For 20 years, the Green Built Alliance has been at the forefront of sustainability in Asheville and greater Western North Carolina. Through its three principles of community education, measurable standards, and regional action, the nonprofit remains a pillar of green practices and implementation.
“We’re out there in the community, helping people connect with the knowledge they need to live a more sustainable life—in their home and on their land,” said Cari Barcas, community engagement director for the GBA.
The GBA was created by a small circle of building professionals who felt it was important to find a better way to run their businesses, educate, and inspire the general public about sustainable practices. Today, the organization consists of around 300 members who make up seemingly every aspect of the housing industry, from contractors to landscapers, architects to insurance professionals, and REALTORSⓇ to engineers.
“Construction is really booming, with more and more homes being built in Western North Carolina. And we’re doing the work of trying to make sure those homes are built in the most sustainable way possible,” Barcas said. “With our regional initiatives, we want to help our whole area transition to a clean energy future. We’re working with city and county officials, local businesses, and stakeholders to find a way to move towards more renewables and clean energy as fast as possible.”
To that end, the GBA pioneered the Blue Horizons Project in 2018. This key initiative catalyzes the connection of energy-efficient programs and resources. And it influenced the City of Asheville and Buncombe County to sign commitments to shift towards 100% renewables in the coming decades.
“Now that everyone in our area is on board for the goal of 100% renewable in the near future, we can start to push forward and meet these goals,” Barcas said. “This contract and commitment from the city and county reinforces the work we’re doing to get the word out about clean energy, and to make sure clean energy is accessible to everyone in the community.”
Among its numerous accolades and achievements, the GBA is a leading administrator of the Green Built Homes and LEED for Homes certification programs. These programs essentially analyze the carbon footprint and energy efficiency of homes and businesses. Those that meet the sustainability guidelines are recognized with the green home certifications.
“Our certification program continues to grow. Green Built Homes just rolled out a new version of our certification checklist, with two new levels of certification offered in 2021,” Barcas said. “Our tiers range from basic certification up to platinum net zero. We will have a new regenerative certification, confirming homes are not negatively affecting the environment around them, and also positively contributing to the property.”
The GBA recently marked its 20th anniversary. Though it proudly acknowledges the milestone, the organization is the first to point out that its work has really only just begun.
“These past two decades have definitely given us a good head start in some areas, but there’s still so much more to do. And I think we’re realizing the importance of this work more and more every day,” Barcas said. “We’re starting to see the impacts firsthand on the climate in our area, and more local and regional stakeholders are now coming to the table with commitments and investments. It’s all very encouraging for us moving forward.”