Rob K. WatsonHow the “Father of LEED” got his start and his vision of the future.

Rob Watson is considered the “father of LEED.” In the 1990s, Watson created the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) rating system for the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC), and chaired the organization’s national steering committee for 12 years. Since then Watson formed the ECON Group as its CEO and chief scientist. The ECON Group focuses on optimizing the lifetime performance of buildings.

Mr. Watson is passionate about sustainability. He knows that builders and owners sometimes are reluctant to spend the 1% or more on the budget to provide energy-efficiency, water savings and better indoor air quality. However, he feels that architects should educate owners that the money is not being added, it is just being spent differently.

He believes that LEED is a choice, just as using one material over another is a choice when you are building. LEED buildings have lower energy bills, can charge higher rents and have better occupancy rates.

Watson has said that he expects LEED standards to continue to grow and that mixed use spaces will become more relevant. Converting a mall into mixed use development while planned neighborhoods contain a mix of housing, retail and offices, Watson says, will one day enable the electrical grid of the future to be a series of microgrids. His vision includes the availability of alternative forms of energy that allow homes and businesses to move off the U.S.’s utility grid while utilities upgrade their operations.

As LEED enters its newest upgrade to version 4 (the first since 2009), Watson sees the change as a paradigm shift beyond the concept of “green” buildings as a niche market. He would like to eliminate “green” as a modifier. He wants us to see them as good and bad buildings. Good buildings save energy, water, time, effort and most importantly to some, money.

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