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Building a Sustainable World; Spencer Finch ’95

Spencer Finch '95

When he casts his eyes upon the world, Spencer Finch ’95 sees green. He sees it in buildings, he sees it on their rooftops, he sees it in trails, parks and even industrial sites hugging the coast from Florida to Maine.

In fact, as director of sustainable development for the Pennsylvania Environmental Council (PEC), Finch tries to “green up” just about everything he sees.

The PEC is a statewide environmental nonprofit group that works with the private sector, government, communities and individuals to protect and restore the state’s natural and built environments.

Finch manages the organization’s policy initiatives in green building and climate change, and oversees various teams of consultants and stakeholder groups working to complete the East Coast Greenway project in southeast Pennsylvania.

“The Greenway is an urban Appalachian Trail that runs through every large city on the East Coast,” Finch explains. “It’s a 3,000-mile-long series of trails, parks and economic redevelopment initiatives that will eventually run from Florida to Maine.

“We’re facilitating the Greenway in Philadelphia and Bucks counties,” says Finch, who received bachelor’s degrees from both Albright and the University of Pennsylvania through Albright’s cooperative engineering program. He earned his master’s in environmental engineering from Penn State, and he’s also a professional engineer (P.E.) and a LEED-accredited professional (LEED-AP), which means he’s an expert in green building practices and principles.

One of Finch’s challenges is encouraging the state of Pennsylvania to offer incentives to “go green” with buildings. “We work closely with other nonprofits, the legislature in Harrisburg, and City Council in Philadelphia to encourage the development of incentives for more owners, builders and developers to go green,” Finch says. “It’s the kind of thing we need to do to get people interested in green building.”

But it’s just one of the things. “You also have to educate people at all levels, from the general public to the professional to government officials who review permits and have to approve new approaches and new technologies,” Finch says. “Building green might require you to do things a little differently, so we may even have to change local codes and ordinances to be able to do certain things.”

A few states have taken the lead by enhancing incentives and working out kinks in the system. That provides a fertile field for green buildings as well as the engineers, architects and contractors involved with their construction and design.

“Many firms have learned to adapt to this new marketplace and the new paradigm of construction, and they’re growing because that creates additional work for them,” Finch explains. “Their buildings are wellthought-out, greener, safer, cheaper to operate and healthier. They spend more time planning and designing them, but the buildings come out better. And, in the end, so do we all.”

– Bob Shade

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