The general public is woefully unaware of the role green building can play in mitigating climate change, according to new research from the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC).

A report published earlier this month titled “Standard Issue” outlines how study participants overwhelmingly agree that environmental concerns are now urgent, and that a majority of respondents want to live in a healthy environment. However, most do little to address environmental issues in their daily lives (they find it too daunting), and don’t consider green buildings part of the solution. In fact, when asked to select which terms most strongly correspond to an environment that promotes a long and healthy life, only 11 percent picked green building.

These findings suggest that the sustainable design community has “a messaging mountain to climb,” said Mahesh Ramanujam, USGBC president and CEO, in a statement. “We are not reaching the broader population effectively enough to change their behavior on the scale necessary to combat climate-related risks.”

To mobilize change, the report finds that the most effective communications connect green building to local, human effects. A message that emphasizes healthy outcomes for present and future generations, noting that change is needed now to avert catastrophe by 2030, bumps the proportion of people extremely or very likely to take action to 49 percent.

Broadening the base of support for environmental priorities by linking them to health is also an AIA strategy, says Marsha Maytum, chair of the AIA Committee on the Environment and principal at the San Francisco–based Leddy Maytum Stacy Architects. “Health is not controversial or partisan. It’s for the benefit of everyone,” she tells record, “so it’s a good way to put the environmental message forward without overwhelming people with the entire topic of climate change.”

Architects who are beginning to see some of their clients prioritize health- and wellness-based standards over LEED also welcome the research as timely. “The definition of sustainability is evolving,” says Mary Dickinson, regional sustainable-design leader at Perkins + Will’s Dallas studio. “In a client conversation, I have to be ready to start with energy and water, or health and productivity, or resilience, and show how it’s all interconnected in a living systems design.”