Some work can only be done in the non-profit realm, so I started Ecological Building Network (EBNet) in 1999
Ecological Building Network is an open, collaborative group of builders, scientists, architects, and engineers sharing the best knowledge we can find on sustainable building practices. We specialize in practical technical guidance for designing and constructing better buildings wherever you are. Whether you are building a straw bale home in Argentina, a low-income village with shipping containers in Shanghai or a concrete office structure in Sacramento, we have information you can use to make sensible choices in design and materials.
The BuildWell Library is a cooperative compilation of useful information on all aspects of building well - that is building with a mind towards low-carbon and non-toxic effects.
Those loooking for how to work with alternative materials, or design for net zero, or find better materials to spec for their projects can search here. If you have such useful information, we invite you to please upload it so it can benefit others.
Sometimes you just have to get everybody together. EBNet has hosted several international conferences because leaders and innovators need to meet - make new contacts, and refresh old ones. Sharing knowledge happens later, when we read each others' books and articles. We often hear from past attendees that our conferences sparked an idea, inspired a new line of inquiry, provided an introduction to further work or renewed commitment to building well. For example, because a Google employee attended BuildWell 2010, Google.org has stepped up to support product transparency in the next LEED standards.
Sometimes the only way to obtain the technical information needed by designers, engineers and (especially) building officials is to provide it ourselves. EBNet conducts research when the need for answers is clear and pressing, and there's no one else around to do it.
We research and develop promising ideas so as to bring solutions to problems in the built environment. The construction industry is quite conservative at every level, and justifiably resistant to change. Nevertheless, this industry is itself in need of major remodeling, and part of that effort is to deepen our technical understanding of materials.
Industry standards often prove to be a big lever for causing the right (or the wrong) things to be done on a broad scale. Witness the USA's gas mileage standards for cars and trucks, or California's Title 24 minimum energy performance standards for buildings. All to often, however, a standard proposed for the benefit of society will seem a threat to one or several entrenched interests, who typically offer skilled resistance using the tricks and strategies of the blood sport that is standards development. Public interest standards work is dreary, frustrating, and time-consuming, but nonetheless, EBNEt recognizes the importance of developing certain building standards when: they are of significant environmental and/or social benefit; and there's no one else around to take up the task.