One evening in 2010, Award of Excellence winner Jason F. McLennan and Bullitt Center developer Denis Hayes—the man McLennan credits with masterminding the Living Building Challenge’s most important project—were chatting about life as they walked to dinner. The kindred spirits soon discovered that McLennan’s paternal grandmother, Annie, was the 71-year-old Hayes’ first-grade teacher in Espanola, a small town about 50 miles from McLennan’s hometown of Sudbury, Ontario.

“It was freaky,” says McLennan, who believes the coincidence is a case of the many “invisible helping hands” that have guided him through life, especially on his crusade to create greener environments.

During the first two hours of Editor-at-Large Nadine M. Post’s AOE reporting at McLennan Design on Bainbridge Island near Seattle, the convincing “conservationist with a conscience” made such a good argument for invisible helping hands that Post—a believer in only visible helping hands—started seeing her life through his lens.

Having learned of the Omega Institute’s Living Building, she paid a visit. The trip meant returning to the campus of the childhood sleepaway camp she had hated—Omega had bought the grounds more than 30 years ago.

Did invisible hands give her closure?

The notion of invisible hands also made her question why she was in the right place at the right time, in 1985, to be asked to write a book on the Statue of Liberty restoration. Returning from Liberty Island one day after a jobsite interview, one of the restoration’s architects was the only other passenger on the boat. The original writer for the architects’ book had disappeared the week before—12 weeks before the unwritten manuscript was due—leaving the architect-authors desperate to find a replacement. Invisible hands? McLennan had given Post food for thought.

ENR’s longtime buildings editor, Post decided to become one of McLennan’s many visible helping hands. She nominated him for the Top 25 Newsmakers list and then for the Award of Excellence. “It was time to boost Jason’s green crusade by putting the Living Building Challenge in front of ENR’s mainstream construction audience,” she says.

Helping Post do that were Senior Art Director Scott Hilling, who created the 10-page special-report layout (see p. 40), Associate Editor-Videographer Luke Abaffy and Deputy Editor Tom Sawyer. Abaffy and Sawyer accompanied Post to Seattle and Bainbridge Island to shoot the McLennan AOE video.

Post first met Sawyer in 1990. After years of trying, she convinced him, in 2000, to apply for a job at ENR. Invisible or visible helping hands? Or both?