Mission & History
Serve as Iowa’s trusted educational resource for green building and healthy living.
As the recognized leader in connecting resources and advancing sustainability, COSC empowers individuals and communities to make everyday decisions that result in a better quality of life for all Iowans.
Center on Sustainable Communities’ (COSC) three founding members, Beth Hicks, Chaden Halfhill and Lynnae Hentzen recognized a real need for a local resource for education and connectivity in Iowa’s sustainable building marketplace. The founders carefully reviewed models of green building programs in more mature markets across the country and COSC was developed from the successful elements that were most transferable to Iowa and the Midwest. The result is an organization that empowers Iowans to create healthy, durable, resource-conscious built environments that ultimately support strong, connected, vibrant communities.
Incorporated in early 2005, COSC initially focused on the residential market since the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) was already providing green building programs for the commercial sector. By conveying the value of sustainable building practices to homeowners and professionals early on, COSC established trusted relationships with, and among, the many key industry stakeholders.
COSC’s first programs included:
- Professional green building workshops with national expert, Marc Richmond
- Lectures with featured speakers that included Sara Susanka
- Oversight on demonstrations homes in both West Des Moines and Des Moines.
- Lunch and learns for professionals and homeowners on various timely topics
- Community leadership forums, field trips and open houses
While our focus remains on the residential market, over the years we have broadened the scope of COSC’s programming to include commercial built environments and community-wide sustainability efforts.
COSC prioritizes developing strong relationships and partnerships throughout all levels of the community and sustainable building marketplace. Unique in our determination to remain independent, and therefore trusted, we have been able to stay mission-focused in our service as an educational resource, supporting a promotional and networking structure that has been instrumental in driving sustainability in the built environment across Iowa.
Here are ten examples of our achievements over the years:
1. Since 2005 – COSC has hosted over 350 workshops, lectures, lunch seminars, open houses, community forums and hands-on sessions.
2. 2006 – Co-Founded Earth Day in the Junction to promote environmental education and green practices in the Des Moines area. The annual celebration features a 5K Run/Walkn, a Hybrid MPG Challenge, and a Kid’s Fun Run along with a diverse group of exhibitors, children’s activities, live music, demonstrations and food.
3. 2009 – Secured an important contract with Iowa Department of Economic Development and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to assist the state’s flood disaster recovery efforts. Our Re-Building a Sustainable Iowa statewide training program delivered over 120 workshops within one year.
4. 2009 – Developed COSC’s Affordable Green Building Training workshops and accompanying video series for the West Des Moines Affordable Green Demonstration Home. This community project of building a single family home, was led by COSC, in partnership with the City of West Des Moines and HOME Inc. Over 40 contractors and homeowners were engaged in our sustainable building training.
5. 2010 – Published COSC’s Homeowner Handbook: A Seasonal and Operational Guide to Managing and Maintaining Your Home. This manual is uniquely written by local experts with specific guidance on our regional climate and maintenance best practices for Iowa. Nominations are accepted every year from January to March. Businesses and organizations that make positive environmental impacts are encouraged to apply.
6. 2010 – Co-hosted the 1st Annual Environmental Impact Awards in the Des Moines Metro area. Nominations are accepted every year from January to March. Businesses and organizations that make positive environmental impacts are encouraged to apply.
7. 2011 – Aided creation of Iowa’s first Green Multiple Listing Service (MLS), produced an educational video, and developed accompanying annual trainings with building consultant Marc Richmond to teach on the value of adding green fields on energy efficiency and sustainable certifications to residential real estate multiple listing services across Iowa
8. 2012 – Created the COSC Energy Efficient Rehab Training Curriculum with support from Iowa Central Community College through a State of Iowa Energy Sector Partnership grant.
9. 2013 – Launched Iowa Deconstruction & Reuse Initiative to promote the diverse economic and environmental alternatives to demolition.
10. 2013 – Welcomed five Green Iowa AmeriCorps members to the COSC team.
We Educate. COSC’s comprehensive educational programs teach best practices that support national standards in all aspects of building energy efficient, affordable, durable, healthy and environmentally sound homes, commercial properties and civic facilities.
We’re Trusted. With an unwavering focus on creating a better quality of life for all Iowans, COSC operates as an independent non-profit committed to community-based sustainable building initiatives.
We Collaborate. The success of COSC’s mission is largely due to our priority of fostering collaborative relationships among community stakeholders, industry leaders and public entities throughout the state.
We Connect. COSC’s culture of community collaboration offers engaging opportunities for accessing a broad network of green building professionals, consumers and others interested in living sustainably.
We Respond. We have worked diligently over the years to build COSC’s respected reputation and establish relationships that ensure successful outcomes. COSC is sought after by communities and organizations for our ability to deliver relevant curriculum and project support in a timely manner.
We’re Local. Valuing the professional resources already available in Iowa, COSC works with local professionals to advance and promote their expertise. These local experts help develop our curriculums, and teach our workshops.
We Influence. COSC is leading the way in advancing Iowa’s sustainability initiatives. By educating consumers and professionals, COSC has successfully shifted the building industry marketplace towards sustainable practices in both supply and demand.
We’re Diverse. COSC’s audience is comprised of individuals from every sector of the marketplace, which includes architects, builders, contractors, designers, suppliers, subcontractors, government personnel, real estate developers, realtors, lenders, appraisers and homeowners.