About David Johnston

About the Vision

David Johnston has a vision that all of humanity can live sustainably in balance and harmony with nature. He sees the world as a whole system and develops strategies that deal with global climate change, resource conservation and energy efficiency. He uses his vision and his talent to make the world a more sustainable place for the generations to come. There is no limit to the positive, life-sustaining systems that can be put in place for the world through green building.

David is passionate about his work and about the endless possibilities for the future. 30 years of experience in the field give him the necessary tools to successfully take ideas and make them real. The key goal is creating places where whole systems are inter-connected and working seamlessly together. If we see building systems as interconnected, then we can build much more holistically and efficiently.

David tells the story of what is possible. His hope, vision and experience ignites our minds showing us how to manifest the most positive potential that we can imagine. The current rate of growth of the green building industry is almost too rapid to track. Johnston has been privileged to be a key force behind this model for the adoption of a sustainable built environment.

About the Inspiration

Growing up in the woodlands of the upper Mid-west, Johnston spent a lot of time studying the flows and patterns of weather, nature and animals working as one whole balanced system. At Southern Illinois University, Professor Buckminster Fuller inspired David in a way that would change the direction of his life and fuel his passions. In Fuller, David found a teacher who believed that the world is comprised of inter-dependent systems. This thinking mirrored David’s own thinking as a result of his younger experiences with nature. The ability to see the linkages and flows in any system is one of David’s strongest skills. It has lead him to apply what he sees in nature to the construction industry and also to the larger market-wide transformation of sustainable living.

About the Talent / Experience

David Johnston, founder and President of What’s Working, Inc. is one of the pioneers of the sustainability movement in the US. For the last 30 years he has been working to transform the building industry to become greener and more sustainable.

Johnston worked as a consultant to the USDOE solar program from 1978-81. During that time, he was involved with the early work at the Solar Energy Research Institute and the Regional Solar Energy Centers. He was responsible for the commercialization of passive solar technology and the integration into the residential building industry and the introduction of the technology to many building industry trade associations.

Johnston continued with his passive solar career by founding the award winning company; Lightworks Construction, Inc. For ten years, Lightworks built passive solar homes and offices across the DC, Virginia and Maryland market. He was named builder of the year by the DC chapter of the National Association of the Remodeling Industry and inducted into the Remodeling Hall of Fame for his innovative work.

In 1992, he sold Lightworks and moved to Boulder, Colorado to apply his experience in passive solar program development to green building. In 1995, his new company, What’s Working, developed the first green building code in the US for the City of Boulder. He was inspired in 1992 after the first green building program in the US in Austin, TX and was given a Sustainable Development award at the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro to do the same thing in Boulder.

David established the first private sector green building program in Denver, CO through the local Home Builder’s association. It is now the largest program in the private sector and was the catalyst for the National Association of Home Builders to develop national green building guidelines.

David was part of the development team for the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) that has transformed the market for green commercial buildings in the US. He was also a co-director of the original LEED for homes development process in 2000, another national market transformation program.

Over the last 8 years he has developed green building programs throughout Colorado, for the City of Los Angeles, the San Francisco Bay Area (now statewide), Minneapolis, Boston, Phoenix, Seattle, Boulder and has consulted with other cities across the country and Canada to create market-based building programs.

All together he has influenced the construction of tens of thousands of green homes built from coast to coast. The unique quality of his work is to use a whole-system approach that brings together all the relevant stakeholders who deliver a home to the consumer. This approach has focused on the human side of sustainability to create market demand for innovative solutions for affordable, environmentally friendly housing across the country.

About the Trainer / Speaker

David has been doing training in the building industry for 30 years. Skill as a communicator, teacher and trainer, David is able to communicate with people from a variety of professional and non-professional backgrounds and inspire them to build and live green.

As a communicator, David reaches that place in us where our skills and talents lie. He shows each individual how they can work within the larger community, supporting and being supported by each other, building the framework for new emerging sustainable systems. David’s skills and talents enable him to bring hope and inspiration that is grounded in application.

Johnston is relentless in his drive for market transformation in cities, counties and states in the US and Canada. He conducts training for hundreds of building industry professionals each year and is one of the founding trainers for the Green Advantage Certification for green builders.
While developing different green building programs around the nation, Johnston has incorporating a wide ranging set of experiences and a wealth of knowledge to the benefit of the building professionals he trains. One of the purposes of his training seminars is to share this vast knowledge with his audience while making the training specific to what they can do differently Monday morning.

Primarily, he teaches people not to see different parts of the building industry as independent and siloed, but as a whole, and also how this whole fits into the larger community. He not only teaches how to connect the dots, but also what directions to take, what next steps are in order, and how to get from here to there.

About the Author’s Works

Johnston has written 3 books:

Articles by Johnston have been published in:

  • Fine Homebuilding
  • Custom Builder
  • Professional Builder
  • Qualified Remodeler
  • Remodeling Magazine
  • Renovation Style Magazine
  • Environmental Health Perspectives Journal
  • Johnston has been featured in all the major building publications, as well as newspapers including The Washington Post, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Chicago Tribune, The Los Angeles Times, The San Francisco Chronicle and many other local newspapers since 1994.
  • He was a columnist for the Boulder Daily Camera for four years and was also the Senior Editor of “Construct” magazine a Cahners publication.

About the Sustainable Pioneer

Consultant, US Department of Solar Energy Program
Founder, Passive Solar Industries Council
Founder of Lightworks Construction, inducted into the Remodeling Hall of Fame
Founder and President, What’s Working, internationally recognized sustainability consultancy
Co-founder of the California Build It Green Program
Co-founder, Denver Homebuilders Built-Green program, the largest in the country
Developer of the Boulder, Colorado green building code, the first in the country
Co-Founder, Boulder Green Building Guild
Co-director for USGBC LEED for Homes
Marketing program development, LEED NC US Green Building Council
Co-director Integral Institute Sustainability Domain
Co-Developer, Boulder Colorado Green Building Guild
Tipping Point Network, Coordinating Council Member
Speaker and Contributor to the UN Earth Summit, Johannesburg, South Africa
Consultant, Facilitator and Speaker at the Parliament of the Worlds Religions, 1993, 1999
Professional Memberships

American Solar Energy Society – Member
US Green Building Council – On the team that launched LEED-NC
Build It Green, California – Co-Founder and served on it’s board for the 1st year
Sustainable Buildings Industry Council. Co-Founder
Boulder Green Building Guild – Co-Founder
Awards for What’s Working

2008 Lifetime Achievement Award, Boulder Green Building Guild
2007 International Sustainability Pioneer Award (European business community’s “Nobel of Sustainability”
2004 Environmental Hero Award, Interiors and Sources Magazine
2005 Nautilus Book Award for Green Remodeling Book
2004 Corporate Excellence Award, University of Colorado
2004 American Institute of Architects Colorado, Contribution to the Built Environment
2003 Sustainable Buildings Industry Council, Sustainable Community Development Award
2002 Rotary International, Our World Award
1998 Boulder Community Foundation, NOVA Award
1996 Boulder Chamber of Commerce, Environmental Business of the Year
1995-1996 Denver Homebuilders Association Hall of Fame
1991-1992&1999 Marquis Who’s Who in the World About Public Service to the Community
1980-1989 Board of Directors and Co-Founder, Solar Technology and Applied Research
Foundation, Portland, Maine
1980-1993 Board of Directors: Whole systems Design, Inc., Washington, DC
1980-Present Board of Directors: Potomac Energy Group, Inc., Alexandria, VA
1982-1983 Board of Directors and Co-Founder, Renewable Energy Institute: Washington, DC
1987-1990 President, Entrepreneurs Group, Washington, DC
1990-1993 Board of Directors, Business Crafters Inc., Bethesda, MD
1990-1992 Board of Directors, National Association of Remodeling Industry, Washington, DC
1991-1993 Board of Directors, New Alternatives in Publishing, Retailing and Advertising, Seattle, WA
1994-1996 Board of Directors, Home Builders Association of Denver, Boulder Chapter
1996-2002 President, Board of Directors, Boulder Energy Conservation Center, Boulder, CO
1997-1999 Board of Directors, Boulder County Healthy Community Initiative
1998-1999 Board of Directors, International Sustainable Technology Business Center
1998-1999 Board of Directors, Sustainable Futures Society
2003-2005 Founder and Board of Directors, California Build It Green
2004-Present Co-Chair, Integral Sustainability, Integral Institute