Peter Powell

In the Washington, D.C., area there is an interstate that completely circles the District of Columbia as it passes through Maryland and Virginia. It is called the Beltway. There is a saying that if you live and work “inside the Beltway” - which is the case with many federal elected officials and their staffs - you haven’t a clue what is going on elsewhere and you don’t care. A popular political talk show for many years in that regard was “Beyond the Beltway.” It supposedly covered topics that the rest of the country cared about - but those inside the Beltway didn’t care about.

The East Coast is not the only part of the country where there are perception problems.

In the Midwest, the Northeastern portion of Illinois is perceived of as being dominated by the City of Chicago and six collar counties around it. Although that is relatively a small portion of the state geographically, there are those who contend that Chicago and the six counties exert so much influence over the rest of the state, that everyplace beyond there is called “downstate”, even if “downstate” are counties northwest of Chicago.


I’ve had experience with both situations.

The high school I attended in Maryland was just beyond the Beltway. The college I attended was just inside the Beltway. Even 40 years ago, if you lived “beyond,” you felt put upon by elected officials making decisions in D.C. If you lived “inside” you felt you were doing what you thought was right.

After college, I moved to one of the Chicago collar counties and lived in a small city, where hourly commuter trains got you into downtown Chicago within an hour. All television and most radio (in those days before cable and the Internet) came from Chicago, so I knew far more about the goings on in Chicago than in my own town.

One thing I cared little about was what was happening beyond the collar counties. Only on rare occasions did I travel far from the Chicago metro area. One place was Rockford, a fairly large city of 150,000 people about 50 miles further west that had a concert venue that was priced cheaper than similar arenas in the Chicago area, was easier to get to because of less traffic going away from Chicago, and with cheaper parking. So my wife and I took our kids to Rockford for the same circuses and ice shows that were in the Chicago area a week later.

And frankly, driving west felt like going into the wilderness - truly downstate.

Now my wife and I live in the Rockford area, watch the local television news, read the local paper, and are upset when the Chicago folks consider us downstaters.


But recently there was a development that shook the very foundation of the negative connotation of downstate. The Chicago Chapter of the United States Green Building Council has taken action to change its name. It is now called USGBC – Illinois Chapter. No more Chicago in the name, even though the staff will continue to work out of the Chicago metro area.

One reason for the name change is that more and more activities of the council in Illinois are extending far beyond the six collar counties of Chicago. That has resulted in the decision to streamline names into the Illinois Chapter, to denote USGBC having an influence throughout the state.


The point to all this is that the influence and impact of the USGBC is growing, not only in Illinois, but throughout the country. These days the talk about green and sustainability buildings is being more and more linked with whether or not the building has Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification through the USGBC - and what level is that certification.

A large number of points needed for such certification relate directly to the mechanical HVACR systems. Everyone in the industry would do well to check out the USGBC regardless of where you live. The things the council is involved with are going to greatly impact your HVACR businesses for years to come.

Publication date:08/02/2010