A Vice Chair’s Vision for the Future of Green Building

Q-and-A with Jay Greene

Sustainability and Green Building
Jay Greene headshot

Jay Greene is an award-winning architectural photographer and currently the vice chair of the NAHB Sustainability and Green Building Subcommittee. He also provides sustainability consulting on the Board of Directors of the HBA of Chester and Delaware Counties.

What made you get started as an architectural photographer?

After my stint as Photo Editor of the University of Delaware “Review,” I was doing some work for an advertising agency where I picked up a job for a local architectural firm. I enjoyed the aspect of capturing their projects in their best light and began shooting their jobs with a 4x5 view camera. The architectural work was more technically demanding than fashion or portrait photography, for example, and I was attracted to that.

How did you first get started at the Home Builders Association of Delaware?

Shortly thereafter, I was approached by a builder’s marketing manager who convinced me to join the HBA of Chester and Delaware Counties so that I could make photographs for their builder award submissions. I joined the HBA of Delaware so that I could also make more contacts through networking. Here, I met NAHB’s former president Leon Weiner, known as the “Conscience of Housing” and his successor, Kevin Kelly. I continue to network with these associations to this day, although the camera equipment has changed considerably. Back in the day, the 4x5 camera, lenses, film and lights each needed their own cases and an assistant to carry them. Polaroid film and film processing required massive amounts of power and chemistry to achieve professional results. An advertising agency was the link between photographs, copy and advertising media. Today, digital files are essentially free and the cameras, zoom lenses and lights can fit in a single compact case, or your pocket! Finished images can be uploaded to your media of choice in minutes instead of weeks. Today’s digital results also far exceed the capability of film as well. Change is coming to the building industry, too.

When did you first get involved with NAHB? Who or what inspired you to get involved?

I have been studying building science and climate change for quite a while. A few years ago, it became clear that my generation and those before me have enjoyed considerable improvements in our standard of living, but it appears that may no longer be true for my children and grandchildren. I wanted them to know that I did my part to push for positive change. The traditional business model involves consuming natural resources, manufacturing with little regard to consequences to the natural environment and then throwing it all away at the end of life. There is a much better way. I think my connections with builders, my life experiences and my interest in sustainability and green building (S&GB) mesh in the NAHB S&GB subcommittee.

What is your vision for your time in leadership of the Sustainability & Green Building Subcommittee?

My work with John Barrows, who is currently chair of the S&GB subcommittee and Amy Manz, our NAHB coordinator, has been fruitful. Based on my discussions with them and our experiences at this year’s International Builders' Show, we are in agreement that we are now at the tipping point regarding green building. The recent Dodge report showed that green building verifications, and numerous green building practices are becoming mainstream. I have been pushing to adopt the phrase: “The Future of Building is Green and Sustainable.” This is a play on our subcommittee name and it directs the “why” for our decisions. Eventually (actually sooner is better than later), I would like builders to understand and agree with this phrase. If you, as a builder, believe that the Future of Building is Green and Sustainable, you will make decisions that take you in that direction. By doing so, builders may not resist changes, but instead lead their customers and their industry into a greener, more sustainable future, and profit along the way.

Do you have a favorite picture or two from your work as an architectural photographer that you can share with us?

Jay Greene favorite photo