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As Prepared for Administrator Johnson, National Sustainable Design Expo, Washington, D.C.

Thank you, George (Gray). It is a pleasure to welcome everyone to the Mall for EPA’s 4th Annual National Sustainable Design Expo.

As we see by the crowds here today, over the past few years this expo has become one of the unofficial kick-off events for Washington D.C.’s tourist season. And I think it’s great that as Americans come here to pay their respects to the leaders who have helped shape our nation’s past, they get a glimpse of the innovators who are helping shape our nation’s future.

As a people, Americans don’t like to be told, “That can’t be done.” When we see a challenge, we put our heads together and find a way to overcome the obstacle. And that’s just what we’ve done in this expo – we’ve assembled some of the best and the brightest students across the country to find ways to overcome our environmental challenges. These young innovators are unleashing the power of their imaginations to advance environmental solutions.

The projects here have real world applicability in a range of areas – from the efficient use of energy and water to innovative ideas in agriculture and manufacturing. A number of your projects also relate to an emerging environmental priority – the built environment, our buildings and structures.

For example, the team from Princeton University is examining cost-effective retrofitting strategies to reduce home energy consumption. The Elizabethtown College students are designing, constructing and monitoring a ‘smart’ hydrogen-fuel storage system for buildings. And the team from the University of Idaho is planning and building the nation’s first carbon neutral environmental learning center.

The environmental solutions we see today are exciting … because while buildings protect us from nature's extremes and provide productive space to live and work, they can impact our environment and health.

For instance, buildings are responsible for nearly 40-percent of our nation’s energy use and a similar percentage of our emissions of carbon dioxide. However, these impacts also represent great opportunities for problem solving through innovation. Indeed, the green building field is rapidly expanding with just such a goal in mind. And I have no doubt that contributions of students here will help advance these efforts.

At EPA, we also have a role to play in advancing the green building field and ensuring that it employs the most robust practices to protect human health and the environment. We already have many building-related programs, such as ENERGY STAR and Smart Growth, and we are ready to add to their success with a more coordinated and strategic approach.

And so, today, I am pleased to announce the Agency is moving in a new strategic direction with green building … with the goal of facilitating the mainstream adoption of effective green building practices nationwide.

Our new approach will support research, helping us fill gaps in knowledge about building practices and technologies and their impacts. The brilliant efforts displayed here today are prime examples of the types of research our new efforts will increasingly support and promote.

Another area of focus will be greening our own facilities. At EPA, we don’t just talk the talk, we also strive to walk the walk when it comes to green building. For nearly four decades, EPA has been greening our nation’s environment. By spreading the use of efficient technology and practices, EPA can also help green our nation’s buildings.

We also understand the importance of engaging many diverse partners in the building community. By working with others to find ways to make our buildings healthier and greener, we can protect the environment, grow the economy, and enhance the quality of life for this and future generations.

Once again, I want to thank these student innovators for unleashing the power of their imaginations to advance the state of sustainable design.

We once called students, “America’s next generation of environmental leaders.” However, these students have already done great things to protect our environment – we should really call them the current generation of environmental leaders.

Thank you, and keep up the great work.