Rick Fedrezzi, the founder and president of the U.S. Green Building Council, is a fresh-faced man with the exuberance of an evangelical preacher. And his flock is rapidly growing. On a warm Phoenix evening earlier this month, 28,000 architects, engineers, and real estate developers crowded into Chase Field for the opening session of the USGBC’s annual Greenbuild conference. A giant screen at the front of the stadium displayed cheerful animations of solar panels curving toward the sun and green skyscrapers shooting up like flowers. As the euphoric soundtrack reached a crescendo with the Black Eyed Peas’ “Let’s Get It Started,” Fedrizzi bounded onstage. “Our movement has reached not just a tipping point but a leverage point,” he called out jubilantly. “And we finally have one long enough to move the world.”
At the moment, the end of that lever is stretching toward Copenhagen. When delegates from 192 countries arrive in Denmark on December 7 to hash out the details of an international climate treaty, buildings are sure to be on the agenda. In America, homes and offices account for 40 percent of carbon emissions. And as they choke the atmosphere, buildings drain the economy: each year, companies spend billions of dollars on energy bills instead of using that money to fuel growth and investments. It’s no surprise that the stimulus package expanded the tax credit for insulation, HVAC upgrades, geothermal heat pumps, and wind turbines. All of this is good news for the green building movement. Venture capitalists, anticipating the end of fossil fuels, have poured 27 percent of their investments into clean energy technologies during the second quarter of 2009. And Hollywood has joined the crusade, with a growing list of celebrities—including Brad Pitt, Edward Norton, and Cate Blanchett—launching their own green building initiatives.