Chasing What You Believe In with John Zinner, LEED Fellow

John Zinner, LEED Fellow, is Principal of Zinner Consultants,having founded the firm in 1990. He brings clients a broad sustainability and environmental perspective as well as experience in policy development, project and program planning, and project management. John has developed and managed groundbreaking sustainable development and environmental mitigation programs for, among others, Playa Vista, Whole Foods, Boeing Corporation and the City of Rancho Cucamonga. His leadership has been recognized through numerous awards, he has lectured nationwide before professional, university and public audiences, and he has been interviewed on Good Morning America. In acknowledgment of John’s contributions to the field of green building and sustainability, he was recognized by the U.S. Green Building Council as a Fellow in 2012.

John Zinner – Sustainability Opportunities

John was born and raised in Los Angeles, California.  He started his career in policy and program side. John was involved in solar energy in grad school and has leveraged his experiences to future jobs.  1978 was John’s first sustainability project.

Prior to founding ZC, John founded and managed the Los Angeles office of an environmental consulting firm, and served as both Energy Coordinator and Planning Advisor for the City of Los Angeles Office of the Mayor. He holds an MA in Urban and Regional Planning from the University of Southern California, and a BA in Political Science from The Colorado College.

I was asked to lead a charge to write a residential sustainability guideline for over 5,000 residential units in 1978 and LEED was in pilot.” – John Zinner

1970 Challenges

Early challenges in the 1970’s centered around education.  On the Playa Vista project, workshops were held but everyone wanted to know what they really had to do and that is how guidelines were developed.

Playa Vista is a project that I am still involved in and have a lot of support.” – John Zinner


John recognizes Dave Peterson a grad school professor was a mentor that stood out.  He was involved in the solar energy lab and was the one who got it started. We were all excited about getting involved at the ground floor as something new.

LEED Movement

One of the first LEED projects for John was the first Platinum Museum.  There were a enough developers doing LEED core and shell that it spiked the interest for others to join in for market purposes.

It was an interesting voyage.  Some developers were eyeing it, not quite sure what to do with it.  A lot of the early push came out of the local government.” – John Zinner


Having a good staff, focusing on where my skills are best and letting my staff do the technical side of LEED including documentation and I am more focused on client relations and strategic opportunities. I think knowing who you are, knowing what you are good at and knowing what you’re not good at and surrounding yourself with or joining a team with the skills to fill the holes.” – John Zinner

To hear more about John’s journey and his thoughts on LEED, Solar Energy, Sustainability and Carbon download and listen to the episode!

Book Suggestions:

The Wizard and the Prophet: Two Remarkable Scientists and Their Dueling Visions to Shape Tomorrow’s World by Charles C. Mann

Learn more about John Zinner:


Playa Vista Sustainability

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