Mary Tappouni is the president of Breaking Ground Contracting in Jacksonville, Fla., a business she founded in 1997 that has since evolved into providing green construction consulting and project management services for a variety of building projects, including a residential division launched this year. She has earned recognition from USGBC North Florida and other organizations for her commitment to sustainable building and business practices. Her company not only builds green but also purchases carbon offsets and plans to go paperless by the end of this year, among other efforts. Her children’s book, Me and Green, published by the company’s educational division, is among several community outreach efforts to promote sustainability.

Q: What inspires you to build sustainably?

A: It started as a personal passion that I eventually integrated into my business. About five years ago, a light bulb went on that there was a lot of cool stuff going on around sustainability, and it reinvigorated me and the business, and still does because there’s always something new to learn and improve upon.

Q: What is the biggest myth or misconception about sustainable building?

A: That it costs more, which it doesn’t have to, and that it’s all about the environment, which it isn’t. We preach the three “P’s” of people, planet, and profit. I firmly believe that you can’t sacrifice any of those and be successful.

Q: What will be the “tipping point” that pushes sustainable practices into the housing industry mainstream?

A: Consumers are getting educated faster than builders are, and they’ll start asking for green homes. Our residential division has already exceeded our revenue goals for the year, and we only did it because no one else in our market wanted to fill the void. Tighter codes and standards will also push builders to do pieces and parts and eventually take a comprehensive approach.

Q: What’s your next step?

A: We need to educate everyday folks who don’t have a basic knowledge about green building or think that it’s only for rich people. We’re also looking at “living” building models that are self-sustaining instead of using resources.