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Sustainable Building Advisor Institute: Introducing the next generation of SBA education & service

 The name and look have changed, but the purpose remains substantially the same: to provide SBAi_vert_all practicing professionals with the tools they need to make our built environment more sustainable. In December of 2010, the Sustainable Building Advisor Institute (SBAi) was launched, replacing the National Sustainable Building Advisors Program (NaSBAP) incorporated in 2004.

 In part, the new name better reflects the fact that there are several SBA providers outside of the U.S. It also signals an uptick in organizational development. After several years of incubation under the aegis of O’Brien & Company, the non-profit hired its first Executive Director, Dallas Jasper, a CSBA and marketing expert par excellence! It expanded its Board of Directors as well, with representatives from Alberta to California, from Pennsylvania to Washington.

For years, as the lead instructor for the Sustainable Building Advisor course at Seattle Central Community College and then at Olympic College here in the Northwest, and as the manager of NaSBAP, people would ask me to describe it. This is where Dallas’ messaging skills are quite apparent. On a newly launched website, a vision statement says it quite well:

The Sustainable Building Advisor Institute creates high value green building educational programs providing professionals with comprehensive, relevant curriculum in an environment where relationships develop and opportunities can emerge. Graduates are prepared to take a leadership role in the world of green building.

1250 professionals have graduated from the course, and since 2005, when the CSBA exam and credential were launched, more than 850 have earned the elite status of CSBA. It’s pretty clear that graduates take their leadership role seriously, given their reports back to SBAi: from testifying on behalf of green building policy, to managing sustainability programs in building, design, and planning firms, to developing green building programs in their communities and/or organizations, to creating citizens groups to advocate for sustainability.

Jasper’s goal to provide high value is also clear. In years past the BuildingGreen Suite has been available at discount to current students. Alumni now also qualify for the discount. In addition, graduates of the SBA Program are now eligible for $500 discounts on i-Sustain Study Missions to other countries, introducing decision makers from the Pacific Northwest to best practices, and to the experts responsible for their implementation. And this year will be the first time the organization will have a presence at GreenBuild.

IMG_3450 You'll also begin to see topical educational products that build on the SBA course. This has been something alumni have been asking for since inception, symptomatic of satisfaction with their SBA education as well as the desire to stay in touch with other alumni. In the SBAi’s April newsletter, Tom Corcoran, a recent graduate, shares how he was “stunned to realize that the flow of learning in the SBA environment was bilateral,” referencing the wealth of background experience and skill-sets among the students as well as the teachers, who would use that base to build capacity further. The sense of community that occurs in the class because of this flow, and the course design, enhances both professional and personal growth, and is a benefit that nearly all graduates speak of when asked to participate in information sessions with prospective students.

And, as has been true for some time, the SBA course provides value in that it can help with other professional credentials, such as:

  • The American Institute of Architects (AIA) has approved the SBA Program for core Continuing Education Learning Units.
  • The Canadian Architect Associations including, AIBC, AAA, SAA, OAA have approved the SBA Program for Core Continuing Education Learning Units.
  • The Green Building Certification Institute (GBCI)’s approved Education Reviewing Body has approved the SBA Program for 100 GBCI CE Hours towards LEED Credential Maintenance.
  • The SBA Program fulfills the LEED Green Associate exam eligibility criteria of an education program that addresses green building principles.
  • The USGBC Education Provider Program has rated the SBA Program as a 400 Level Mastery Course.

As we all know, not all change is productive. From this vantage point, however, it is quite satisfying to see how the SBAi is continuing to strengthen its capacity to fulfill its mission effectively. If you are a community college or environmental educational organization wishing to bolster your green building education (or utilize green job workforce funding), this program may be just the ticket. If you are a practicing professional (including unemployed or underemployed), consider joining the very special corps of individuals who have completed this program and converted their learning experience into a leadership experience.

Article Posted by Kathleen O'Brien, CSBA, LEED AP, founder of O'Brien & Company, Inc. and Editor of Building Capacity Blog. She helped develop the curriculum used for SBA programs in nearly 30 locations around the country and was a co-founder of NaSBAP, a 501c3 nonprofit, and the antecedent of SBAi. Also see last week's post by Kelly Kirkland: "Do I need a green building credential?"

Did you enjoy this article?  You might also like these Building Capacity Blog articles: 
Time to Deal with Your LEED AP Credential
Green Building Jobs in Lousy Market
Green Building Public Education: Writing to Make a Difference
Interview with Eco-Logica Magazine’s Stuart Vazquez
CEFPI Award Celebrates Synergy Between Learning and Learning Facilities
Interview with Schuchart's Joe Giaudrone
CSBA Reports on Developing a Green Building Education Plan

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