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King County GreenTools Program “sheroes” honored by the US Green Building Council for equity and social justice work

Summary

The US Green Building Council honors King County “Women in Green Sheroes” for advancing equity and social justice through sustainable development, green building, and community empowerment.

Story

For their efforts to advance equity and social justice through the sustainable development work carried out under King County’s GreenTools Program, Solid Waste Division employees Patti Southard and Nori Catabay were honored as “Women in Green Sheroes for Economic Empowerment in the Pacific Region” by the US Green Building Council.

“Everyone in King County deserves access to a healthy community where people, businesses and the environment can thrive,” said Department of Natural Resources and Parks Director Christie True. “The program created by these two incredible women is centered on the concept that sustainable development and its benefits are an equity issue, and we’re proud so many others around the nation are looking to emulate this model.”

As stewards of the County’s GreenTools program, which provides technical assistance, hands-on training, and policy expertise to bolster sustainable development through public and private partnerships, Southard and Catabay have blazed a trail for women in the local green building industry. Their work has centered on partnering with building industry associations, community based organizations, designers and architects, and green building rating systems to prioritize equity in sustainable development and set measurable goals for attaining it. 

Both Catabay and Southard have been passionate about social equity and environmental justice and worked tirelessly, along with internal and external county green building teams, to shift the paradigm of green building to be more inclusive. The two were a team for 13 years, until Southard passed away suddenly in April 2019. Catabay continues to honor the foundation the two started and to work toward the ideals they established together.

“Patti dedicated her life to the green building industry, and really pushed the envelope when it came to challenging institutions and other jurisdictions to do more to make the benefits of sustainable development accessible to everyone,” said Nori Catabay, program manager who leads the internal King County Green Building Team.

“Her legacy is recognized when young women can see other women and women of color doing this type of work, and they feel inspired to become part of a field that brings environmental equity, health, and prosperity to every community.”

Equitable access to green building is a priority for King County, which boasts one of the most progressive green policies in government. LEED Platinum certification is the minimum performance requirement for King County-owned new construction projects, with a goal of carbon-neutral development by 2030. Projects not using LEED still need to achieve a Platinum level using the county’s Sustainable Infrastructure Scorecard, and all capital projects must include the development of an equity and social justice plan that prioritizes community partnerships as well as diversity in project teams; the advancement of economic justice including jobs and apprenticeship goals, and the sourcing of sustainable materials. These equity and social justice practices were developed by members of the Green Building Team and apply to all capital projects regardless of which green building rating system is used. 

“King County currently has $3 billion in capital projects planned, and that presents an incredible opportunity to inspire and initiate positive social change through sustainable development,” said Catabay. “Green building creates jobs, it spurs economic development, and it empowers the community, allowing them to foster cultural representation and promote access to healthy amenities—if we seize this opportunity.”