Visionary: Bill Worthen Sees the Future of Sustainable Design

By PowerHouse Growers | Features, Visionary

Urban-fabrick-logoEnthusiastic doesn’t quite cut it when describing LEED AP, Bill Worthen’s attitude when asked about the future of construction and the role sustainability will undoubtedly play in the industry’s progression. “Once you’ve drank the green Kool-Aid”, says Bill “you just get it”. And drank the green Kool-Aid he has indeed. As the founder of Urban Fabrick, Inc., a consulting and communications company specializing in sustainable building design, green codes education, and peer-to-peer education on the value of climate positive development, Bill bought into the green building movement long before it had reached the level of popularity and mandate we see today.

In fact for the last twenty years, Bill has been growing his expertise on the subject and is now nationally recognized as a leader in policy, real estate development, education, industry research, and public advocacy on sustainable building.

A Sustainable Designer’s CV


Bill Worthen, Founder of Urban Fabrick.

Some of the many achievements in Bill’s portfolio include his participation on San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom’s Green Building Task Force, resulting in San Francisco’s Green Building Ordinance, the winner of the first World Green Building Council Government Leadership Award in 2011 and is currently a member of the C40 Cities Climate Positive Development Roadmap Review Committee a the Clinton Foundation.  Bill also was involved in the development of LEED v4, as a member of United States Green Building Counsel’s LEED Implementation Advisory Committee and the Integrative Process Task Group. He is also currently a member of the Greenbuild Expo 2014 Program Working Group. From 2010-2012 Bill served as the AIA National Director and Resource Architect for Sustainability where he oversaw the development of the AIA Energy Modeling Practice Guide, the DESIGN Art+Science Educational Video Series  and worked to promote sustainability initiatives through cross-industry collaboration including serving on ASHRAE 50% Advanced Energy Guides (AEDG) Steering Committee.  Bill is also a member of the San Francisco Eco-District Formation Task Force, focused on building a private-public partnership that will enable neighborhood scale sustainable design and triple bottom line policies that will further advance the City’s progressive sustainability goals.

Walking the Sustainability Talk

His unwavering passion for sustainable living extends well beyond just his career, encompassing his complete lifestyle. As a resident and business owner in the up and coming Mid-Market neighborhood in the heart of San Francisco, Bill sets a positive example, opting to take transit and join car and bike sharing programs as opposed to owning a vehicle lowering his personal carbon footprint. Bill also walks his own talk living happily with his spouse and blue nose pit bull in just 674 square feet of extremely well designed urban living space.


A graph illustrating the value of collaborative design approaches as they relate to sustainable design practices. Image via Urban Fabrick.

Collaborative Sustainability

Bill’s modern approach to business is evident as he’s taken a collaborative approach to competing in his industry. As opposed to all parties safeguarding their knowledge of sustainable efficiency and economics, Bill reached out to his competitors, industry colleagues, and fellow architects to encourage them all to work better together and to share what’s working and what isn’t. Thus The Urban Fabrick Collaborative was born – a network of policy, practice and design experts who offer up content which communicates the value and vision of collaborative design practices and professional knowledge sharing.


181 Fremont Street, San Francisco, one of Bill’s current project. Image via Heller Manus Architects.

One of the biggest and most frequent struggles, according to Bill is communicating the value of sustainable design. “It’s like everyone is speaking different languages” he says of the builders, the developers, the architects, and the owners. This is no doubt why a mastermind alliance, such as The Collaborative is a powerful communication tool. All interested parties see the construction process from different angles leading to different opinions of what the end result should look like. What the owner may consider valuable might be different than what the architect would approve of. It’s a matter of identifying everyone’s “what’s in it for me?” and then expand the bright spots.

Leading the Future of Sustainable Design

One of Bill’s current projects, 181 Fremont is set to “change the skyline” of San Francisco. When completed it will stand 800 feet tall with 54 stories, and will be a mix of commercial and residential. It’s expected to achieve Platinum LEED Certification with a faceted curtain wall, mega-bracing structural frame, and an on-site grey water re-use system.

There’s no question that an innovator such as Bill Worthen is a rare and valuable asset to our world. His energy and passion for doing the right thing are what set him apart from ordinary architects. In addition, Bill’s ability to see things for what they are and understand how he can influence change make him a remarkable and ambitious visionary. It has been the privilege of PowerHouse Growers to connect with Bill and we will continue to share his knowledge and expertise on sustainable building news and practices.

For more information on Bill Worthen and Urban Fabrick visit his website at or connect with him on Twitter @urbanfabrick.

About The Author

PowerHouse Growers
PowerHouse Growers teaches you how to sustainably integrate urban agriculture into your cities, businesses, and homes. We provide clear solutions and benefits for better health, increased productivity, and lower environmental impact. By connecting you with experts, we bring awareness to solutions that may not be top of mind.