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Remembering Gail Lindsey

Posted February 04, 2009 01:59 PM by Alex Wilson
Related Categories: LEED, Op-Ed, The Industry

At the 2008 "Summer Camp" in the Adirondacks.
Photo: Mike Cox
The green building industry lost one of its pillars this week. Less than two years after being diagnosed with breast cancer in April 2007, Gail Lindsey, FAIA, of Wake Forest, North Carolina, passed away on February 2nd. She had been recovering from a third round of chemotherapy when a sudden recurrence of liver cancer was discovered late last week. Gail has been a key part of the green building movement since its earliest formative days. She was one of EBN's most enthusiastic supporters since joining our advisory board at the beginning of 1994, and was always willing to share wisdom and encouragement whenever asked. For architects, Gail was perhaps best known as chair of the National AIA Committee on the Environment (COTE) during a particularly formative period when the annual Top-10 awards were launched. For thousands of architects, builders, developers, and facilities managers, Gail is remembered as an enthusiastic and inspirational teacher. She led more than 200 workshops and charrettes on green building, and never failed to brighten and inspire those participants. I remember sitting in one of those charrettes — I can't remember where or when. After each of the 30 or 40 of us sitting in a circle introduced ourselves, I was astounded to hear Gail repeat each of our names. It was one of Gail's many gifts, and it helped each of those participants feel listened to and important. It was all about them, the students, not about her, the instructor. Among the many charrettes Gail was involved with were the Greening of the White House, the Greening of the Pentagon, the Sustainable Design Initiatives for the National Park Service, and the Sustainable Design Training Program for the Department of Defense. I remember her describing the bizarre ending of a charrette at a military base on September 11, 2001. President Bush was diverted to this base on his return from Florida to Washington after the terrorist attacks. The military personnel didn't know what to do with these civilian instructors in their midst so, in the panic, locked them up in a room.
Photo: Mike Cox, December 2008
Gail was involved in creating the LEED Rating System, the Army's SPiRiT rating system, the North Carolina Triangle J High Performance Guidelines, and the International Green Building Challenge Assessment Tool. She was one of the first twelve LEED trainers for the U.S. Green Building Council, and she co-chaired the U.S. Team for the International Green Building Challenge starting with its inception in 1996. We worked very closely with Gail in creating the Green Building Advisor — not our new online tool, but the CD-ROM-based brainstorming tool of the same name that BuildingGreen produced ten years ago in partnership with Gail's company, Design Harmony, and the Center for Renewable Energy and Sustainable Technology (CREST). The early meetings about this tool at our home in Dummerston, Vermont are fond memories; Gail connected with my two daughters and always asked about them in the years since. In recent years, Gail was focused on the evolution of green building beyond energy and water and materials — the holistic aspects of this field. In 2005, Nadav worked closely with her, Bill Reed, Joel Todd, and others on the Expanding Our Approach workshop supported by the General Services Administration. A year later, I was fortunate enough to join Gail and thirty other visionaries in a symposium on biophilia. Last summer Jim Newman, on our staff, participated in a five-day "Summer Camp" in the Adirondacks organized by Gail and a few others pursuing deeper connections, personal growth, and fun (a pursuit that Gail thought didn't get enough attention in our meetings and conferences). When Gail was recognized in 2007 with a Leadership Award from the USGBC, Nadav noted, "Gail's influence on BuildingGreen, and on me in particular, has been nothing short of profound." Gail will be sorely missed by all of us at BuildingGreen and by thousands of others in the green building field whose lives she deeply touched. We offer our deepest sympathies to her beloved husband Mike, who has cared so ably for Gail these past two years, and to her wide circle of supportive friends. During her illness, Gail gave as much support to this circle of friends as we were able to give to her. Gail's endearing smile will live on for all of us. — Alex Wilson

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1 Such loving tributes for love posted by Christine Ervin on 02/05/2009 at 09:23 am

Such loving tributes for lovely Gail. Just reading them, thank you everyone, brings back her larger-than-life spirit, wisdom, humor and generosity—all that is good in life. And we find her still nurturing that sense of community. Thank you, Gail

2 I first met Gail 10 years ago posted by Alex Zimmerman on 02/05/2009 at 07:35 am

I first met Gail 10 years ago when I became leader of the Green Building Challenge Canadian team. At every international planning meeting and conference throughout that process, Gail’s infectious spirit and enthusiasm for the cause (not to mention enthusiasm for new shopping opportunities) were something to look forward to. Throughout those difficult years America couldn’t have asked for a better ambassador, representing what is best about your nation to the world. Thanks, Gail, for your inspiration and encouragement.

3 I first met Gail almost 20 ye posted by Bobbi Tousey on 02/05/2009 at 11:32 am

I first met Gail almost 20 years ago. Green building was starting to get the press it deserved and Gail and I thought North Carolina could help push it to the front. We started the North Carolina Green Building Council, became good friends and, for a short time, business partners. Whenever I think of Gail, I see that wonderful smile that was so contagious. She completely filled every room she was in. I've never seen anyone who could bring people with diverse opinions together the way Gail could. She was pure goodness. My heart aches.

4 14 years ago when I first met posted by Sue Barnett on 02/05/2009 at 05:57 am

14 years ago when I first met Gail, I pondered “How can someone so goofy be so brilliant at the exact same time?” Her talent and spirit inspired me then and still does. I considered Gail one of my green building family and once again thank her for bringing so many of my family back into my life this week. Particularly poignant for me after feelings of abandonment due to the new LEED Faculty contract. Gail assured me it was time for transformation and I’m taking her word for it.

5 Gail was a true inspiration. posted by Douglas Brinkley on 02/05/2009 at 06:28 am

Gail was a true inspiration. Her contagious spark ignited the "green" in many of us and I will always remember her smile, optimism, passion and hope for the futre.

6 I met Gail in 1997 at a Natur posted by Julie Gabrielli on 02/05/2009 at 05:48 am

I met Gail in 1997 at a Natural Step workshop in Washington, D.C. that she helped to arrange at the Department of the Interior. I had a powerful feeling of being meant to meet her right then; she was so welcoming and encouraging as I took my first steps into the world of green. Reading the stories of her many accomplishments, I am awestruck and so deeply grateful for her tireless work. She is not only a mentor to so many, she is a great inspiration -- and will continue to be in these coming days of great transformation.

Thank you, Gail, for your pivotal role in launching my own journey.

7 I sent this to our staff at S posted by Mike Barcik on 02/05/2009 at 04:34 am

I sent this to our staff at Southface:

Some of you may know or know of Gail Lindsey – she was one of the pioneers of the USGBC and LEED and an amazing person to train with and be inspired by as she was truly a force for positive change. She helped facilitate the very first Eco Office charrette at Greenprints and helped us learn how to do charrettes (also contributing greatly to our first online module). On a personal note, she introduced me to Richard Louv’s book, “Last Child in the Woods” which has been influential in how I am trying to raise my children. I will miss her and so will the green building world.

Mike Barcik -- Director of Technical Services Southface - Responsible Solutions for Environmental 241 Pine St. NE, Atlanta, GA 30308 voice: 404/604-3620 | fax: 404/872-5009

8 Thank you for doing this Alex posted by Lauren Yarmuth on 02/05/2009 at 03:37 am

Thank you for doing this Alex.

I am filled with a mixture of the deep sadness of loss, and a tremendous sense of wanting to be ALIVE and as connected with everything as possible this week... in honor of Gail and her shine. I also am feeling the warmth of the web of community that has formed around her and am grateful for it.

Gail would ask us to SMILE and to make beautiful and important things happen. And she would give us her love and ask that we share it with each other. I close my eyes still every day at noon in her honor, and hope to meet others there in celebration.

9 Penny Bonda has posted a lovi posted by Jim Newman on 02/05/2009 at 05:12 am

Penny Bonda has posted a loving tribute to "The Inextinguishable Gail Lindsey" on her wonderful blog at

To quote Penny: Gail Lindsey – architect, educator, innovative visionary – had a profound influence on me and thousands of design and building professionals. In fact, if you used LEED, Gail’s work has touched your life.

- Jim Newman

10 I never met Gail in person, h posted by Chris Walker on 02/05/2009 at 05:46 am

I never met Gail in person, however we spoke on the phone several times as I shared with her my plans to launch my development company. The two short telephone conversations we shared were enough to energize me through the next four years. Gail is and will forever be a power house of influence in my life as a green developer.

Until we finally meet.


Chris Walker Barbados

11 I too feel a special bond to posted by Karl Bren on 02/05/2009 at 05:47 am

I too feel a special bond to Gail. Although I only worked with her a few times, in our passing conversations I knew she was quite a mystic and an "old soul" She reminded my of an old saying "Being happy is another way of being wise" Her wisdom/happiness was contagious and I am glad I was able be in her circle, even if briefly. I am saddened at her sudden passing but oh what a legacy she left while here. . .see you later Gail. Karl Bren

12 Thank you Alex. I also wanted posted by Charles Brown on 02/04/2009 at 01:09 pm

Thank you Alex. I also wanted to share something with the BigGreen list, but feared my writing skills could not adequately describe this loss. As Gail's husband wrote (I'm paraphrasing); "No memorial is planned. I can't imagine one that would do her justice,.."

Remarkable, beautiful, love and spirit incarnate. If I'd met Gail as a dishwasher or a doctor her impact on my life would have been just as meaningful. I hope all who knew or knew of her take time to share and mourn with a friend. Personally, doing so has quickly turned feelings of emptiness and sorrow into joy. There are still tears in my eyes, but I can not help but smile every time I think of Gail. The world will always need the love Gail carried with her. It will take all of us sharing a little more of our joy, to equal what we have lost.


13 Thanks so much for this post. posted by Jim Grady on 02/04/2009 at 06:49 pm

Thanks so much for this post...I will always remember Gail as a very inspiring person who radiated joy and a zest for life.

14 What a shocking news! Gail w posted by Hofu Wu on 02/04/2009 at 10:26 pm

What a shocking news! Gail was our US team leader during 1998 GBT Assessment and Evaluation in Vancouver. Her energy, spirit, and relentless effort in driving for excellence forced us to be better designers. Beyond our tears, we know there is a beautiful angel watching over us.

15 Gail was an instructor in the posted by elizabeth brody on 03/26/2009 at 03:21 pm

Gail was an instructor in the Design School at NCState when I was a graduate student in Architecture there. (1987-1991)--She was a guest critic and studio teacher. She had an incredible spirit and way about her and made personal connections with all the's funny to think that my relationship was special, I think she made everyone feel that way. She had the ability to find a personal connection with everyone and to be a colleague. We connected through dance and my interest in "green" design...which seemed to be just common sense and good practice. Ofcourse now I know there is much more to it and she certainly paved the way. She will be so missed, I really hoped to be able to know her again. I knew that she was "famous" - but Gail was so "real" and I think that was what I loved about her most.

16 I am so saddened to learn of posted by Susan Garner on 08/22/2009 at 06:36 pm

I am so saddened to learn of the passing of Gail Ann. I met Mike in 1978 in Lynchburg, Va. where we became fast friends. He introduced me to my future husband, he attended our wedding and we attended his. Time marches on and we lost touch but I am so saddened to learn of Gail's passing. I was in awe of her because she was so incredibly independant, daring, & turned Mike inside-out. What a match made in heaven! Electricity, passion, & joy,as well as total acceptance of their differences. My thoughts are with you Mike. I know she gave you so much to take forward which has nothing to do with the accomplishments she generated. My love to you.

17 Such a tragic loss of a most posted by Gail Brager on 02/04/2009 at 08:30 pm

Such a tragic loss of a most beautiful spirit who touched so many. She lived (and gave) fully in her too short years. She would want us to be inspired to do the same. I'm sending a virtual hug to all who are saddened by her passing.

18 Thank you Alex for sharing yo posted by David Eisenberg on 02/04/2009 at 07:47 pm

Thank you Alex for sharing your thoughts and knowledge of Gail with us all. Gail was among the most joyously inspirational people I have ever met. I think all of us who had the great good fortune to know her will carry her delight and love of life with us. I wrote last night, while trying to come to grips with my own mixture of great sadness and deep gratitude and the echo of her laughter in my mind and heart: A Gail-force wind stopped blowing yesterday In the momentary stillness that followed an exuberant wave of joy harmonized with the sorrow in the chambers of open hearts everywhere

Gail's great generous, kind and brilliant spirit lives on in thousands of us, and our task is to pass that fully on to others through our own work and lives. What more joyful work could we hope to have?

19 I did not have a a lot of con posted by Brad Guy on 02/04/2009 at 07:50 pm

I did not have a a lot of contact with Gail - having her come to speak at an event a few years ago, seeing her at some conferences - but I have thought of her often. She was a one-of-kind and had such a unique vision of green building as a place of spirit and hope. I always thought of her as the embodiment of green building not as a science but as a form of soulfulness. I am so sorry to hear this news, she was a beautiful human being and I am sure touched many many people as she did me.

20 I knew Michael several years posted by mary walters on 05/13/2009 at 05:29 am

I knew Michael several years before I had the pleasure of meeting Gail, once, when he was on a trip back to Chicagoland. She was a treasure, I could tell, just from one relatively short visit. My heart goes out to you Mike, your family, her family and all your friends for your tremendous loss.

21 My introduction to LEED and m posted by Jim Benya on 02/08/2009 at 03:10 pm

My introduction to LEED and my first complete sustainable project involved Gail and the late Don Prowler, back in the 1990's. I was so fortunate to get it first hand from both of them. I can't add to the many wonderful rememberings except this: thank you Gail, may we all keep your spirit with us.

22 Alex, thank you for creating posted by Helen J. Kessler on 02/08/2009 at 10:38 am

Alex, thank you for creating this tribute blog. I met Gail during the Greening of the White House charrette in 1994 and we connected immediately. While this connection was incredibly special for me, I now realize how special Gail was for so many others and how connected she was to all of you! When I was with Gail, she would give me her full attention, and we would have the best, most exciting, exhilirating, inventive and transformative conversations that I can remember. She was always upbeat, always positive, always encouraging and always creative. I've never met anyone else like Gail and miss her deeply, although I know she will be with me forever. Her contributions to green building will leave a lasting legacy; she accomplished so much in such a short time. For her deep friendship, support, insight, love, and SMILES, I will always be grateful.

23 Like hundreds of others, I ha posted by Carl Elefante on 02/07/2009 at 02:03 pm

Like hundreds of others, I had the unforgetable experience of participating in a charrette organized and conducted by Gail. Her stunningly warm smile and her unmatched ability to immediately connect with me and every other participant are things I will alwyas remember about her. Equally remarkable about Gail, she was totally devoted to the cause of making the world, not a better place, but the best place it can possibly be.

A few years ago, a friend passed away after a similar fight with cancer. He asked that his obituary not read "he passed away after a long battle with cancer"; but, "he died after a fantastic life". This sentiment seems most appropriate for Gail as well. We will cherish her impact on our lives.

24 I can't find enough words to posted by Holley Henderson on 02/07/2009 at 04:16 am

I can't find enough words to express to fill the gap she leaves. Thank you Alex & Building Green

25 I have now read so many tribu posted by Mike Cox, Gail’s husband (and her favorite photogr on 02/07/2009 at 05:57 am

I have now read so many tributes to Gail that she has, once again, been able to amaze me with all she has done and is still able to bring about. I’m so glad that Alex included the quick snapshot of Gail that I took during our recent Christmas celebration. It captures so well her hopeful spirit and playful personality – it’s the way I remember her and hope others will.

I noted a recurring theme in many of the tributes - the profound influence that Gail had on the writers’ lives. In many I could discern a bit about how she did it, and I realized that I had more in common with these friends of hers than I had imagined, that Gail had influenced us in the same way. I shared with her huge circle of email correspondents my understanding of how she inspired and changed us:

~~~~~~~ Gail always saw me as more handsome, strong, intelligent, and especially good than I really was, and because of this I felt more handsome, behaved more strongly and intelligently, and became more good.

Gail reflected back to everyone a better image of themselves – better put, she showed us Gail’s vision, a true best vision, of ourselves. She gave us all her full attention and helped us see what was possible. This allowed us all to face the world with more assurance, gave us the confidence we might otherwise have lacked to go out and do great things.

It would be a proud achievement to so positively change one tenth as many lives in a full life span. To honor Gail’s spirit, let’s all give it our best try.

26 Gail's influence on my home a posted by Frank Priznar on 02/07/2009 at 06:56 am

Gail's influence on my home and professional life was both postive and permanent. I imagine there must be thousands more like me - having been similarly blessed.

27 This is very sad news. Gail w posted by Chris Hammer on 02/05/2009 at 08:04 pm

This is very sad news. Gail was a wonderful, beautiful person. To her husband and family, I'm so sorry for your loss. Just know that so many of us think so highly of her. I will miss her.

28 I keep, in my head, seeing Ga posted by Jyoti Sharma on 02/05/2009 at 04:35 pm

I keep, in my head, seeing Gail with her wonderful hot pink wig at the award ceremony at Greenbuild 2007! Whenever Gail entered a room the whole place came alive. Last time I saw Gail at the Raleigh Environmental Awards ceremony and she looked wonderful. I am glad we had a very nice chat. According to the Bhagavad Gita the soul never dies but just changes covering as a body changes clothing. It is good to know that Gail has moved onto a new and healthier body that she can use to go on doing the work that she has always been so passionate about. I hope that every one who has ever known Gail would pledge to keep moving forward with all our dedication and energy to keep this planet that she loved so much healthy and safe. My life has been all the richer having known her. Thank you all for sharing her memories with all of Gail's friends and fans.

29 I met Gail many many years ag posted by Joyce Lavalle on 02/06/2009 at 06:59 am

I met Gail many many years ago, I took her to an Interface event in Seaside Florida and we took an Aikido class with Thom Crum. We knew then that we would be friends forever which we will. Don't you know that Gail is "greening" heaven as we speak getting it ready for all of us. Gail I love my chime and my pin made from a discarded key (that has been made into an angel). We never did get enough time together but I hope to see you soon.

30 I first met Gail at AIA's Gra posted by Terrel Emmons, FAIA on 02/06/2009 at 09:11 am

I first met Gail at AIA's Grassroots in 1996 after she had become the new Vice Chair of COTE. Her contagious inspiration for sustainable design immediately engulfed me as it did everyone with whom she came in contact. We spent the next 4 years planning sustainability conferences and, when I went to the National Park Service in late 1999, the very first thing I had to do was have Gail come and give training on sustainability. With about 80 people in attendance, her skill at remembering everyone's name after introductions was to be challenged; however, she didn't miss one. Those of us in the Federal Government are forever endebted to Gail for the significant role she played in making the government green and her frequent challenge to "think globally and act locally, but commit personally." We will sorely miss your passion, Gail, to move mountains and inspire others.

Terrel Emmons, FAIA Director for Planning and Development Office of the Architect of the Capitol

31 I met Gail years ago when she posted by Larry Sherrill on 02/06/2009 at 03:34 am

I met Gail years ago when she was just beginning to hear her calling to sustainable architecture. It seemed like a quixotic journey, but she threw herself into it in a way that made me know that she would be heard. And she certainly WAS heard, but her message was never shrill, but always positive, always happy. An inspiration! Thanks Gail!

32 I was so very fortunate to be posted by Amanda Thompson on 02/11/2009 at 09:34 am

I was so very fortunate to be taught to be a LEED Reviewer by Gail this past October. I could not be more stunned or saddened to hear of her passing. In the ONE day that she taught our class, she made more of an impression on me than anyone in my recent memory. Her enthusiasm, intelligence, energy and joy were totally infectious. She immediately knew our names, and made time to spend a few minutes with each of us individually at breaks if we so desired. I learned more about courage, humor and inspiration in those few minutes than I can say. We e-mailed a couple of times after the class, and I would never have know she had any current difficulties. She was vibrant and selfless in sharing her passion and commitment to what she believed in. All this from spending one day in a class with Gail. She will be sorely missed, but her spirit and gifts will certainly live on with the many that she inspired.

33 It is hard to believe that it posted by Michelle Reott on 02/10/2009 at 04:32 am

It is hard to believe that it was 22 years ago that I first met Gail. She was a seminar instructor for Texas Sustainable Building Professional Training Seminars in Austin. I remember the sparkle in her eyes as she shared information with us. She sought out personal connections with folks she met and we soon found we had both attended Georgia Tech. Although she was in Architecture and I was in Engineering, we reminisced about our alma mater but Gail was quick to look deeper and recognize shared challenges that we both overcame as students.

Thanks for having this forum to share our thoughts. Although I recognize that Gail’s husband is not planning a memorial, I hope we gather or recognize her when congregate this year at Greenbuild. Having lost my mother-in-law in 2008, I know that these gatherings serve a variety of purposes for those who continue on in life – including closure, inspiration, and solace.

34 All of Gail's friends in Atla posted by Charles H. Potts on 02/10/2009 at 05:27 am

All of Gail's friends in Atlanta and the Georgia Tech College of Architecture are comforted by the sad news with still fresh and enduring memories of perhaps the most remarkable architect in our class. Her incredible future success was no surprise to us. Truly honored to have known her and to have shared her friendship throughout the years

35 When I think of Gail, I don't posted by Tracy Dixon on 02/13/2009 at 03:31 am

When I think of Gail, I don't think she's gone. I still feel her positive, uplifting energy in those she impacted. The truth is, of those sharing memories, I know her far less than most. The strange thing is I say that but at the same time I felt a part of her life. I think that is what makes Gail stand out from the rest - she's never met a stranger and has a powerful way of impacting even those she interacts with infrequently.

There are those of us she impacted directly, whether it is helping us gain a new perspective, dream the impossible, coaching us through a life decision, passing along a sustainability tip or helping us accept and play a part in overcoming her disease. Then there are the people that she never met but through her spirited nature and professional work will better the lives of thousands. Each of us has felt Gail's energy and because of it, turned around and helped another see the truth and love in their own lives. This is on the personal level. Professionally, think of all the people (not to mention the planet) she's impacted simply by daring to dream about new ways of thinking - regenerative design, sustainability - and then going the next step to put those dreams into reality. Think of generations from now when the world is a cleaner place, respectful of the environment, people are connected and impossible isn't a word. Could Gail be responsible for this great change????? Of course, that is Gail's legacy - not only those personally affected by her life but those in generations to come that will thrive because of her love. That's Gail exponential impact, spanning networks beyond those in her immediate presence. Few people possess this impact.

Thank you Alex, for giving us a way to share our thoughts.


I can't imagine a world without Gail. The best I can do is take what I learned from her and share it with those around me. That's how I'll honor her life and make sure her legacy lives on.

36 I knew Gail (and Mike) many y posted by Jeff Bond on 02/13/2009 at 06:28 am

I knew Gail (and Mike) many years ago, back in the mid-80's, but lost direct contact as time passed. I knew of her activities through professional development classes and newspaper articles . . . it was easy to see she was making an impact in an area of vital importance to everyone sharing this planet. I'm sad that she's gone. 54 is too young. I'm sad that I didn't maintain contact with them, too. But as I read all these posts, I'm happy to know that Gail created a legacy and spirit of good works that will live on.

37 I had the tremendous good for posted by Whitney Powers on 02/27/2009 at 11:13 am

I had the tremendous good fortune to work with Gail on a project on Dewees Island in 1998. Her enthusiasm and depth of knowledge and commitment to sustainable and "green" building was mindblowing. I came away from the process with a much deeper, clearer understanding of what this movement's potential really meant due in no small part to the presence and clarity of the message that Gail carried. Our last meeting was over lunch following the GreenBuild conference in Denver; and, I realized then, that she was someone whose influence on the future of the sustainable movement could move mountains.

38 Gail was my favorite professo posted by Melissa Meyer on 08/08/2009 at 10:55 pm

Gail was my favorite professor at N.C. State School of Design. I often google her just to see what she is up to. Having just done so now, I am shocked and saddened to see that she is gone. She was the kindest and most inspirational professor I have ever known, the kind of professor that I hope to be. I was really looking forward to visiting her and sharing my accomplishments with her in the future. I had hoped to let her know how much she influenced me.

Melissa Meyer N.C. State BEDA '95

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