John Spears, Assoc. AIA, C.E.M, LEED AP

President and Founder, Sustainable Design Group
President and CEO, International Center for Sustainable Development

Recognized as one of the world’s leading authorities on sustainable design, innovative energy technology, and environmental engineering, John Spears is the President of the Sustainable Design Group and the founder of the non-profit International Center for Sustainable Development. He has been a leader and visionary in sustainable design and green building since the early 1970s and has made a significant impact on environmental awareness through his advocacy, conversation, and spotlight on sustainable development in the United States and around the world. John has contributed to the research and development of many of the green guidelines used in today’s high-performance buildings and many of the technologies and renewable energy systems used throughout those buildings.

 John Spears has demonstrated a lifelong commitment to making the world a better place for all through creating and promoting sustainable development practices and technologies. His work in third-world countries to help the poor through sustainable development has touched the lives of thousands by bringing them efficient housing, clean water, sanitation, food, renewable energy, and economic opportunity. In the US, there is hardly an institution, technology, association, or policy related to sustainable development that John has not influenced during his 40+ year career.


  • 1977 Master of Science: Studies in Architecture and Planning, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University
  • 1973 Bachelor of Science: Education, Industrial Arts, and Design, Old Dominion University
  • American Institute of Architects, Associate
  • Certified Energy Manager by the Association of Energy Engineers
  • LEED Accredited Professional
  • Member of the US Green Building Council (USGBC)
  • US Army 1967 – 1969; Vietnam veteran


John Spears’ work spans the globe ranging from the first ever solar sustainable community in South Africa to developing solar health clinics throughout China to founding the Maryland Clean Energy Center to promote energy efficiency and renewable energy programs. His work has been selected for presentation at the UN Global Warming Conference (1997, Kyoto, Japan) and John was chosen to lead the US-China cooperation on “Greening Beijing” for the 2008 Olympics, including the design of two zero-energy buildings in the Olympic Village. His international work as an advocate for sustainability and healthy building has spanned generations and touched thousands, if not millions, of lives.

Through his 40+ years of green building and design experience, John has developed many building and renewable energy products such as solar heating systems, advanced glazing systems (for passive solar buildings), ultra efficient heating and air-conditioning systems, radon control systems, passive solar greenhouses, and the fully integrated Earth Home building system. He has helped plan and design major sustainable communities throughout North America, Asia, and Africa. He has proven one of the foremost experts in sustainable design and consults with the Federal, State, and local governments to advise on energy policy, sustainable infrastructure development, and how sustainable designs positively impact economic development. 


  • Builder of the Year Energy Value Housing Award by the National Association of Home Builders and the NAHB Research Center, 2012
  • National Sustainability Award, Clean Tech Open, 2012
  • Mid-Atlantic Sustainability Award, Clean Tech Open, 2012
  • Association of Energy Engineers, Environmental Professional of the Year 1995
  • American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy Above the Call of Duty Award
  • Special Congressional Recognition for Sustainable Design of the Byron Overlook Center
  • American Solar Energy Society, Solar Pioneer Award
  • World Bank, Special Recognition for Chinese Solar Health Clinic Design
  • John has appeared on national television and his work has been featured on Home and Garden TV, Dream Builders, Old Homes Restored, Discovery Channel, Planet Green, and Renovation Nation
  • Published in such magazines and professional journals as Popular Science, Better Homes and Gardens, Time Life Books, Fine Home Building, Solar Age, and the ASHRAE Journal. Click here for a selection of published works.
  • Testified before Congress on energy issues and policy
  • Featured and keynote speaker at international sustainable development conferences worldwide