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Ensuring a Net Positive Future for Green Building

The Net Zero Accelerator speeds and scales innovations to get us there

By Colin Mangham 

I cut my teeth in New York advertising agencies crafting brand narratives for household names including the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). For them and EnergyStar I created a campaign for the PBS television special “The High Performance Home.” We highlighted green solutions for energy efficiency, indoor air quality and more that could be easily adopted by homeowners. Some were just simple behavior modifications. To this day, I let warm leftovers cool before storing them in the fridge.

That was nearly 25 years ago. While the high-performance home has smartly evolved, we’re not nearly as far along as envisioned then. Nevertheless, that’s when I got the green bug, and soon after dove into entrepreneurship. My first company’s ROI was paid in the currency of life lessons. My next was a consultancy to help early-stage ventures attract and sustainably leverage capital, talent and other resources. 

I’ve since guided the success of hundreds of entrepreneurs, helped raise north of $80 million and invested in good, bad and real ugly (thanks again, 2008). More importantly, I’ve consistently worked with good folks doing great stuff. So, when Ben Stapleton, Executive Director of the U.S. Green Building Council’s Los Angeles Chapter (USGBC-LA), asked me to lead the accelerator program he and Neal Anderson had launched a year prior, well, he had me at “net zero.”

The Net Zero Accelerator (NZA) was developed to address gaps between policy and technology that must be narrowed or closed to achieve impact at scale, particularly in the affordable housing sector. It helps young companies in the green building space commercialize new approaches to achieve net zero energy, carbon, water and waste. 

Since 2019, we’ve guided the success of 65 companies with the support of partners including 40+ advisors and mentors. Building owners and operators provide sites for pilot projects. Industry experts offer deep market knowledge. Utilities and corporations promote solutions to their customers. Capital partners and grant funders invest in our shared future. 

For a quick refresher, the general idea with net zero is to balance the equation of the energy and water we use relative to what we generate, store and repurpose, as well as to reduce waste across the board including excess construction materials. As such, the approach promises significant and measurable benefits when building, retrofitting and maintaining homes, with results including increased long-term performance, bottom-line cost savings and healthier living environments indoor and out.

The untapped opportunity is to get more boots on the ground leveraging our shared community of thought leaders, builders, property owners, investors and like-minded peers to speed and scale adoption of innovations. We focus on advanced materials, energy resources and efficiency, occupant health, water conservation and the building envelope.

Available products from our current cohort include: bamboo-based studless wall systems; dynamic glass for doors, sidelights and transoms; nature-inspired greywater repurposing systems; hemp-wool thermal insulation; concrete-like water-permeable materials; modular batteries rivaling the ones from you-know-who; and “wall-to-table” indoor garden systems. 

These startups have a ton of valuable insights to share as well. They are quite literally on the frontlines, the leading and bleeding edges, purposefully solving for X to make green building more impactful and rewarding. In many cases they’ve stressed their marriages, maxed their credit cards, lost countless hours of sleep, and put their posteriors on the line for all of this. I mention all of that with applause and an open door for Green Home Builder readers to engage with them, cross-reference solutions and collaborate on implementations. 

I should also mention that my day job is co-founder of Morpho Energy, a solar and storage project developer and asset owner in the commercial and industrial building space. That’s not a plug for my own rapidly growing company, but rather a call to action. I’m busy. You’re busy. We’re all busy. We’re the ones getting green done. But I invite you to join me in carving out some time to support someone building a company, especially in your own area code. 

Provide advice, dollars, a trusted referral. Some unused square feet for a pilot project. Heck, maybe even roll up your sleeves and develop your own solution. Whatever works. That’s how we can speed our community ahead. How we can develop more solutions that are more easily adopted by homeowners. And how we can together build for a net positive future.  

Colin Mangham is a Director, Net Zero Accelerator at USGBC-LA