Les Alchimistes Vert

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The moon and the stars have aligned with National Poetry Month in April, and National Architecture Week this week—inspiring a unique contest.  If you are inspired, there are a few more hours left to enter BuildingGreen.com LIVE: Poetry Month, Meet Architecture Week: The BuildingGreen Haiku Contest .

I saw this unique Building Green contest while combing through e-mail a week ago, and was reminded of a poem I wrote right after I took on my current role with Schneider Electric as Green Buildings Solutions VP. When I first met my Green Buildings Solutions team back in September 2010, I was very focused on our role as change agents, and coming together as ONE team to accelerate change both inside and outside of Schneider Electric.  What I found inspired me, and I jotted down a few lines of what could loosely be called poetry.  This year, I was looking for a team Christmas gift, so I cleaned up the poem a bit more, and sent a fair trade gift along with the poem, to some Schneider Electric “Alchimistes Vert.”  However, it wasn’t in Haiku form until I saw this contest, leading to one more “transformation.”

Les Alchimistes Vert translates to “Green Alchemists,” or change agents.   Literally, an alchemist is someone who practices alchemy—defined by Merriam Webster Medical Online as:

“the medieval chemical science and speculative philosophy whose aims were the transmutation of the base metals into gold, the discovery of a universal cure for diseases, and the discovery of a means of indefinitely prolonging life.”

I use the term more metaphorically here, in an attempt to capture the spirit of commitment and hope that these special people seem to have in common―that against what could seem like insurmountable odds, they can change entire industries (the construction industry, and all supporting industries and disciplines including architecture, mechanical and electrical design and engineering of the built environment, and all of the industries that design materials, equipment and systems that come together to create a building, a home, a city block).  To some, this might seem like magical thinking, similar to the alchemists of the past.  And yet, change is happening…

Change is happening in China, where I spent almost 2 weeks in March, meeting with people from Schneider Electric, from design firms, from other companies—all of whom are committed to the hard but exciting and rewarding work of designing, building and nurturing the continuous improvement of our buildings and cities.  I met for a second time with Vice Minister Qiu Baoxing from the Ministry of Housing and Urban Development (MOHURD) about our alignment and cooperation to accelerate change to “real” green buildings that are smart, that use MUCH less energy, water, and resources.  I spoke to a very large audience at the Eighth Annual International Conference on Energy Efficient Green Buildings  on “The Path toward High Performance Green Buildings and Smart Cities,” with a main objective to inspire them with examples of “positive energy” and “net zero energy” buildings that we have collaborated on in Europe, including a new Schneider Electric R&D facility in France.

Schneider Electric’s Horizon Building, a net zero energy R&D and manufacturing facility in Carros, France

Clearly change is happening in Europe.

And two of my favorite “green alchemists” live and work in North America―inwhat we might call “Schneider Electric enabled” smart green buildings.  Andy Schonberger is one of our guest bloggers, and he manages the Earth Rangers Centre for Sustainable Technology outside of Toronto—one of the most energy-efficient buildings in North America, nearly 90% more efficient than other buildings its size.  Read about his building in our blog.  Another great green building fanatic is Lou Capozzi, who manages Genzyme Center, a continuously improving smart green building in Cambridge, Massachusetts.  Read more about all of these buildings on our website.

So, in homage to the green, smart change agents working all over the world to dramatically change the way buildings are designed, built, rebuilt and managed throughout their lifecycle, I share a small tribute:

Les Alchimistes Vert

Les Alchimistes Vert
Empassioned, aligned, acting
Inspired to lead

Pointing, sensing much
Unseen yet but by a few
Who will pave the path

Connecting our past
With the emerging future
Purposefully joined

Playing at work and
Working at home and at play
With one heart and mind

Learning the walk; waltz
Of sustainable progress
And true renewal

Dancing, meeting all
Enrolling the ready first
Inviting each step

The Green Alchemists
Ever accelerating
and co-creating

Breaking down old norms;
We co-create better ways
To build, re-build, live

Generating hope
Shaping our collective and
connected Future