A pioneer of sustainable design, Bill Worthen was a long-time champion of the sustainable buildings movement. Now, our world weeps after losing one of its strongest, most inspiring leaders. Billy’s (as I got the privilege of using) career spanned many genres, connecting his technical expertise with innovative design and policy influence, however he’ll be remembered most as having an infectiously positive energy. His experience and reputation within the green building community ran deep, and his contributions will leave a lasting impact on all of our work.
I remember first meeting Billy when visiting the Simon & Associates office back in 2009. While the office was a simple live/work condo, it had a pulse and energy that fused passion with exciting, meaningful work. As a newbie to San Francisco during the depth of the recession, and looking to start the next chapter of my life, meeting Billy, Lynn, and the team instantly shaped and solidified my career path—and with it, stok’s future.
As we both aspired to catalyze positive change in the industry, we naturally became “competitors”. Too often people believe that if there was just a bit less competition, they’d be better off. Fortunately for the industry, whether at Simon & Associates or years later when starting Urban Fabrick, Billy always viewed our collective, yet competitive efforts as stok did—that of the classical Latin definition of the word compete, meaning to strive together. In my mind, that’s exactly what we did, and why we’ve both been successful as small yet powerful businesses.
In 2012, stok and Urban Fabrick began working together. We directly hired Urban Fabrick on key projects, knowing that Billy’s depth on certain subjects exceeded ours. That effort was successful and eventually led to innovative outcomes on the Salesforce Tower under our contract with Boston Properties. We were running parallel paths in business; competing, collaborating, and learning from each other.
Billy was best known for his pioneering work in green building, but to stok, he was also family. A neighbor and fellow pitbull rescuer, Billy soon became a deeply valued friend. I’ll never forget when his dog Chloe first walked into my apartment a few floors up, wiggling with sheer joy as she met my rescued pitbull Miley. It was unimaginable for me; a titan in our industry who I undoubtedly looked up to, now a partner on amazing projects, with a furry companion for my dog to wrestle with during dinner parties.
Chloe and Miley together broke down any remaining thread of competitive drive we shared and provided a space where we could laugh and enjoy being friends, colleagues, and urbanites. Today, I remember a significant day in our friendship when we took our pups to the beach to play. As we watched our rescue dogs chase each other through the grassy rollers before the beach, Billy and Kyle unfolded their world to me. In that moment, I gained infinite appreciation of their life struggles as well as meaningful perspective on the limited rights they had as a gay couple. What they felt in strife, they certainly made up for in utter joy, inspiring me to adopt their infectiously positive attitude. The love that Kyle and Billy shared and their desire to simply ‘crush life’ moved me. As a result, I’ll be forever grateful.
Thank you, Billy, for the wonderful life you led. We at stok will make sure of 3 things for you: to keep Kyle well fed with plenty of whiskey gingers, to squeeze that little pitbull extra tight for you, and to carry on the legacy you helped pioneer with our work here at stok. We love you, Billy.