2020 Groundbreaker Awards

Thu, 12/17/2020 - 5:00pm - 7:00pm


Join us for the 2020 Groundbreaker Awards as we celebrate our community's efforts in creating a sustainable, healthy, and resilient built environment!

Finalists are announced (read about them further below) and exemplify green building leadership, innovation, and impact in our greater Philadelphia, Lehigh Valley, and Delaware region.  

We will be announcing four winners during the event and the fifth winner will be a People's Choice, selected live by YOU as an attendee. RSVP today! 


Attend Groundbreaker Awards by giving a year-end donation!   

Make a contribution now and you will be automatically registered for the December 17th virtual event.

Come celebrate our region's groundbreaking work!

green building united pint glasses swag
fragnant snare tooth and nail 01

As a thank you for donating...

  • Donations of $25 or more receive a branded lapel pin.

  • Donations of $50 or more receive a branded trucker hat and lapel pin. 

  • Donations of $100 or more receive a branded hat, pint glass, and lapel pin.

  • Leadership donations of $250 or more receive leadership membership, a hat, a pint glass, and lapel pin.


Green Building United is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization so your donation is tax deductible. Thank you in advance for your financial gift, which helps support year-round programming and our efforts to advance a sustainable built environment!


In addition to some awesome swag, donations of $250 and above will be invited to attend a virtual wine tasting in January.

The tasting will be hosted by  Tooth & Nail Wine Company out of Paso Robles, CA, and include selections by their winemaker, Jeremy Leffert. Let the celebration continue into the new year and make a contribution today!



If you would like to attend the 2020 Groundbreaker Awards but are unable to make a financial contribution, please join us by registering here


Thank You to Our Sponsors




Congratulations to this year's finalists! 

Four winners were announced the evening of the event, and attendees voted for the fifth winner as a Community Choice. See the results below and watch a video recap of all finalists in their own words!

casa indiana 2020 groundbreaker finalist

Project Awardee | Casa Indiana

2935-65 North 2nd St, Philadelphia, PA, 19140 

Casa Indiana rises from the site of a former yarn mill in the Fairhill neighborhood of Philadelphia. Standing among old Philadelphia rowhomes and a new art walk, the 50 senior apartments in Casa Indiana provides much needed affordable housing for the aging Puerto Rican community. It is the continuation of decades of work by the Hispanic Association of Contractors and Enterprises (HACE) to build an equitable future for Fairhill and uplift the cultural identity of the neighborhood. Sited along the busy thorough fare of North 2nd Street, Casa Indiana peels back at the corner to reveal a plaza and a sculpture by a local artist. In the back, the building embraces a Secret Garden that  provides areas for senior activities of all kinds; a paved plaza for larger gatherings, a lawn for smaller gatherings and recreation and raised planters for ease of access for the seniors.

chester pre fab 2020 groundbreaker finalist

Project Finalist | Chester County Prototype Prefab House

West Grove, PA 

The Chester County Prototype Prefab House spurred development of a new building system that connects Passive House principles with building science, natural materials, and prefabrication. The single-family home is both a model of high performance and a prototype for potential in the region and beyond. During design, the team investigated but could not find a wall assembly on the market that would meet the home’s smart, low-carbon requirements using natural materials. So, using energy and hygrothermal modeling, they developed their own prototypical prefabricated wall assembly that meets Passive House standards plus the health benefits of vapor-open properties and low embodied carbon footprint. The creative problem-solving resulted in a sustainable home and a new product. The system is now available to benefit small homes and large developments, lowering the embodied carbon footprint of many future buildings and paving the path to repeatability and affordability of healthy, low-carbon projects.

horizon house 2020 groundbreaker finalist

Project Finalist | Horizon House - New Market West Headquarters

5901 Market Street, Philadelphia, PA, 19139

After 50 years of providing human services in a headquarters which was adapted from an old industrial building, Horizon House joined with Mission First to develop a “people-first” headquarters to efficiently provide wrap-around services and affordable housing to individuals experiencing homelessness and/or mental, developmental, and behavioral health challenges.  Within the 110,000 SF “New Market West,” Horizon House’s headquarters brings enhanced wellness, safety, and collaboration to 250 daily staff and 250 daily visitors. The headquarters fosters collaboration between and shared spaces for gathering and learning. The quality of the space says, “you matter,” and Horizon House’s focus on holistic wellness is reinforced through a welcoming design with natural light and views, sustainable material choices, and strong indoor air quality. Developing a green building ‘just made sense’ for promoting wellness, saving operating costs, and generating income through event spaces like the occupiable green roof.

j centrel 2020 groundbreaker finalist

Project Finalist | J-centrel 

3400 J. Street, Philadelphia, PA, 19134 

Shift Capital’s J-centrel aims to be Philadelphia’s most civically engaged mixed use apartment complex that provides quality live and work spaces for residents and businesses who are committed to doing good with their community. Located in the Harrowgate neighborhood of Philadelphia along  Kensington Avenue and the Market-Frankford El corridor, J-centrel breathes new life into historically vacant infrastructure, creating safe, healthy, and sustainable residential and commercial spaces designed to fit with the fabric of the neighborhood.

Shift Capital was the first project in Pennsylvania to use Commercial Property Assessed Clean Energy (C-PACE) financing. C-PACE enabled Shift to make deep investments in energy and water efficiency in this gut rehab project.

melody phillips 2020 groundbreaker finalist

Community Leader Awardee | Melody Phillips

Wilmington, DE

Melody is the dynamic leader of the The Teen Warehouse located in Northeast Wilmington, DE. The Warehouse gives teens access to a range of services and challenges their creativity. It helps them explore their passions, find support, and develop the skills they need to enhance their academic achievement and employment opportunities. At The Warehouse, all the teens need is opportunity, support, and a community that believes in them. Melody believes in the teens and shows them every day through the "For Teens, By Teens" philosophy. Through her leadership, The Warehouse is working with Delmarva Power to help The Warehouse become a place where teens can learn about clean energy, electric transportation, and sustainable farming and agriculture. These educational opportunities start them on a path to becoming the next generation of sustainability leaders.

outlet 2020 groundbreaker finalist

Project Finalist | Outlet

1511 East Hewson Street, Philadelphia, PA, 19125

Outlet reimagines a couple’s unique street-to-street urban lot with the addition of a new outbuilding connected to their existing residence through an open garden. Referencing a historical model prevalent in Philadelphia, Outlet articulates its use - rental unit (living) atop an artist studio (workshop) - through the abstracted form of a carriage house. Outlet sets a precedent for holistic urban infill development. The project contains an expansive range of functionality; it is a home studio, a living quarters, an income generator, an on-site energy producer, a natural resource replenisher, and a biophilic interlude amongst urban congestion. The building implements high performing materials and Passive House systems to attain a Zero Energy Ready Home certification. As evidence of the home’s elevated standards of healthy living, the rental unit has been adapted to serve first responders during the COVID-19 pandemic, providing frontline workers with isolated access to clean air and comfortable seclusion.

park in a truck 2020 groundbreaker finalist

Community Choice Awardee | Park in a Truck

653 North 38th Street, Philadelphia, PA, 19104 

Park in a Truck harnesses the hidden asset of many low-income neighborhoods - vacant lots and other unused land. This program creates a community operated green network, established through low-cost, fast-turnaround renovations of vacant lots that not only improves environmental, social, and physical health in under-resourced neighborhoods, but also unites efforts to keep them intact and helps residents lead revitalization and reinvestment efforts.

This open space initiative builds upon the ongoing community development work of many great organizations by repurposing underutilized spaces to fill in the gaps. No one should ever be far from a safe, high-quality green space.

paula kline 2020 groundbreaker finalist

Community Leader Awardee | Paula Kline - Clean Energy Planning Series, Ready For 100 Communities Initiative

West Chester, PA

Paula 's Clean Energy Planning Series, Ready For 100 Communities initiative, provided best practice tools, training and ongoing support for 30 local municipalities, their Environmental Advisory Councils, and RF100 volunteers to develop individualized clean energy transition plans and understand energy use analysis. Over 80 participants learned how to improve building energy efficiency as a stepping stone to financing the tougher aspects of transitioning community energy sources to 100 percent renewable sources with equitable stakeholder engagement. Paula pulled together regional and national clean energy experts to present through 15 well-attended, highly interactive seminars. Despite the pandemic, the initiative trained community environmental and municipal leaders how to specifically plan in a cost effective manner saving taxpayer dollars through world class online technical energy concepts and community outreach best practices to engage their communities.

sef 2020 groundbreaker finalist

Project Awardee | Sustainable Energy Fund Net Zero Building

4250 Independence Drive, Schnecksville, PA, 18078 

The Sustainable Energy Fund (SEF) Net Zero Energy Building (NZEB) was the result of SEF’s desire to expand upon our mission and commitment to sustainability. In building the region’s first NZEB, SEF aimed to prove that net-zero construction can be done at market rate and incentivize the community to follow our lead in implementing net-zero construction. An innovative assortment of energy efficiency and on-site renewables resulted in a net positive energy building. Additionally, the building has several environmentally conscious features that increase the building’s impact, including the use of reclaimed wood and unique native plants on the property that enhance the local ecology. Lastly, the building strongly impacts the community by acting as a resource. Tours will be given to groups looking to learn about net zero construction, and the education center will be used for trainings and sessions about the importance of seeking a sustainable future.

upenn 2020 groundbreaker finalist

Project Finalist | University of Pennsylvania The Wharton School External Affairs Office at the FMC Tower

2929 Walnut Street, 5th Floor, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, 19104 

As seen in WELL and LEED v4, organizations are prioritizing wellness to improve employee engagement and satisfaction. The Wharton School recently completed a 20,000 SF office fit-out at the FMC Tower for their External Affairs department and it achieved Silver certification under the WELL v1 Building Standard.

Typically, Wharton requires LEED Gold certification, but this is the first WELL project across the University of Pennsylvania’s portfolio. Wharton chose WELL to demonstrate their commitment to health and well-being and to test innovative strategies for future projects. The Wharton School is leading the way for more project teams to incorporate wellness in project objectives and innovative strategies for positive health outcomes.

Miss last year's celebration? Read a recap

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