What will the Natural Step / Cascadia GBC merger mean for planners?

by Daniel Lerch, Post Carbon Institute

After hearing the surprising news that The Natural Step – USA (TNS-US) is merging with the Cascadia Green Building Council (Cascadia), I emailed with Regina Hauser of TNS-US to get a little background information. In particular I wanted to learn what this merger would mean for TNS-US’ recent work in applying its famous framework to questions of community planning.

(Cascadia, by the way, not just an arm of the US Green Building Council. It’s an independent international organization, and is a member of both the US and Canadian Green Building Council chapter networks. The merger is solely between TNS-US and Casadia and does not involve USGBC or the international Natural Step organization.)

I’ve edited Regina’s answers to my three questions for clarity:

DL: Planners generally know the Green Building Councils as the home of LEED ratings, which are focused on buildings and thus the architecture and development professions (LEED-ND notwithstanding). The Natural Step, in contrast, has been focused more on process and planning in both businesses and communities. What will your merger with Cascadia mean for your approach to communities, particularly your Sustainable Communities trainings?

RH: TNS-US’ focus will not be redirected to the built environment. The Natural Step’s value to Cascadia is our experience and expertise in organizational change, both with businesses and communities. Cascadia is a great partner for us because many people who are interested in sustainability start with the built environment, and vice versa. Our hope is to be cross-pollinating and creating a bigger, more robust sustainability community.

What does the merger with Cascadia mean for TNS-US’s nationwide efforts? Does this mean you’ll be focusing more on the Pacific Northwest?

We will continue to reach beyond the Cascadia region; this merger should actually increase our ability to do so.

Cascadia is best known outside the region for spawning the Living Building Challenge, which evolved into an organization now doing many different things, including the Living City Design Competition. What kinds of program innovations and evolutions of the Natural Step ideas might planners look forward to as a result of this merger?

If Cascadia’s work can increase the value of our offerings to planners we will definitely seek to integrate it. Most importantly, we need to work with planners to make sure that our trainings are relevant and inspiring for them. Cascadia’s research and education has gone well beyond the LEED process, and I think you’ll find much of their work highly relevant to planners. For example, their research with respect to barriers to change, and water systems should be of interest to planners.

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