Rick Fedrizzi, winner of the 2016 Hanley Award for Vision and Leadership in Sustainability
Rick Fedrizzi, winner of the 2016 Hanley Award for Vision and Leadership in Sustainability

Rick Fedrizzi counts himself as an optimist, and he says this of what happens to them.

"Nine out of ten times, you get your head handed to you."

The thing about optimists, you see, is that they're around for that 10th time. That's the time stars almost miraculously align, the moment an idea, and its timing, and its ability to gain purchase against steep odds happens for some unknown, felicitous reason. That's the time people look back at and say to themselves, "I knew that was going to happen."

This is the reason we know Rick Fedrizzi for what the past 23 years, since he co-founded the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) in 1993 while serving as the director of environmental marketing at United Technologies subsidiary Carrier Corporation, have made of his life. Or, perhaps more accurately, what Fedrizzi has made of those years.

There certainly have been their fare share of "nine-out-of-ten-times" instances since the USGBC got its start, and since Rick stepped up as the organization's president and CEO since 2004, and since he's supplied the human rocket fuel for the USGBC cornerstone, the LEED program begun in 2000. Most of what we know of and care about green building, not only in the United States, but in 170 countries of the world, is the fruit of Rick Fedrizzi's irrepressible optimism, his pure sweat-equity, and his boundless belief in a tenet few others believed before him:

That business economic profit and strategic commitment to environmental well-being are not only not mutually exclusive, but, rather, they're knitted together, like helices of DNA.

"Sometimes, you know you have the right idea, but it's the wrong time," Fedrizzi tells me. "When we started, what we were doing was hugely flawed. We wanted to do great things, but we didn't know then how to do it. That we found success is a testament to a 20-plus year effort entwined with some of the most amazingly talented, creative, and committed individuals. For many of us, it's not a job, it's life."

Billions of square feet of sheltered space in 170 countries and among 225,000 accredited professionals started with no square feet, no countries, and nobody who knew really what could or would be done among companies, policy-makers, architects, engineers, planners, builders, and developers.

Green was the quintessential "nice-to-have" before Fedrizzi and his "tenth-time" occurred. Now, green is a strategy, and as Fedrizzi notes, "a marketing guy's fantasy come-true--a global brand."

Fedrizzi, a man of modest origin and upbringing in Upstate New York, stepped up to a larger-than-life role as missionary zealot for a cause that fires him up--"a vision of what a better world can be if we change our buildings, our homes, our communities for the better"--and spreads across to any of us within earshot.

So, as Fedrizzi closes out the chapter of his career as alpha LEED generator, and opens a new one aiming to do for healthy building what he's done for sustainable building, we're delighted to announce here that Rick is our 7th winner of the prestigious Hanley Award for Vision and Leadership in Sustainability. The award is dedicated to identifying and honoring individuals who have demonstrated extraordinary, lasting, and far-reaching contributions to sustainability, and who have greatly influenced policy and industry response to critical environmental challenges in the United States.

Who better fits that description right now than Rick Fedrizzi?

Here's the way Hanley Wood co-founder and president of the Hanley Foundation Mike Hanley puts it:

“It would be impossible to overstate Rick’s impact on the worldwide acceptance of sustainability within the built environment. His tireless efforts have inspired billions of LEED-certified square feet around the globe and we are thrilled to present him with this year’s Hanley Award in recognition of his role as leader, educator, spokesperson and transformational advocate.”

With proceeds from the $50,000 award, Fedrizzi plans to make a large new donation to the LEED Platinum William Jefferson Clinton Haiti Children's Center orphanage project he's been nurturing for the past couple of years.

"It's coming out of the ground now, and it's an exciting moment that reinforces the reason we're working in the housing community, to cause positive change and make the world a better place for people to live."

Here's to the believers and those who act on the belief in a 10th time, despite the nine out of 10 times before it. Here's to Rick Fedrizzi.