Chief of Engineering at USGBC: Brendan Owen

Brendan Owen oversees technical development and integration of rating systems at USGBC. In this role Brendan collaborates with teams developing LEED, PEER and other rating systems and led the team that established the overarching system goals for LEED v4. He is currently working to integrate this thinking into the other programs USGBC collaborates with.  Brendan is a member of the integration committee working to align Standard 189.1, the IgCC and LEED. He is a board member of the New Buildings Institute and is deputy director of the center for cycling technology at USGBC. Additionally, Brendan is a board member of the foundation USGBC that is partnering to build the William Jefferson Clinton Children’s Center in Port au Prince, Haiti.

Brendan is a proud Boilermaker, a licensed Professional Engineer and was honored as a LEED Fellow in 2012.

Brendan Owen – Spark of Interest

Brendan was born in Alabama and his father was in the Coast Guard.  He bounced around from mostly Great Lakes and Gulf Coast states throughout his childhood. Brendan ended up at Purdue University largely because of the strength of the engineering program. He had little affiliation to the Purdue prior to ending up there.

Brendan never considered sustainability a conscious choice, but part of his dad’s job in the coast guard was environmental protection under sort of a marine safety heading and a lot of times his dad would end up doing response activities to oil spills or any other type of a disaster at sea.  It was easy for Brendan to sort of understand the environmental ramifications of that type of activity and the responses that were necessary.

I think if there’s one, there’s one moment Exxon Valdez was the thing that sparked my interest in the idea of being a part of the solutions that could be created from an environmental perspective.  I just wanted to engage in a problem solving way.” – Brendan Owen


The person who had the most profound effect on the trajectory of Brendan’s career at USGBC is Malcolm Lewis. Malcolm was the chair of the technical and scientific committee. When Brendan started at USGBC this was the place that they stuck all of the issues that were too hard to deal with.  There was a group of brilliant people that would get together and bang around on the pieces of the technical aspects of the rating system development or generally USGBC policy that were impossible to solve. Malcolm is the right person to lead that group.

“Malcolm also work with the steering steering committee and just was a brilliant thinker; sort of introduced the idea of a pragmatic approach to systems engineering that  I think has been something that I’ve tried to carry throughout the time that I’ve been involved in the technical development of any other rating systems that USGBC and GBCI are working on.” – Brendan Owen

Current Projects

Brendan has been spending a lot of time on carbon in all of its forms. They are looking at the embodied carbon of materials and looking at the embodied carbon and water. In addition, they are looking at the embodied carbon of energy and transportation.  They are trying to make sure that they are positioning the rating system to provide incentive for and reward project teams that are taking steps to reduce the carbon footprint of the projects that are being rated.

I’m understanding that the metrics that we care about is something that is so cross cutting and ubiquitous in terms of how you look at issues in terms of building sighting and what you’re going to make the building out of in terms of how the building’s gonna be oriented on the site as it affects the energy use of the building.” – Brendan Owen


Tell all of us people who have been doing it for the last 15 years to get out of the way.” – Brendan Owen

To hear more about Brendan’s journey, 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

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