In 1978 when Gunnar Hubbard was 12, his parents, who were teachers, left their home outside New York City to live in a hand-hewn log cabin in central Vermont, going without electricity, a flush toilet or TV.
This backwoods experience made a deep imprint on Hubbard's life. Since leaving the log cabin at 18 to major in environmental studies at the University of Vermont, up to the day he founded a green-building consulting firm in Portland in 2003, Hubbard's been unwaveringly dedicated to environmental stewardship. In between, he earned a master's degree in architecture at the University of Oregon and directed a nonprofit design/build school in Vermont, among other pursuits.
In the last eight years, Fore Solutions has been the guiding hand behind some of the state's greenest and most prominent new buildings. The small company helped Hannaford build a platinum LEED-certified grocery store in Augusta; advised PowerPay's rehabilitation of the former Portland Public Market; and more recently, helped steer the construction of the Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens' new education building in Boothbay, which opened in July and is being lauded as the greenest public building in Maine. Hubbard is also involved in the proposed Thompson Point development in Portland and Bigelow Laboratory's new campus in East Boothbay. And those are just the Maine projects. Hubbard works all over the world — in Las Vegas, Dubai, Jordan, China, Bahrain, Germany, Saudi Arabia, England and Sweden, where he was born.
The botanical garden's new building, which supplies surplus solar-generated electricity back to the grid, is a particularly bright spot for Hubbard. First off, it's in Maine, and Hubbard says he wants to have more of an impact close to home. "We're looking for the kind of clients who are willing and excited [to build green]. It's a risk, and it's an investment, but the payback is huge and we'd like to find more of these clients in Maine so we don't have to go to China," he says.
Secondly, Hubbard and his team guided the process from beginning to end, from writing the building's specifications to helping select the architects, encouraging the organization to build not only a LEED platinum structure, the highest green rating possible, but also to create a net-zero facility. Often Fore Solutions is brought in as an adviser during the planning process, but in this case, Fore Solutions helped steer the whole process, which Hubbard says resulted in less time and money wasted. "We were their green building agents," he says.
Hubbard appreciates working with clients who think big, because he likes to push them even further. "Rather than pull everyone up the hill, if they're already hiking up the hill, you steer them toward a higher mountain," he says. Instead of aiming for LEED gold, why not platinum? And why not make a living building that creates energy, as well as cleans the water it uses and purifies the air? "That is where change is going to occur," Hubbard says.
While many building owners these days want to retrofit older structures to be more energy efficient, which Hubbard is happy to do, he says he'd always rather start new. "I love making existing buildings perform better, but my passion is rethinking the whole building," he says.
Hubbard wasn't always a consultant. In the late 1990s, he had an architecture practice in San Francisco, which is where he met his wife. The couple ended up in Maine when an international firm asked Hubbard to start a green consulting practice in Portland. When the economy slumped in 2001, the company bailed, and Hubbard branched out on his own, but as a green consultant, not an architect. "I realized I would effect more change by being a consultant to architects, developers and owners," he says. "As an architect, you can only work on so many projects. And if you work on more projects, you can effect more change. You can be an infectious bug."