Carol Brzozowski 2015-07-22 13:50:10
Richard Morgan explains why Austin, TX, has been such a progressive city: “We’ve always had a strong development and construction industry, but at the same time, our citizens have had a strong environmental ethic. Finding balance between them has been difficult. One way has been to support energy efficiency and sustainability programs throughout the city.” As the green building and sustainability manager for Austin Energy Green Building (AEGB), Morgan is helping to lead the effort. “There has to be a way forward that serves development, because Austin has doubled in population about every 20 years for the last 100 years, and we’re on track to do that again,” he says. In 1990, Austin created the nation’s first green building program, which today stands as one of the most successful. Austin’s energy codes are among the most aggressive in the country, Morgan says. AEGB encourages central Texans to design and construct more sustainable residences and buildings through a homegrown building rating system based on Austin’s energy and building codes that support its climate protection goals. One to five stars are awarded to single-family, commercial, and multi-family buildings and are proudly promoted by those who attain it. AEGB is affiliated with Austin Energy, the nation’s eighth largest publicly owned electric utility. Morgan believes the driving factor for why Austin initiated the green building trend and has successfully maintained it is that the electric utility has been owned and governed by the city for more than a century. “Our customers are our owners. Our profits stay here,” he says. What He Does Day to Day Morgan oversees a staff of 26, keeps track of the budget, and is constantly in communication, collaborating with other city departments, city advisory groups, not-for-profits and private sector groups involved in energy efficiency, the construction industry, and sustainability to move the mission forward locally, regionally, and nationally. He ensures his department’s information is as accurate as possible, reporting on the city’s buildings to the city. They periodically conduct measurement verification. Morgan also is responsible for the electric vehicles and emergent technologies programs, the second of which identifies technology that impacts energy use on the customer side of the meter. What Led Him to This Line of Work In his youth, Morgan attended language schools, but dropped the idea of building a career around languages. He became a general contractor in San Francisco, where he developed an interest in affordable housing and sustainability. Moving to Austin in 1991 enabled him to pursue that interest through the Green Habitat Learning Project, a partnership of Habitat for Humanity, the American Institute for Learning, and Austin Energy Green Building. The group built Austin’s first affordable high-level green building. Morgan managed the non-profit effort for five years, which gave at-risk youth an opportunity to earn a small wage through applying construction skills they’d learned in building the homes while working on their GED. What He Likes Most About His Job That what he does has a positive impact on a city he loves and in which he’s lived for 23 years in a way that can be measured and quantified gives Morgan the greatest satisfaction. “I can tell you at the end of each year what we’ve done for the city,” he points out. “I tell everyone who works here that our work makes the city a better place to live now and for future generations. I get to work with a lot of smart, dedicated people who care a lot about the city, their work and the people they’re serving. I learn a lot from them and to a certain extent, I teach them things I’ve learned over the years.” His Biggest Challenge Building on Austin’s success with more new programs for the coming years is Morgan’s biggest challenge. “Our job and our goals get progressively harder to achieve,” he says. “We constantly have to be searching for new ways to think about green building, new technologies and strategies for getting everybody in the industry focused on the highest level of sustainability and efficiency that they can achieve.” Carol Brzozowski writes on the topics of technology and industry.
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