Newsletter | Mar/Apr 2014

Women in Green Sparks Discussion at Book Circle 9

by Abby Wittman

Author Kira Gould and Book Circle

As announced in the Jan/Feb 2014 OWA newsletter, the OWA Book Circle held its second open forum on February 20th, discussing Women in Green: Voices of Sustainable Design. OWA member Susan Aitken hosted the event at her office in San Francisco, Hamilton + Aitken Architects.

We were fortunate to have co-author Kira Gould in attendance to answer questions about the roles of women in sustainability over time and her experiences in writing the book. Questions developed from Book Circle Members were also posed to the group.

Mignon O'Young, editor of The Green Architecture and Building Report invited us to share our Book Circle forum experience on her website. The article entitled "Women in Green: Still a Hot Topic" was published on March 20, 2014 and can be found here.

Women in Green is an inspiring and thought-provoking read. It features interviews with key female players, including Hunter Lovins, Jeanne Gang, and Lynn Simon, in their journey toward an integrated sustainability. It addresses how women tend to problem solve through holistic community-based proposals, rather than through the "band-aid" of technology.

We are definitely interested in widening our circle and hearing the OWA voice on the topic of sustainability. Below are a few questions. We'd like to hear some comments from YOU:

In your experience, where and how is the dialogue about sustainability happening? With public or private clients, consultants, colleagues on design teams, internal to your own office, within professional associations, in the schools or in the media? Who is leading these discussions?

Women in Green authors mention that "green" has been associated with women's stereotypical urge to nurture, think beyond short-term profit and take responsibility. When progress is being made in this area, does that mean that people are listening to us as women? If so, does this help with gender equality as well?

In the last several decades, many organizations have evolved to push the sustainable agenda forward. Some mentioned in the book include Adaptive Environments, a nonprofit organization overseeing universal design and sustainability. Women's Network for a Sustainable Future, New York City is mainstreaming sustainability with legal requirements. Cal Poly San Luis Obispo has a sustainable environments program. There is a U.S. Department of State's point-of-contact for sustainability, and the University of British Columbia has a Campus Sustainability Office. San Francisco Department of the Environment is very active locally.

Have you interfaced with any of these or similar groups? Do you feel optimistic about the influence of public policy and non-profits in this arena? Have you seen women involved?

Some progress has been made in sustainability and there is less of a fine line between "green design" and "conventional design" because sustainable measures have moved into the building code language. LEED is still optional, so it doesn't seem to have as much power as mandatory building code measures. What is your experience with LEED vs Cal Green etc? How do clients respond to either?

Are there further green ideas and/or accomplishments that you want to share with the OWA Newsletter readers?

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