STEP, GBI Promoting Building Sustainability Together

The STEP Foundation, Green Building Initiative partner together, plan to help members understand value of sustainable building design.

The STEP Foundation and Green Building Initiative plan to help integrators play more of a role in design and layout of buildings, with the ultimate goal being an increase in energy-efficient buildings and more sustainable designs.

As part of their new partnership, STEP (short for Sustainable Technology Environments Program) and GBI, which offers the Green Globes building certification program, will work together more closely and make it easier for integrators to think more about green building practices.

“We’re seeing convergence inside the building between connectivity and communication,” says Charles Fox, executive director of the STEP Foundation. “This is an opportunity to design efficiency into the sustainable community infrastructure.”

That includes improvements in energy, building materials and the overall space, says Fox.

GBI president Jerry Yudelson sees the partnership as a way to focus more on “the behavioral component of energy use.” The first evidence of this focus will likely come through wireless sensors, a nod to the convergence of AV and IT as well.

“As we start to develop a new generation of ‘smart’ buildings, the link between green building and ICT (information communication technologies) needs to become stronger, if we are to realize the potential of low-carbon, high-performance design,” he says. “There has to be more of a visual representation.”

Fox is excited to have a new partner that shares many of the same values and feelings he has about sustainable design.

“I appreciate Jerry’s vision,” says Fox. “He saw the value of what we’re doing.”

Incentives at All Levels

The partnership is perhaps most intriguing because GBI offers a certification program, something STEP had been pursuing through a partnership with the U.S. Green Building Council through its LEED program but weren’t able to convince USGBC leadership it was worth adding AV materials to its certification checklist.

“This partnership is a great value we can bring to the industry,” says Fox, noting the federal government recently placed the Green Globes certification program on equal footing with LEED.

“We’re not in the plaque business; we’re in the sustainable building business, but it’s a lot easier for people to understand and accept something if there are standards. Integrators are used to working to standards,” says Fox. “This gives us the opportunity to develop a true, holistic, sustainable smart building.”

STEP and GBI “will work together to accelerate the adoption of green building practices, respond to public policy directives, and develop joint standards for sustainable information communication technologies,” according to the announcement of the partnership.

STEP and GBI are talking about putting together training programs and webinars to help integrators and manufacturers how they can make the most of the partnership.

“Manufacturers very much want this,” says Fox. “They get credit for spending time, money and effort. And customers want sustainable products but they don’t want to have to pay more for them. There are ways for them to put together projects as capital expenditures and reduce their operational expenditures.”

GBI is working to update the 2010 ANSI standards, says Yudelson, and will incorporate some of the discussions with Fox and other STEP leadership into that update. Yudelson expects GBI’s new rating system to recognize the partnership, and that’s expected to be released within the next year. In addition, a new version of GBI’s existing building rating system to come out by the third quarter of 2015.

“We want everyone to start thinking about this from the beginning,” says Yudelson. “It’s a lot better to build it in than bolt it on.” That means integrating real estate, IT, AV and security.

“You won’t be able to add cost to your work and compete,” he says. “We need more than just the cable trades to make the entire building work the way it can and should. The IT component is critical to making a building function. Right now, none of these groups are talking to each other and the plan is to change that when everyone understands how it can make the building better.”