Many people in the U.S. have become philosophically sympathetic and even conscientiously attentive to environmental issues in recent years. But very few have found their way to the level of engagement that has marked Alex Wilson’s career.
Wilson had been pegged as an environmental activist as far back as the mid-1970s, while a student at Ithaca College, he noted recently in one of his Energy Solutions blogs, which are featured regularly on GreenBuildingAdvisor.com. He had been asked to help organize the student community’s energy conservation efforts during a three-month power shortage. Even though it was a short-term commitment, it also was a life lesson that helped propel Wilson into advocacy of energy efficiency and environmentally responsible design and construction – a career trajectory that led to an announcement this week that he is the 2010 winner of the Hanley Award for Vision and Leadership in Sustainable Housing.
Now in its second year, the Hanley Award is sponsored by The Hanley Foundation, EcoHome magazine, and publisher Hanley Wood. Wilson will receive the award and an accompanying $50,000 grant at the U.S. Green Building Council Hanley Award Dinner ceremony on November 17 at the Greenbuild conference in Chicago.
A longtime force in green-building discourse
Green building advocates likely aren’t at all surprised by his development. Wilson founded BuildingGreen, an objective source of information about green design, in 1985, and in 1992 launched Environmental Building News, the first publication in the U.S. to focus on green building. He is now executive editor of EBN and GreenSpec Directory, a directory of green building products. Among other projects, BuildingGreen also publishes its material in book form, provides editorial guidance to GreenSource magazine, maintains the Department of Energy’s database on high-performance buildings, and has struck a number of other alliances to help develop and present green construction, design, and product information to both industry professionals and students.
In a BuildingGreen press release about Wilson’s Hanley Award, USGBC’s president and CEO, Rick Fedrizzi, declared that “Alex is the best example I know of the adage ‘It’s amazing what you can accomplish when you don’t care who gets the credit.’ He was paying attention to how the built environment affects people and the planet 30 years ago, and played an instrumental role in the early development of USGBC and LEED both as a hands-on participant and as a respected journalist. When it comes to visionary, Alex is the real deal, and this award is well-deserved.”
Bob Berkebile, principal of BNIM Architects, based in Kansas City, observed that “EBN has been a voice of leadership for all of us. In the green building world, Alex is the undisputed go-to person for deep knowledge about deep green, which is why GreenSpec is such a powerful force in stemming the tide of greenwash. His ability to put context to the science helps the rest of us make better decisions.”
Wilson, who was selected for the award from a field of 12 nominees, said he has not decided how the $50,000 grant will be used, but noted that it will certainly go toward furthering his lifelong mission. “I hope to use the funds to step back and take a deeper look at the urgent challenges we are facing – and what we in the building industry can do about it.”