written by


March 27, 2017



Kathleen O’Brien

Emerge, New Hope Press, 164pp

Kathleen O’Brien’s Emerge, billed as a strategic leadership model for the sustainable building community, has the ostensible appearance of a how-to book. Structurally, it is organized in the familiar manner of many works in divergent industry sectors designed for such a purpose.

The book features chapters that unpack details of O’Brien’s particular model, followed by best-practice examples of how teams collaborate. Through her perspective we view leadership in action. The many illustrative visuals, as well as insights from colleagues and practitioners in the best practice examples contribute to the feeling that at its core, Emerge is an advanced training manual that will benefit many people seeking to understand this ever-evolving profession.

O’Brien is a key actor in the development of the green building movement centered in the Cascadia region of the Pacific Northwest. Cascadia is arguably the most innovative of all of the organized efforts to promote sustainability in North America.

It was in Cascadia that the movement to go beyond LEED was crystallized through the Living Building Challenge. That this book has emerged from O’Brien’s thirty years of work demonstrates the value of the practitioner who offers advice through the lens of personal experience. Her tenets have impact as practical applications because green building has provided many lessons for leaders espousing myriad types of technology innovation.

Emerge takes the process a rung above rote learning. It is a primer in how to take the breakthroughs of green building technology and merge them with a big picture approach. The primary goal is not to replicate a structure that will lead to higher building ratings but to have an organized framework by which individuals have a set of tools to work collaboratively, plan effectively and communicate through a common language.