CAGBC’s Lifetime Achievement honouree – Michael Brooks

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CAGBC Awards

Each year, CAGBC presents a Lifetime Achievement honour to an individual who has demonstrated an extraordinary career and contribution to the green building industry. This year, Michael Brooks, CEO of REALPAC, was recognized for his over 25-year career advancing green building in Canada and around the world.

Brooks started with REALPAC in 1997, after completing an MBA at the Schulich School of Business and a PhD in Urban Planning from the University of Waterloo. During his time with REALPAC, Brooks has led many initiatives to support the commercial real estate industry in meeting government and market expectations on green building, decarbonization, and ESG. These include the first corporate social responsibility guidelines in North America for commercial real estate companies, the first Green Lease in North America, and, along with CAGBC, the first benchmarking program and target for energy use in commercial buildings.

“Michael is a valued member of the green building community and is an ardent champion of sustainability and climate action,” said Thomas Mueller, President and CEO of CAGBC. “His years of support for CAGBC’s mission to transform the industry, including as a member of our Board of Directors and as CEO of REALPAC, have made a significant difference in shaping our strategy and programs. I congratulate Michael on this well-deserved honour.”

Brooks was part of many Boards and committees which helped shape sustainability in the real estate sector in Canada and internationally. He participated in a special multi-country global group of experts that developed the Construction and Real Estate Sector Supplement (CRESS) for the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI, 2010-2013), was a special advisor to the United Nations Environment Program Finance Initiative (Property Working Group,) and served on the Board of GRESB (Green Real Estate Sustainability Benchmark). He currently is one of three business advisors to the Canadian federal government’s Sustainable Development Advisory Council and is on the Board of the World Green Building Council.

We took this opportunity to ask Michael to reflect on receiving this award, and share his thoughts and perspectives with emerging green building professionals:

What does it mean to you to be awarded the CAGBC Lifetime Achievement Award and recognized for your contributions to green building?

It’s both humbling and gratifying. Coming from an organization I have immense respect and admiration for, it’s very meaningful. In my case it’s perhaps a validation of a de facto midlife career change – going from being a practicing commercial real estate lawyer, to running an institutional real estate association and having the opportunity to work all these years on the critical transformation needed to green the building sector. I’m a living example of the Robert Frost’s “The Road Not Taken” poem – ‘two roads diverged in a wood, and I took the one less travelled,… and that has made all the difference.’

What’s next in your journey in advancing green building in Canada and around the world? Are there specific areas within the green building sector where you’re particularly interested in making a difference or seeing further progress?

I’ll continue to work on being a bridge between the science of climate change and the adaptations needed in the private sector, but more broadly including the full spectrum of the UN Sustainable Development Goals relative to the building sector. I also hope to continue to advise governments on the way forward and try to break down those economic and regulatory barriers to further decarbonization both domestically and internationally, through work with groups like GRESB and the World GBC.

What advice or insight would you offer emerging green professionals who aspire to make a similar impact in transforming the building sector?

Emerging green professionals already have value alignment and passion for this sector. Every improvement matters no matter how small the gain may be. Keep learning and collaborating and looking for new ways to solve existing problems. We are an army of ants taking down a dinosaur.

We once again extend our congratulations to Michael Brooks on this honour and his contributions to green building. Stay tuned – this fall we will host an “Ask-the-Expert Interview” with Michael.

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