Green Gala – An exclusive event interview

GBDGreenbuildInvitation2smOn Nov. 12, the U.S. Green Building Council-Los Angeles Chapter will host its Green Gala at Union Station and officially kick off the one year countdown to the 2016 Greenbuild International Conference & Expo. Gala co-chairs Richard Ludt, Director of Environmental and Public Affairs for IRS Demo, and Heidi Creighton, Associate and Sustainability Consultant at Buro Happold, talked with us about the Gala, and green building looking back and forward.

First let’s look back a little. Was it a good year for green building?

Heidi Creighton

Heidi Creighton

Heidi Creighton: This has been such an exciting year for Los Angeles. Mayor Garcetti released L.A.’s first-ever Sustainable City pLAn. The pLAn looks at the triple bottom line of environment, economy and equity with both short- and long-term actionable targets.

Alongside multiple organizations, USGBC-LA launched the Green Janitor Education Program, a local initiative that trains and certifies green janitors. This program has been incredibly empowering for its participants and allows them to take ownership of the spaces they work in, as well as take their knowledge to their home communities! The program is currently focused in California, but will be used nationally. Companies that have signed up include: Sony Studios, LADWP, CBRE, Kilroy Realty, JMB Realty, and DreamWorks to name a few.

The Chapter is also sponsoring the creation of a Building Resilience Rating System, which will be launched at Greenbuild Conference & Expo 2016. This USGBC-LA led effort, to create a voluntary certification system for resilience, will improve the built environment and support social capital across our region, so that all Angelenos can survive and thrive in the face of whatever comes our way.

What is U.S. Green Building Council-Los Angeles particularly celebrating at this year’s Green Gala?  

Richard Ludt

Richard Ludt

Richard Ludt: Our big thing to celebrate is the announcement of Greenbuild 2016 in Los Angeles! The Gala is the kick-off event, our first chance to really celebrate with our membership and our supporters. For those who were involved in the planning for Greenbuild in 2007 in L.A., it was really disappointing when news arrived that it was moving to a different city. However, we are better and stronger now, and a great time for L.A. to be showcased alongside Greenbuild and its 30,000 plus attendees.

I also love that we’re having the Gala at Union Station. It’s both a terrific ‘leaving the station’ analogy for our Greenbuild launch, and of course, from an architectural standpoint, its iconic status sets an inspiring stage for presenting the Sustainable Innovation Awards.

Who typically, and especially this year, attends Green Gala, and are there any special guests?

HC:   The City of Los Angeles’ first Chief Sustainability Officer, Matt Petersen, will be attending, along with the Mayor’s Sustainability Office staff. Council members Paul Koretz and Paul Krekorian and Assembly member Mike Gatto will be guests. That sort of support is not only gratifying, but shows the commitment that the City (and State) has for Green Building. It shows that what we do does make a difference. Many of the top firms in the local AEC industry have sponsored the event and we have well over 300 people attending this year—from professionals to advocates of a sustainable built environment. We are fortunate in L.A. to have such a deep pool of really talented and committed people that the Gala guest list reads like a Who’s Who of sustainability.

So now that this season of galas has begun, what do people get out of attending the Green Gala (besides a great party)?  What do YOU get out of it?

RL: Wait…you mean there is MORE than the party? Seriously, the party is great, and that really is my favorite part. The ability to be in the same place, celebrating our industry and letting our hair down is a huge draw. It’s the one time every year that I, and many others, can reconnect with friends and colleagues in person, after phone calls and emails the rest of the year. It gives us a chance to rehash old projects, brag about new ones and maybe even talk a little work on our current endeavors!

The other great, and really important, aspect of the Gala is meeting people who are new to different branches of the Chapter. The Chapter covers a big region, and it’s hard to know everyone at each area branch. This is that great opportunity to see the newly engaged people who are supportive of USGBC-LA’s goals and want to learn more about making their communities more sustainable.

The Sustainable Innovation Awards seems self-explanatory, but what makes it stand out from other architectural, building and design awards?

HC: This year will be the 5th annual Sustainable Innovation Awards. These awards celebrate projects that go above and beyond LEED credit achievement with their innovations. Two exciting categories have been added to the Awards this year: ‘Human Health & Wellbeing’, to recognize WELL Certified or Compliant projects; and ‘Green Apple Day of Service’, to recognize local schools which are conserving resources, reducing waste, and creating greener and healthier schools and communities.

RL: The Innovation Awards are like our Academy Awards. They are by us, for us, and they are specific to our membership and area. What I love most about them is that because we are such a close group, and we all have the same endgame of sustainable communities, there is feeling of connection and support even on projects that people were not personally involved in. That keeps the ceremony exciting.

Besides being a Green Gala co-Chair, you are an USGBC-LA Board member. What’s the most exciting and significant part of the next year for you?

HC: We truly are on the Road to Greenbuild. We have a top notch Host Committee—to be introduced at the Gala—which will be promoting the conference, producing green building tours, generating a Greenbuild Legacy Project, greening the event, and recruiting volunteers (please contact us!). This gives us a great opportunity to continue our growth, reach and impact so that all Angelenos have access to more sustainable, resilient and healthy communities. I love L.A. and the green building community here, so I am very excited for this next year!

RL: Being elected to the Board was an honor, and to be on the Board while we are gearing up for Greenbuild 2016 makes it even more exciting. USGBC-LA is a community of passionate, informed, professionals and advocates working together to make L.A. one of the most sustainable cities in the country. Seeing our members’ drive to educate, inform, and really get their hands dirty in the trenches shows us as a Board that USGBC-LA really is the go-to organization for sustainable practices, both in and out of the build environment. And means more than checking off boxes and counting points.

The LEED program is the most innovative, best tool available for Green Building professionals. There is nothing out there that better quantifies the green process, but at the end of the day, it is the efficiency of the buildings, the comfort of the occupants, and the sustainability that matter most. To that end, I really love our internal guiding principle: The points are not the point.

For tickets and information on the Gala, please click HERE. To learn more about USGBC-LA, please visit

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