The Founder of the U.S. and World Green Building Councils

Going Green had the opportunity to meet David Gottfried, The Founder of the U.S. and World Green Building Councils, an organization that aims to transform how buildings are designed, constructed & operated, with a vision that buildings & communities will sustain the health of all life. David is also the CEO of Gottfried Institute and Reset360, and has traveled around the world to provide information to buildings, cities, and countries looking to create more sustainable communities.

David is a lifelong entrepreneur and leader in the Clean Tech space. Going Green had the opportunity to interview David on the Going Green Podcast. Listen to the full podcast on our website, on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, and all of your favorite platforms. Links for each platform is below.

We transcribed our conversation with David, read the full conversation below. Please note, since this is transcribed from our podcast we left in the casual conversation style.

David Gottfried On Going Green

Dylan Welch:
Hey, everyone. Welcome to another episode of going green. I’m really excited about our guest today. He has done some amazing things in the green space. One of the leaders and visionaries who’s changed a lot of the things in our day to day lives. That most of us probably don’t even notice. And when that’s happening, that’s a good thing. You don’t want to notice these kinds of things. And he’s just been an inspiration to me. I’ve been kind of tracking him down and trying to get him on the show for a while now. So I’m excited to talk to him and pick his brain a little bit more. So today we’re talking to David Godfrey of the Godfried Institute, David, thanks for being here.

David Gottfried:
Hey, Dylan and great to be here in Greek to get to talk and share some time with everybody.

Dylan Welch
So let’s kind of dive right into it. Tell us about your background and your inspiration to get into the green space.

David Gottfried
Sure. well, I don’t want to date myself, but I can remember energy problems and coasting my VW down long Hills in neutral to save gas as I went to college and my dad yelling at me to not wash the car and flush the toilet. And and then I guess it was appropriate in college. I was an engineer, but studied solar engineering in the early days of solar and just was so fortunate to have a phenomenal professor, Gil Masters. And he taught us, Hey, there’s a sun. And guess what? It can provide all the energy needs of earth and all you gotta do is capture it and let’s learn how to design homes and do that. And so my, my project was to make a little model scale it, design it, build it. And this was a long time ago. I made it net zero later years. I became a real estate developer and first focused on making money which is still fine. It’s still like doing that. And then how do you make more money through green? And that led to 25 year career first with nonprofits founding the us green building council and then bringing it overseas to the world and writing books and then doing strategy consulting to hundreds of companies, cities, States, countries, and corporations. And here we are, and now I’ve been integrating for 10 years, the health side into green green for the planet and green for all people.

Dylan Welch:
That’s amazing. Yeah, thanks for all the things you’ve done in such an interesting career trajectory. One thing I always talk about on the show is, you know, it’s okay to have good income and make an impact. You know, we have to pay our bills and if you want to be an entrepreneur and build a business, you have to drive revenue. And some of the most influential and impactful people on the planet are, you know, successful entrepreneurs who have built huge businesses in the green space and employ, you know, hundreds and thousands of people. So congrats on the success. Is there any kind of, one moment that sticks out in your career as like man, we’ve from where we started to where we are today?

David Gottfried
Like it’s actually happening. It’s pretty exciting to say, well, those classes in solar were around 1980 and here we are. And back then the cost of a PVS on your roof of your house were way expensive and they’ve come down, Oh gosh, you know, probably to one 50th of the cost. And you just seen the whole world shift to embrace not just green buildings, but solar and energy. And now EVs, you got Tesla over 2000 bucks per share with a market cap bigger than almost all the car companies combined. And gosh, this world is waking up as we heat up. So it’s, it’s very interesting. I’ve always believed for many decades that green is just about wealth because when you waste, you’re wasting resources, you’re wasting money. You’re wasting health. Waste is inefficient. All engineers want to get waste out of the equation and saving and boosting productivity. That’s wealth creation. I love growth, but growth of solar growth energy savings, that’s our future growth in health. And so it’s kind of incredible to think back to sitting 40 years ago in class and here we are, it’s happening. It’s just kind of amazing that the green building industry is now well over a trillion dollars and it’s not just hugging a tree and, you know, compost, it’s, it’s big capital, big money. It’s tied into insurance and tax credits and all major corporations government. So it’s just kind of astounding. So there’s a lot to celebrate, but there’s still a long way to go.

Dylan Welch
You nailed it, honestly. You just packed a lot of really valuable and great information in there. And one thing I really liked that you said is green as well. That’s so true. I mean, the, we started this, this podcast is show because it’s, yeah, it’s great to, you know, be, you know, like we kind of were talking about hug a tree and you know, all that stuff, but when you’re building this infrastructure, that’s impacting millions. If not billions of people and people are investing their money in and seeing a return on it and it’s helping the environment, it’s win, win all around, you know, and then as more and more people see those returns, they want to invest more, it continues, it gets better and better becomes more streamlined, more efficient, more sustainable. So yeah, that’s, that’s some helpful information I’m getting excited. Just kind of like talking to you and kind of thinking of all the possibilities. One thing I know you’ve worked a lot in is, and what you mentioned is green buildings. So tell us a little bit about what you’ve done in that space and again, like what trends and what it looks like, you know, 20, 30 years ago to what we’re kind of seeing today.

David Gottfried
Sure. well, as I mentioned started studying solar in college. My first career was in real estate development non-green and then of course over the decades, I’ve seen the evolution. The beginning of green building was to just define what is it, what is a green building? Is it a house painted green? Is it dark green, light green? No. Is it just energy efficient? Yes, partially. And w when you even think about energy, is it just throw some solar panels on a roof, but your windows leak and you’re running incandescent light bulbs and wasting energy in your appliances? No, it’s both it’s energy efficiency in the house or the building. That’s a better thermal envelope with windows and insulation really tight structure. Then you could look even outside on the shading from that Western sun, at least here in the U S then you can get once that’s tight to the appliances and the mechanical systems and air conditioning, they’re super efficient. Once you get your loads down, you throw the panels or PV and solar hot water, which is even a better economic return, but then there’s this energy. You glue it to water efficiency. Well, let’s capture the rain water and use it in our toilets. Let’s capture the rain water and use it in our garden. Let’s capture the shower and bathtub and sink water, and use it for the garden. And the toilet let’s have efficient faucets, low flow shower heads. Let’s let every droplet that hits your driveway, be poorest in your driveway and go down and recharge the biggest storage system in the world, the aquifer, and then there’s water quality. So now we’re moving towards health. You don’t want toxic glues. And then he says, and things that make us sick, sick building syndrome that hits those who have multiple chemical sensitivity. Daylight is part of health and productivity and getting into circadian rhythms and getting closer to nature, waste whole green buildings don’t waste. They recycle, they have recycled content in their products, whether it’s the glass tile that has recycled glass in it, or the homeless substrate and has cardboard in it to just the flows in the buildings that are getting recycled, reused, composted, minimize transportation efficiencies, part of green building, like where is the thing? Do you have to build a road just to get there? Or is it urban with a high walks or with transportation of Metro? All part of it too. And is their car share their bike racks? Is there mixed use right there? We can live and work and walk. So there are many subsets. Those are some of them back starting in 91, I worked at ASTs as a volunteer. I chaired their subcommittee on green building. Cause we didn’t know what it was. We study Europe that had the first one in England and Canada, the second rating system. And we started to draft what became LEED. LEED became the biggest in the world. And as a part of lead, we had the us green building council. So we came up with the GBC model to green the country with all parties at the table. And that worked so well. I took it overseas with the world GBC and now we have about a hundred countries would GBCs. So that’s a sketch of it, but it works for homes. I can green a dog house for my dog, Juno who’s behind me. You can green a billion square foot project. So, and everyone says, well, it’s so expensive. I can’t do it. Can’t afford it. Well, that’s waste. That’s the biggest waste in life is in your head, the bad thinking, you know, we’ll stop. It just be efficient in your thinking, what can you do? You can insulate that thing and know where the sun is and start working on that, put some shading on it, tighten the structure that’s not expensive. And the returns on those investments are huge. So it’s really getting rid of wasteful thinking first and letting those brilliant designers, the architects, the engineers, do what they were taught to do and push them hard and say, look, you know, I’m not going to give you any more budget, but use the money well, and then I’ll give you a little more money if the payback is good or the internal rate of return and things like that. So it’s a whole methodology of efficiency and effectiveness to maximize health, which at the end of the day is the greatest wealth of society.

Dylan Welch
I remember about five years ago, I was in New York city. I’m from New York and I live in San Diego now and I was just walking through the city and I came across the Hearst building and me with a background of media and television. I’m always kind of drawn to that stuff. And I’m like peering in the windows, trying the doors and see if they’re open and I can pop in and talk to someone. And I saw the lead symbol, you know, something that they prominently had right at the front door. And I’d never really seen it before. And I was looking at it. I was like, man, that’s, that’s so interesting. And that’s so cool too, that, you know, these companies that is billion dollar company is, you know, investing in this and not only investing in it, but proud to, you know, show this. And then when I started looking at it and noticing it more, it was all over the place. So how did lead come about and what’s your involvement in it and what is it doing today? I mean, I know you said it can go from a doghouse to an entire country. Is that the vision when it first started or did it just sort of grow on itself?

David Gottfried
We didn’t plan for the countries for sure. Was this cool first? I was thinking for the listeners, let’s go back to about 91. I started that voluntary committee to define green building 90 three, two and three. I started work on USG VC, but it didn’t exist. We, we launched in 93 in April, and I remember the logo for the U S GBC, which is on the LEED plaque that you saw at the Hearst building and paying for that graphic designer to make it a circle. So it looked like a government seal and we put the Oak leaf on it and I wanted to bold. And then we were going to call it us green building council. So we sounded big. We’re going to conquer the U S I didn’t realize we’d conquer the world, but and we had nothing. We had nothing. I was funding this thing out of pocket. We were broke. We didn’t have members, younger people with bigger dreams. And here we are now with big buildings billion dollar buildings, proudly putting that same logo on the front door, whether it’s the new Salesforce tower or you’re in debt, in new Delhi in India, you’ll see it all over. I’ve been in China and seen it on buildings and Spain, Japan. But why am I saying it because you two have your own ideas you to want to quit your job and invent. You want to create, you see waste equals opportunity. And maybe someone at that time is telling you, it’s a bad idea. Don’t do it. Keep your secure job, stay in line, follow the rules, you know, but earth needs those who have fire in their building who get out of the line and say, you know, that line’s stupid. I’m not going to stand in line because I don’t know what’s in front and maybe it’s not real gold. It’s, fool’s gold. And if you’re wasting energy, water, health, productivity, brilliance, you know, there’s another way. So get out of the line, how some guts support those who are telling you their dreams and who knows that logo of yours might be on most of the world. So I want to make that point because in those early days it was hard and I didn’t have a lot of support at home with my, my, my, I wasn’t raised allies raised in traditional business. My dad had a great business. He’d got into computers in 19, Oh gosh, 60. So vision was part of our family, but a little more traditional so stay with the vision and the dream and, and, and it can be created, but we, we incubated lead from that little standard into a pilot program. We got funding from the department of energy. We did the pilots it evolved starting with commercial structures and later going to base and interior commercial interiors, and then neighborhoods and homes. But no way we had that vision, we, we did know, we’d start with commercial office buildings. We thought we’d go across the U S we had no idea to grow like that. And certainly didn’t think it would be international. So we just had the right timing. We were early we got the right people together. We kept it open source. David didn’t come in with the other co-founders and control and try to manipulate it. It wasn’t about our ego and we’re a God. It was, you know, bringing in folks like you, Dylan, and you’re bright. You’re I can see you, you radiate energy and brilliance. I’m older. I’m going to give you the Baton. You lead, man, it’s your turn. And I’m going to mentor you and push you and all your listeners, it’s your time. And that’s what we did.

Dylan Welch
That’s, that’s awesome. Seriously. And like, I, if for those of you who listen, you know, I’m a huge believer in just the entrepreneur lifestyle and mindset. I agree, you know I used to work nine to five for a couple of years, and I hated it. I was just, you know, doing, helping someone else achieve their goal. I was making them extremely rich while I was stressing out and getting paid the same amount every single week. And I was getting more and more work piled up on me. And I got, I was just like, you know what, the guy that’s doing this, I can do that. He’s not any smarter or better than me. And I, you know, I took the leap and said, screw it. I’m doing this on my own. And it was one of the best decisions I ever made. Both financially speaking, freedom speaking. I can do whatever I want to. I have a team of amazing people that helped me. And I learned from past career choices, what to do and what not to do when it comes to leading a company. So if that’s something that you’re interested in and you’re listening, you know, David’s sharing some really helpful and inspirational stuff, and there’s a ton of resources out there to help you make that happen. But if you’ve got that fire in, you go out and do it seriously. You only have one life to live. And then what’s really cool is, you know, David, you kind of mentioned this, like, you didn’t really know where it was going to go, but you just worked hard at it. You brought together some really cool, inspirational, you know, ambitious people and every day chipped away at it. And it kind of grew and grew until it is what it is today, you know? And I think that’s, that’s kind of the first step you have to just take that first step in the right direction. And and the fact that you’re able to do it promoting, you know, green technology, healthiness wealth, all of that. It’s, it’s really cool to hear that. What, what you say has been like your when you got to start at the level of working with countries, what was that like? Like, did they approach you and say, Hey, we want to make this entire thing sustainable, or did you start with bigger buildings and grow on it? Like, what was that process?

David Gottfried
Yeah, it evolved the first country that started to pay attention to what we’re doing in the U S was Japan. And it was a private consultant. And somehow he found us and around 96 started to come to Greenville, early Greenbuild conferences or national conference. And he just, I can see him every year. And he was like, David, I need to talk to you and he’d have a translator. So it was unusual. And he said, I want this in Japan. And can you come to Japan? I want you to talk to everybody. And I’m like, leave me alone. And finally in 98, he dragged me out to Tokyo and the guy founded the Japan green building council. And he pretty much modeled what we did, brought it over to Japan and, and kicked it off. I was younger and naive. I didn’t really study who he was that, well, I knew it was a consultant, but turned out I hadn’t done my homework too well. And he had trademarked the term green building for his private gain. And he was having me in all these meetings with his translator, and I think it was just helping him sell business. But later on, we cleaned it up in Japan and brought in a credible nonprofit link to a re a university. And they had a great solid rating system of their own called Cosby, which improved upon lead in some ways by bringing a CAD drawing into it. But and then second was Spain, but, you know, dragging me out to Madrid and same kind of situation. In the early days, they offered me 20% of the business for their private rating system. If I could deliver lead to them. And the guys refused to stop smoking in the conference room. I remember I’m from California and refuse to sit near smoke. And, you know, after that, they offered me 20%. So I just left. And years later, we found the right group in Spain. Those are just early startup experiences, but it kept growing. And you know, one of the fun ones was England who had that BREEAM rating system. The first and world later created their own green building council. And so that was fun because that’s what I had studied. And instead of starting with the rating system, we started with the GBC and then it incubated our rating tool. And here they had the rating tool. We’ll bet, no organization other than government. And so this public private worked better. So that was from China. We worked on many years, which was sponsored by United technologies. And for me, that was real exciting to help create the China green building council see their seriousness I’m doing that was fun India as well.

Dylan Welch
That’s super cool. I bet it’s, I mean, just from hosting this show and talking to people around the world, he really do realize how many people are passionate about this. And it is a global thing, you know, it’s not just a California thing or an America thing, but there’s, you know, country’s leading the way, you know, doing amazing things. David first, I’ve wanted to thank you for taking the time out of your day to chat with us. We’re just barely scratching the surface, man. We’ll have to get you back on the show and, you know, dive deeper. There’s so many different things I want to talk about and could probably go all day. I just want to be mindful of your time. So I just want to, you know, kind of wrap it up with, you know, what’s something that you would recommend to the average person that they could start implementing into their day to day lives. To just be a little bit more environmentally friendly, a little bit more green, a little bit more sustainable.

David Gottfried
Well, no matter what we’ve all done, I feel like we can still wake up more and listen more, listen to our soul inside and that quiet voice. Some of us hear it, some of us shut it in a prison cell and lock the door and become our own warden of ourselves. So who is that quiet voice of you inside? What are they telling you? Are you listening or are you afraid to listen? Let it out because in that quiet voice is energy creation, innovation, productivity, and I believe that quiet voice understands nature, the rules of nature and the needs on earth. We could debate in one of our next talks, whether it’s divide, probably where does it come from? I don’t know, but I’ve seen it in 50 countries. We don’t speak the same language, but I can look that person in the, and that is my brother or sister. They heard the call, Joseph Campbell, the call, the hero’s journey. And he says that chasm is smaller than you think, even though it seems why when you get to it jump. So we need you to jump for energy efficiency for health, really your own personal health. What do you put in your mouth? Do you move your body? Are you stressed out health of the products and services you’re working on and then health of this planet? Yeah, we all want to make a lot of money, but look at the stock of Tesla today, just off the charts off the charts. So there’s welfare. Let me tell you, ask you on Musk.

Dylan Welch
I got some stock in Tesla earlier and I’m just like, woo. Let’s go baby raging to watch. Honestly, it really is. And it’s just, it shows the opportunity. That’s there, you know? So David, seriously, thank you so much. Where can people just follow your journey or reach out or support you if they want to learn more, you know, get in, get involved.

David Gottfried
Yeah. well I wrote three memoirs. The last one’s called explosion green. You can get it on Amazon and it’s got the 20-year story of the founding of the green building movement through the U.S.G.B.C. in the world. One it’s a simple, fun read. I think that could get you going. I have a website that called Regen360.Net I have a 70 podcasts at my iTunes show is region three 60 great interviews with just brilliant people where I’m trying to find out about their disruptive innovations and what gives them hope. So those are a few of them. We have a health site. My wife is Sarah is writing about integrative medicine and health and hormone balancing and how to grow older, getting younger.

Dylan Welch
Awesome well for those listening and watching we’ll release an article on goinggreenshow.com and link all of the books and all of those websites as well. So be sure to check that out. David, thanks again for being here. Really appreciate it. And to everyone who tuned in to this episode as always, we appreciate your support for the show, for the website, for everything we’re doing. It’s exciting to see more and more people tuning in every single day and sharing our content and, you know, just engaging with it. It’s really important that, you know, we spread these, the stories of people like David and the guests we have on the show. So as always, we appreciate it and we will see you on another episode of Going Green. Thank you so much.

Thank you David for taking the time to share your story. Get David’s book here:

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