer is not good for your body), open a window (fresh air!), work near a window (workers near a window can get 46 minutes more sleep on average).

How is what you are doing inspiring change in others?

As I said before, my greatest achievement is people taking action to build healthier, green buildings – we are seeing health and wellness increasingly being incorporated in offices, retail, residential, and schools and want to expand to other typologies.

Can you recommend a life- or game-changing book for our readers? 

Paul Hawken – The Ecology of Commerce – my favourite “environmental” book  – I’ve read probably 15 times – first book to ever make me go “Huh!”. Also, if I have to add one more – The Life and Death of Great American Cities by Jane Jacobs. I read this on vacations a lot it just makes me feel good.

What do you listen to when you’re cooking dinner?

Either CBC Radio (Canadian equivalent of BBC) or Paul Simon or any new pop music.

What’s the best advice you’ve ever been given? 

“Relax.” Seriously: in any situation where I think I’ll be stressed – I just say “relax” to myself and it helps tremendously. It sounds silly, but this works in so many situations – if you’re frustrated with something or someone – just relax. It helps you think clearly and also forces you to step back a bit from the problem at hand.

Can you leave us with who’d be your Eco Hero? 

Author Paul Hawken. “Ecology of Commerce” and “Natural Capitalism” both grabbed me and pushed me into a world I’m fascinated by every day and am lucky to work in. Ray Anderson, Founder of Interface, said that Ecology of Commerce was a “spear in the chest experience” and I couldn’t agree more – and look what he did for Interface!

Greenhouse PR recently worked alongside the World Green Building Council to help launch their latest report Building the Business Case: Health, Wellbeing and Productivity in Green Offices. To see more interviews with pioneers from the sustainability and renewable sectors, head over to our blog.