The 2013 Hanley Award for Vision and Leadership in Sustainable Housing was awarded to an Atlanta visionary, an unordinary environmentalist and a catalyst for change. Dennis Creech, the founder of Southface, won this year’s Hanley Award and the $50,000 prize for being a new breed of green champion.
With nearly four decades in the sustainability movement under his belt, Creech has garnered an impressive list of accomplishments and achievements. Known as being adept at bringing opponents into the fold instead of alienating them, he is able to use his many talents to unite different and sometimes aggressive groups in order to help advance energy efficiency in the home building industry.
“Dennis’s biggest accomplishment is in the sheer amount of people in the industry he’s touched and improved their skills and knowledge and their way of thinking about green building,” says Sam Rashkin, the 2012 Hanley Award winner and a Hanley Award judge for this year.
Creech, who grew up in Charleston, S.C., studied at the Citadel, where he took a course in ecology that convinced him to change his major to systems ecology. As a graduate student at Emory University, he was challenged to think about large-scale, global problems that he began to understand were also regional problems and he quickly recognized the connection between the production and consumption of energy.
While taking a sabbatical from school to work for a regional planning organization called Atlanta 2000, Creech realized he preferred the outreach work over research work because he wanted to be the one bringing about the change in the world. Soon after, he and friend Jeff Tiller started the Georgia Coalition, the precursor to Southface.
Southface is a respected, Atlanta-based organization that oversees a plethora of energy-related resources, including builder and subcontractor training, the EarthCraft green building certification program and the Greenprints annual conference.
Creech was selected as this year’s Hanley Award winner for his unrelenting efforts to make sustainability common in today’s world. He was recently able to help build consensus for adding performance testing to Georgia’s residential code that would help to ensure new and remodeled homes were as airtight as possible. After criticism and concern from many local builders, Creech was able to hone in on what would motivate builders to support testing, which led to most of the statewide and local industry groups dropping their objections and the initiative passed.
Southface currently has a staff of 50 associates that provide research, technical assistance and advocacy that benefits more than 40,000 building professionals and homeowners every year. The Greenprints conference has more than 300 attendees annually, and the Southface Weatherization and Energy Efficiency Training Center in Atlanta, as well as other off-site and online training programs, educate about 4,500 builders and subcontractors a year.
Probably the most well-known contribution to the industry that Creech has been a part of so far is EarthCraft, which was developed in conjunction with the Greater Atlanta Home Builders Association. EarthCraft is the go-to green building standard in the southeastern United States and it boasts more than 27,000 certified projects so far.
Creech is currently working on energy code enforcement, which he feels is too lax in some states. He would also like to see a greater focus on walkable, mixed-use developments such as Serene. He is optimistic about public policy opportunites, particularly in the affordable housing market where EarthCraft is particularly active. In addition, Creech is collaborating with other industry leaders in ECOHOME’s Vision 2020 research initiative, where he co-chairs the energy efficiency and building science focus area. With Creech’s dedication and effective consensus-building personality, we know that his list of accomplishments is going to continue to grow.