Green Building: The Game

What happens when your state adopts LEED standards for all new construction? Well, clearly any builders skilled in LEED construction would do better, right? In GBO Hawaii, the new board game from, that scenario plays out if the policy card encouraging LEED comes into play. There are also policy cards that discourage green building, such as when a politician calls LEED a “Jobs Killer,” and public opinion turns against it. There are other policies in the game that affect the building industry, such as state tax incentives for solar, and trade policies that weaken and allow clearcut lumber to pour into the state from Indonesia.

The policies, while all based in real life, are only a minor part of the game of GBO Hawaii, where players can invest in green businesses across the state of Hawaii in order to help the state become more sustainable. Hawaii currently imports 90% of its food and burns imported oil for about 90% of its electricity, and state planners are desperately trying to change all that before oil prices get *really* out of control.

A big part of the conservation effort in Hawaii, as in other places, is to cut utility bills and encourage green building. So in the game, players are impact investors looking to make a triple bottom line return on investment, and one of the main industries you get to invest in is green building (along with clean tech, sustainable food, ecotourism, clean manufacturing and others).

Players can invest in wind farms, biofuels processors, geothermal plants, and yes, green building retail stores. The other green building based businesses to invest in the game are architectural salvage businesses, solar installers, construction/remodeling companies, and the like.

The objective of the game is to get the best triple bottom line return on investment. By investing in clean businesses, you earn money (dividends) and create green collar jobs, but also help the state reduce waste  and imported dirty energy (see the dump truck and oil barrel that you’re offsetting in the business at right). Get the most well-rounded portfolio and you win the game.

There are, of course, forces at play in the economy that are actively fighting sustainability at every turn. In the game, these show up in the form of oil industry lobbyists, that go from county to county spreading propaganda and turning public opinion away from green building and other cleaner technologies. Are these the Koch Brothers at work?

The game was featured in Fast Company, and has been earning high praise from teachers looking to teach sustainability in the classroom, as well as game players who just enjoy the similarities in game play to games like Settlers of Catan, Stone Age, and Agricola.

Check out the game here, and good luck warding off the oil industry lobbyists!


About the Author

Scott Cooney (twitter: scottcooney) is an adjunct professor of Sustainability in the MBA program at the University of Hawai'i, green business startup coach, author of Build a Green Small Business: Profitable Ways to Become an Ecopreneur (McGraw-Hill), and developer of the sustainability board game GBO Hawai'i. Scott has started, grown and sold two mission-driven businesses, failed miserably at a third, and is currently in his fourth. Scott's current company has three divisions: a sustainability blog network that includes the world's biggest clean energy website and reached over 5 million readers in December 2013 alone; Pono Home, a turnkey and franchiseable green home consulting service that won entrance into the clean tech incubator known as Energy Excelerator; and Cost of Solar, a solar lead generation service to connect interested homeowners and solar contractors. In his spare time, Scott surfs, plays ultimate frisbee and enjoys a good, long bike ride. Find Scott on
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