New Buildings Institutue

From the White Salmon bluff, a small organization called New Buildings Institute (NBI) casts a large shadow in the world of commercial building energy efficiency. Their solid technical reputation is based on work in building science research, advanced design guidelines and the measured energy performance of commercial buildings.

One of NBI’s current efforts is documenting high performance buildings to promote design practices and technologies – such as daylighting and low-energy cooling systems – that will result in buildings that use half the energy and are better for people and the environment. On the market side, NBI has Advanced Buildings, a suite of tools and resources that help design teams create energy-efficient, high performance commercial buildings and progress toward the 2030 targets of zero-net energy buildings.

Former Executive Director Jeff Johnson’s love of windsurfing led him to open the Gorge headquarters in 1998 and now their 21 employees also operate out of Seattle and Vancouver offices. Their informal culture and small size allows NBI to be more forward-thinking, creative and nimble than the large government agencies, firms and utilities they work with, primarily on the West Coast and in the Northeast.

NBI’s products are for the architect, engineering and commercial real estate communities and for policymakers. They have extensive partnerships with like-organizations such as US Green Building Council, Rocky Mountain Institute and the National Trust for Historic Buildings.

NBI is proud to share that their work was recently the basis of the largest incremental change ever made to the International Energy Conservation Code (IECC) for new commercial construction. Along with the Dept. of Energy, the American Institute of Architects and the US Green Building Council, NBI proposed comprehensive changes that will create buildings that are about 25% more energy efficient by the time the model code goes into effect in 2012. Program Director Cathy Higgins says, “I sometimes find it hard to believe that a humble group in White Salmon started an initiative 10 years ago that now is adopted as part of the International Energy Efficiency Standard.”

NBI is a member of the GTA to engage locally with other professionals focused on next-generation technical solutions. The GTA has connected them with others in the Gorge’s clean/ green tech arena that they otherwise would not have learned of. Learn more at

Cathy Higgins, Program Director, New Buildings Institute

After having a cabin on Northwestern Lake while living in the Portland area, Cathy and her husband decided to move here full-time in 1999. Cathy says she “wanted stunning scenery in my life every day” and also wanted to raise her daughter here with easy access to wilderness and to family in Portland. An interesting fact about Cathy? She’s worked as a river guide in Australia and Costa Rica – but energy efficiency has been her profession for over 25 years.
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