David Johnston is an environmental and community activist using a fully integral (AQAL) approach to become the first major green-building success story. A well-known expert in the field of sustainable construction, Johnston is the president of What's Working, a green building consultation firm, and serves as a green building consultant to the City of Boulder's Green Points Program (of which he was the principle author and has been a board member since 1996). He was also responsible for a pioneering use of the integral model with his work for the Alameda County Waste Management Authority in California in developing a green approach to residential construction, also a breakthrough success.
Johnston started the Boulder Green Points program in 1995, the first program of its kind, which required anyone seeking a building permit to meet at least 65 environmental standards (included on a checklist of 280). From there he worked with the Denver Metro Home Builders Association to develop their "Built Green" program for new homes, a voluntary program that has to date certified over 13,000 homes at a current rate of 4000 homes per year. It is currently the largest private sector program in the country and includes many of the largest homebuilders and manufacturers in the nation.
Johnston then moved on to the Colorado Office of Energy Conservation to develop a statewide green building program, which focused its efforts on the then-prospering ski towns of the Rocky Mountains. It had the most traction in Aspen and was subsequently subsumed under the Denver Metro HBA program at the end of the nineties, which made Denver the first city in the entire nation to implement green building in a home builder’s association. Johnston also developed green guidelines for the redevelopment of the old Stapleton Airport, where now all homes meet the HBA. In 1998 and 1999, Johnston moved on to the City of Los Angeles to develop their Sustainable Buildings program.
Learning from the successes and failures of each of these experiences, Johnston used a fully integral methodology when working with the Alameda County Waste Management Authority (a jurisdiction which includes the cities of Oakland and Berkeley) to develop their residential green building program, where he formulated an innovative approach to market transformation and defined a “integral catalyst” model to accelerate the process. Starting off with the publication of two separate sets of guidelines (one for new homes, one for remodeling) so popular they are now in their fifth print run, in 2003 the program grew into the Bay Area “Build It Green” program sponsored by manufacturers, builders, architects, re-modelers, and public agencies from the nine counties of the Bay Area region.
The organization is now an example of a horizontally and vertically integrated nonprofit, connecting as it does the vertical axis of manufacturers, distributors, and the retailers of green building products with the horizontal axis of homeowners/buyers, builders, re-modelers, architects, and realtors (all of whom have been trained in the integral model by Johnston himself). This has allowed businesses to take the burden away from public agency intervention, transforming the market in the process, and it is no surprise that this is one of the fastest growing “green built” programs in the country.
Though still in its infancy, the Build It Green program has begun to gain traction throughout the entire Bay Area and beyond, and as of this writing, Johnston’s group is in negotiation with the State of California Building Industry Association to integrate green building guidelines with the home Energy Star program to create a statewide green building program to be sponsored by the homebuilders (just like the Denver program is now state-wide in Colorado). Johnston hopes the ongoing negotiations will be adopted by late spring 2004, which would be a first for a statewide sustainable building program.
By using integral methodology, Johnston has shown both builders and homeowners alike the importance of integrating exterior social, economic, and political systems with the interior motivations and value systems of each set of stakeholders. Once people and organizations realize that they can integrate their deep values (i.e., the desire of many re-modelers to protect old growth forests) with their own businesses, Johnston’s integral approach to green building is embraced with unbridled enthusiasm (so much so that 120 groups have been certified in the course of just nine months).