Robert K. Watson

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Robert K. Watson
Rob K. Watson.jpg
Rob Watson
Born Chicago, Illinois
Nationality American
Education Master of Business Administration (MBA), Master of Science (MS)
Occupation Environmentalist
Employer The ECON Group
Known for "Father of LEED"
Awards See Awards

Robert "Rob" Watson, is a market transformation expert, international leader in the green building movement and CEO and Chief Scientist of The ECON Group. He founded the LEED Green Building Rating System of the United States Green Building Council (USGBC) in 1993 and was its Founding Chairman until 2006.[1]

After helping to pioneer the green building concept as the "Father of LEED",[2] Watson founded the EcoTech International Group (ETI) to meet the fast-growing demand for green building technologies and services in China, Russia, India and the United States.

Since 2008, Watson has also been the Executive Editor of where he blogs about the state of green building.[3] His work on green buildings in China and green technology in general has been featured in numerous publications, including Fortune Magazine[4] and The Economist[5] and has been referenced on multiple occasions by New York Times columnist, Thomas Friedman.[6] In Thomas Friedman's 2008 book, Hot, Flat, and Crowded, Watson is described as "one of the best environmental minds in America."[7]

Former Senior Scientist and Director of the Natural Resources Defense Council's International Energy and Green Building programs, Watson has over 25 years of experience on five continents improving the environmental performance of buildings, utilities and transportation through energy and building policy and program development, integrated design solutions, and clean building technologies.

Watson was the only foreigner to have been honored by Ministry of Housing and Urban-Rural Development of the People's Republic of China with its first Green Innovation Award in Beijing in 2005. In 2002, he was named as the first recipient of the U.S. Green Building Council's Leadership Award For Lifetime Achievement for his work with the organization.[8]

Life and work[edit]

Rob started out his career in Golden Bc with an education at the renowned college of the rockies. While an undergraduate at Dartmouth College studying Energy and Environmental Policy, Rob spent several months living in a tent at an altitude of 8,000 feet helping Amory Lovins and Hunter Lovins build Rocky Mountain Institute.

As a Senior Scientist and Director of the International Energy and Green Building programs at the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) from 1985 to 2006, Watson was active in international sustainable building, utility and transportation issues in a dozen countries including China, the United States and Russia.[9]

Since 1997, Watson has worked with the Ministry of Construction of China to develop green building standards and energy codes for commercial and residential buildings. He also was the principal coordinator for ACCORD21, a key green building demonstration project in Beijing for the Ministry of Science and Technology of the People's Republic of China (MOST) and the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE). This building was the first to receive LEED Certification in China at the Gold Level.[10]

In other international work, Watson helped to develop improved national residential building codes in Russia, as well as in Moscow, and managed a joint U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and U.S. Agency for International Development project to promote Integrated Resource Planning in the utility sector for the North Caucasus region of Russia. He has also worked on sustainable energy and green development issues in buildings, electric utilities and transportation in Belarus, Bolivia, Chile, Cuba, Mexico, Sri Lanka, Taiwan and Ukraine.

On behalf of NRDC, Watson advocated for sustainable energy policies and programs before several international financial institutions, including the World Bank, Inter-American Development Bank and European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, as well as several U.S. government agencies (USAID, Department of Energy, United States Treasury, Environmental Protection Agency, National Security Council, Office of Environmental Policy), to promote sustainable energy policies and programs in the developing world. Watson played an important role in developing the "Partnership for Sustainable Energy Use" for the hemisphere-wide Summit of the Americas in 1996.

Watson created the first documented, quantifiable “Green Office” in the U.S. for the Natural Resources Defense Council’s NYC headquarters in 1987.[11] Watson took primary responsibility for developing the green features of NRDC’s showcase green offices in Washington, DC and the LEED Platinum Level Robert Redford Building[12] in Los Angeles — one of the highest recipients of LEED points in the world. He also consulted on the San Francisco office, which achieved LEED Gold Level Certification.

Watson was a member of the Executive Committee for the President’s Council on Sustainable Development 1999 National Town Meeting and was the Operations Group Leader for the 1993 Greening of the White House[13] initiative spearheaded by President Bill Clinton.

Selected appointments[edit]

  • 2009 to Present - Launch Advisory Board, National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)
  • 2009 to Present - Special Environmental Advisor, Construction Commission, Liao Ning Province, China
  • 2006 to 2008 - Special Advisor, Ministry of Science and Technology of the People's Republic of China (MOST) and United States Department of Energy (DOE) on the development of green construction standards and demonstration projects for the 2008 Summer Olympics.
  • 2006 to 2007 - International Expert, Beijing Development and Reform Commission, Building Energy and Environment Center
  • 2005 to 2006 - Special Expert, Shenyang Association of Science and Technology
  • 2005 - Tsinghua University, International Academic Committee of Building Energy Research
  • 2005 - Shenzhen Institute of Building Research, Shenzhen Key Laboratory for Building Energy Efficiency
  • 2005 - Visiting Professor, Shenyang Jianzhu (Architectural) University appointment
  • 2005 - First Representatives Conference, Chongqing Association of Energy Efficiency in Buildings[14]

Academic appointments[edit]

  • Yale University, School of Forestry & Environmental Studies: Invited Lecturer, 2005–Present
  • Shenyang Architectural University: Associate Professor 2006-2008
  • Tsinghua University: International Academic Committee, Building Energy Research Center 2005-2008


  • 2013 - Botanical Research Institute of Texas (BRIT), International Award of Excellence in Conservation
  • 2009 - Institute of Green Professionals, Honorary Fellow
  • 2005 - Ministry of Construction of China (MOC), first Green Innovation Award—the only foreigner so honored—for work on green buildings in China
  • 2005 - Association of Energy Engineers (AEE), International Energy Development Professional Award for work on LEED and green buildings in China
  • 2004 - Interiors & Sources Magazine, Top 25 Environmental Champions in the Building Industry
  • 2004 - New York Chapter, Association of Energy Engineers, International Energy Professional Development Award for work on LEED and green buildings in China
  • 2003 - Engineering News-Record, Top 25 Newsmakers in the Construction Industry
  • 2002 - The first recipient of the U.S. Green Building Council's Leadership Award For Lifetime Achievement for his work as the "Father of LEED"


Watson received a Master of Business Administration (MBA) from Columbia University, holds a Master of Science (MS) degree from the University of California, Berkeley Energy Resources Group (ERG) and is a graduate of Dartmouth College where he was a Senior Fellow. In 1993, Watson was the first Environmental Fellow at the Institute of Transportation Studies at University of California, Davis.

Watson speaks fluent Spanish and intermediate Russian and French. He was a member of the Dartmouth Varsity Lightweight Crew: British Henley 1984; Silver – National Collegiate Championship, 1984; Gold – Canadian Henley 1983.[15] He has a Black Belt in Kuk Sool Won (Instructor), and a black belt in Jow Hop Kuen Kung Fu. Rob became an Eagle Scout (Boy Scouts of America) in 1976.


"Mother nature is just chemistry, biology and physics. That's all she is. You cannot sweet-talk her. You cannot spin her. You cannot tell her that the oil companies say climate change is a hoax. No, Mother Nature is going to do whatever chemistry, biology and physics dictate. Mother nature always bats last, and she always bats 1,000."[16]

"China is just beginning to move from copying to creating. The last time they were in full creative mode they invented paper, the compass and gun powder." [17]

"We need to use the one faculty that distinguishes us as human beings--the ability to imagine. We need to fully grasp the non-linear, unmanageable, climate events that could unfold in our lifetime. because if we hit the wall, there will be no seat belts or air bags, and we will end up being a bad biological experiment on the planet." [18]

"You know, if you jump off the top floor of an eighty story building, you can actually feel like you're flying for seventy-nine stories. It's the sudden stop at the end that gets you." [19]

"We are either going to be losers or heroes--there's no room anymore for anything in between," [20]

"We cannot continue to use eighteenth century economics, and nineteenth century engineering, to solve twentieth century problems. We need to move from EGOnomics to ECOnomics." Sc3 Congress, 2009

Organizations and committees[edit]

  • U.S. Green Building Council, Founding Chairman of the LEED National Steering Committee: 1994–2005; LEED Core & Shell Committee: 2002–2004; USGBC Board of Directors: 2005–present and 1994 to 2000; USGBC Vice Chairman and Environmental Affairs Officer: 1999–2000
  • Ministry of Construction, PRC China, Compiling Group, Public Building Energy Saving Standard, 2003 – Present, Compiling Group, Hot Summer, Warm Winter Zone Residential Energy Standard, 2003–2004, Compiling Group, Hot Summer, Cold Winter Zone Residential Energy Standard, 2001–2004
  • American-Chinese Committee Organized for Restorative Development in the 21st Century (ACCORD21), Chairman & President
  • The Green Standard (formerly, International Design Center for the Environment or IDCE), Chair Emeritus; Chair, 2005–2006, Member of the Board, 2000–2004[21]
  • President’s Council for Sustainable Development, Steering Committee Member, National Town Meeting for a Sustainable America, 1998–99

Selected publications[edit]

  • Watson, Rob (2011). The Green Building Market and Impact Report 2011.
  • Watson, Rob (2010). The Green Building Market and Impact Report 2010.
  • Watson, Rob (2009). The Green Building Market and Impact Report 2009.
  • Radical Confidence, Rob Watson's blog at
  • Watson, Rob (December 23, 2005). LEED Is Not Perfect, But It's Not Broken Environmental Design + Construction.
  • Langer, Ken and Watson, Rob (November 7, 2005). Bringing LEED to China. Environmental Design and Construction.
  • Langer, Ken and Watson, Rob (November/December 2004). The Greening of China's Building Industry. The China Business Review.
  • Goldstein, David B. and Watson, Robert K. (March 2002). Transforming Chinese Buildings. Natural Resources Defense Council.

Videos and podcasts[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "White Paper on Sustainability" (PDF). Building Design & Construction. 2003. Retrieved November 13, 2011. 
  2. ^ "Father of LEED Takes on China and India". Plenty Magazine. March 8, 2010. Retrieved November 13, 2011. 
  3. ^ GreenerBuildings Staff (September 1, 2008). "Rob Watson Joins Staff". Retrieved November 13, 2011. 
  4. ^ Marc Gunther (June 27, 2005). "Cops of the Global Village". Fortune. Retrieved November 13, 2011. 
  5. ^ "Green shoots". The Economist. July 19, 2007. 
  6. ^ Thomas L. Friedman (October 11, 2008). "The Post-Binge World". The New York Times. Retrieved November 14, 2011. 
  7. ^ Thomas L. Friedman (2008). Hot, Flat, and Crowded. Farrar, Straus and Giroux. p. 6. ISBN 978-0-374-16685-4. 
  8. ^ "Fisk Honored with Leadership Award by the USGBC for Green Commitment". Environmental Design and Construction. December 4, 2002. 
  9. ^ "Taming the Dragon". National Resources Defense Council. 2006. 
  10. ^ "Building Green - Apply Sustainable Building Strategies". NRDC. November 2003. Retrieved November 13, 2011. 
  11. ^ John H. Adams; Patricia Adams; George Black (2010). "12". A Force for Nature: The Story of NRDC and the Fight to Save Our Planet. San Francisco: Chronicle Books. p. 153. ISBN 978-0-8118-6535-7. 
  12. ^ Amanda Little (November 25, 2003). "NRDC's new Santa Monica building may be the most eco-friendly in the U.S." Grist Magazine. Retrieved November 13, 2011. 
  13. ^ "White House Announced Plan to Protect Environment, Save Money". William J. Clinton Presidential Center. March 11, 1994. Retrieved November 14, 2011. [permanent dead link]
  14. ^ Kenneth Langer; Robert Watson. "The Greening of China's Building Industry". The China Business Review. Archived from the original on April 15, 2012. Retrieved November 13, 2011. 
  15. ^
  16. ^ Thomas L. Friedman (July 24, 2010). "We're Gonna Be Sorry". The New York Times. Retrieved November 13, 2011. 
  17. ^ Friedman, Thomas L. Hot, Flat, and Crowded. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2008, p. 364. ISBN 978-0-312-42892-1
  18. ^ Friedman, Thomas L. Hot, Flat, and Crowded. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2008, pp. 138-139. ISBN 978-0-312-42892-1
  19. ^ Friedman, Thomas L. Hot, Flat, and Crowded. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2008, p. 20. ISBN 978-0-312-42892-1
  20. ^ Friedman, Thomas L. Hot, Flat, and Crowded. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2008, p. 6. ISBN 978-0-312-42892-1
  21. ^ "The Green Standard Board of Directors". The Green Standard. Retrieved November 14, 2011. 

External links[edit]