As of December 6, 2013, the Building Capacity Blog now lives on the O'Brien & Company web site. We look forward to "seeing" you there!
This week, the most delicious treat arrived in my in-box. Trim Tab (Volume 18)'s Summer Edition features one of my favorite examples of transformative thinking and doing: the Bertschi School's Science Wing, the fourth project in the world and the first in Washington State to achieve full certification under the Living Building Challenge, and the first ever to receive certification under Version 2.0 of the system.
O'Brien & Company has enjoyed its association with the forward-thinking Bertschi School for several years, starting with the non-profit's decision to design and build its gym and community building to earn LEED Gold certification, and then its decision to become one of the pioneer participants in the Washington Green Schools certification program, and then its decision to work with the Restorative Collective to design the School's Science Wing to meet all 20 of the Living Building Imperatives. As part of the Restorative Collective, O'Brien & Company offered its services pro bono with other design professionals to build an informed foundation for designing buildings "to [meet] the 2030 Challenge and [create] net-zero buildings."
Also, drum roll....this issue of Trim Tab features my first published explanation of the EMERGE Leadership Model, the foundation for the EMERGE Leadership Project (ELP). ELP is my primary focus these days and consists of training, mentoring, writing and speaking on the topic of leadership from the vantage point of more than 30 years of experience in the sustainable building movement, as well as a particular focus on "emergent" leadership. We urgently need more effective leaders, and more of them. For more details, you can read my article: "EMERGE: Effective Leadership for Sustainable Solutions that Stick."
Associated with the article is a case study in which EMERGE principles were applied. This is a planning project for a very special place, the Rainier Beach Urban Farm and Wetlands. The project, which was led by Berger Partnership and included O'Brien & Company's participation was stimulus for articulating how EMERGE Leadership principles could be applied in a collaborative community planning project. You can read the Case Study.
Trim Tab offers other nourishment: a great conversation with one of the most humble (and for that I really appreciate him) movement leaders out there, Paul Hawken, a feature on child-centered design, and a wonderful report on and call to further local leadership by Mona LeMoine in the feature "Rooted in the Region."
A great summer or anytime read.
Kathleen O'Brien, Editor of the Building Capacity Blog is a Cascadia Fellow, a lifetime designation provided by the Cascadia Green Building Council, a program of the International Living Future Institute. ILFI is the publisher of Trim Tab. Kathleen is also founder of the non-profit EMERGE Leadership Project. The primary vehicle for conveying the EMERGE Leadership Model is through the two-day workshop EMERGE: Leadership Skills for Green Building Advocates. See the upcoming Fall/Winter workshop schedule.
May 12 2013. This past week, the USGBC Hawaii Chapter sponsored an historic roundtable of green building stakeholders to explore using a Collective Impact approach as part of the annual Build & Buy Green Hawai'i Conference. The purpose of the meeting was to discuss opportunities to improve the quality of life in Hawai'i's built environment through this creative approach to addressing complex issues.
The meeting was unusual in some very important ways. Although "everyone knows each other" in the Islands, a formal pathway for continuous communication (one of the conditions for Collective Impact) and coordination (another condition) does not really exist. As facilitator, I asked when the last time this particular grouping, which included local representative-leaders from professional and trade membership non-profits (AIA, APA, BIA, BOMA, CSI, IIDA, NAIOP, ULI, USGBC) and the Sustainability Association of Hawaii (SAH) had formally convened. When the unanimous response was "never" -- the import of the moment became palpable.
Roundtable members agreed they collectively represented thousands of members in Hawai'i, all of whom are involved in developing, designing, constructing, operating the built environment. In addition, they agreed that their collective missions all have in common the goal to improve the quality of that built environment in and for Hawaii. It was a goose bump moment for sure!
The meeting began with an introduction to the concept of Collective Impact (CI),* which in addition to the two conditions mentioned above include a common agenda, shared (and ongoing) measurement, and mutually reinforcing activities. Then we had a round robin in which each roundtable participant shared what they would want if "everyone invited to the party came." Responses generally included raising awareness within the public through education, to sharing resources to stretch them further, to understanding each other's organizations better, to advocacy for a common agenda.
With communication as a first step towards CI, the group also brainstormed ideas for ways to keep in touch and build a common "space" for these organizations to work within for the common good. Responses ranged from using communications technology, such as Go To Meetings, Social Media such as Linked In and Face Book Groups, and Shared Google Calendars, to "live" means such as regular "belly-to-belly" roundtables, and inviting roundtable participants to each other's membership meetings. The only ideas that were not favored were frequent e-mail blasts and a traditional committee format. The latter triggered a discussion on how important it was to rely on communication methods that are streamlined and self-organizing, and to keep the communications within the scope of the common agenda set by the group -- to avoid spam-like activity that would quickly brew disinterest in the CI effort.
Also notable was the fact that this momentous meeting was public In much the way that blue ribbon committees operate, community members were invited to observe the roundtable and were able to submit pertinent questions on index cards that were addressed by roundtable members during a segment reserved for audience participation.
Questions from the audience ranged in detail, from asking roundtable members to comment on the benefits of a Facebook vs. Linked-in group interface to how to deal with the fact that roundtable participants each represent a membership. Underlying this question was an obvious concern regarding initiative-killing delays associated with having to "go back to the Board or membership" to move forward on any matter of substance. The latter question was handled perfectly by Karen Nakamura, CEO of the BIA, who noted: "If the group works strategically in developing its Common Agenda and related initiatives, and the "Why" is in accord with the individual membership groups' Strategic Plans, this should not be a problem."
According to Jason Selley, Chair of USGBC-Hawaii, "This first roundtable was intended to spark a further exploration of Collective Impact." When the roundtable concluded with all participants unanimously electing to continue this process through a show of hands, we had ignition.
There are several benefits to CI, including the fact that new solutions emerge that bridge the needs of multiple organizations or are only feasible when organizations work together. Another is that adoption of the solution can be simultaneous and therefore more effective. One of the challenges of CI is to refrain from bringing prescribed solutions to the table and allowing solutions to emerge from the collective. This goes beyond the "traditional" collaborative effort and asks for more than lobbying for "buy-in" to a particular scheme -- which I blush to say, I have led.
Today, as I sadly fly away from my Hawaii colleagues to my home on Bainbridge Island, WA, I have one "big wish" for Hawai'i , and that is that the leadership contained in this new collective entity work towards finding ways to make sustainable development, design, construction, and building operation EASIER by exploring the barriers together, and finding innovative and smart ways to remove them that are appropriate for Hawai'i, socially, environmentally, and economically.
Alistair Jackson, my colleague at O'Brien & Company, also spoke at Build and Buy Green Hawaii, on the important topic of Resilience in a session sponsored by HUD. If you caught his talk, he speculated that Collective Impact aligns well with the traditional values of Kanaka Maoli (the native Hawaiians) - particularly the Hawaiian concept of Ahapua’a.
We first learned of Collective Impact through an article in the Stanford Society of Innovation Review (SSIR) authored by John Kania and Mark Kramer and published in December 2011. More recent articles in the SSIR explore the concept further, offering useful lessons learned. CI has primarily been seen as an approach to complex social change projects such as those that address crime, hunger, educational, and other systemic barriers. Since the what, why, who, and how of the built environment is a whirl of complex intermeshed systems (and not all of them bricks and mortar), we believe CI has great potential in the green building arena, where we are adding sustainability to the equation. Understanding sustainability as the opportunity for all commercial, social, and living systems to "flourish" it seems quite pertinent. In many ways CI is akin to using the Integrative Process, which O'Brien & Company promotes for advancing sustainable design, construction, and building operation, and is a subject of previous posts on Building Capacity (ref. archives).
Learn more about Collective Impact.
Kathleen O'Brien, Editor of the Building Capacity Blog and Founder of O'Brien & Company, one of the first green building consultancies in the U.S., holds a special place for the work she has been privileged to do throughout the State of Hawaii over the last twenty years. In addition to facilitating the Roundtable on behalf of the USGBC-Hawaii Chapter, she conducted an introduction to the EMERGE Leadership Model (ELM). ELM is a systems-based approach to individual and organizational leadership that is aimed at developing truly sustainable solutions that "stick."
After participating recently in the King County Sustainable Cities Roundtable to discuss “Beyond Net Zero: Resilience, Regeneration, and Social Justice" Alex Wilson agreed to an interview for the Building Capacity Blog. Alex is a long time advocate and leader in the sustainable building movement, going back to the late 70s, when he worked as a solar advocate in New Mexico, then in New England when he was the Executive Director for NESEA (Northeast Sustainable Energy Association), and again when he founded his own company in 1985, BuildingGreen. BuildingGreen has accomplished many things, but is probably most well known for being the publisher of Environmental Building News, which this writer believes is one of the most authoritative publications out there on the subject.
After many years of being at the helm of BuildingGreen, you've chosen a new focus for your energy: the Resilient Design Institute (RDI). Why this and Why Now? I feel like I've accomplished a great deal. At the same time, when I hear what climate scientists are telling us about the risks we're facing, I don't believe we're making rapid enough progress. I'm not really advocating different design strategies; for the most part Resilient Design includes the same kinds of things we've been focusing on with sustainable building. What I am advocating is a different rationale for doing these things: life safety.
So you're chucking the "it's the right thing to do" rationale? Not totally; it is still the right thing to do, and for some in our community, that has provided sufficient motivation. But it's clear that not enough of us are motivated by that.
Isn't that selfish? It definitely puts in a self-interest framework. I'm okay with that as long as what we're doing is creating something that's better for everyone.
You mention the lack of rapid enough progress, and imply that climate change is a primary source of your concern. In addition to "moving" people who haven't been moved before, what do you think this new focus on resilience in the built environment offers? We've been working on mitigating climate change for many years, for example advocating energy efficiency building strategies that reduce carbon emissions. But being realistic about the progress we've made, even in the best case scenario, CO2 levels are going to continue rising; we’ll see a warming trend, lots of impacts due to climate change. Resilience brings in the concept of adaptation.
What is RDI's first project, and how is it going? We’re ramping up. We've organized a great team, including an advisory board of some of the leading thinkers in our field. One of our first tasks is to seek funding for our work, which is fourfold:
2) To provide a think tank to host gatherings of key thinkers and strategists that focus on various aspects of resilience. For example, we're hoping to convene members of the insurance industry, which has an obvious and direct interest in buildings and communities that are more resilient, especially in the face of catastrophic events; or members of the utility industry to discuss "islanding" to enable decoupling in the event of a disaster; or members of the energy modeling software community to discuss the role that such software could play in predicting drift temperatures of buildings without heat or air conditioning. (Editor: Photo shows a simple exterior hurricane shutter on a house in Florida that not only protects the window during storms, but also provides shade--which will be particularly important during power outages. Credit: Alex Wilson)
3) To advocate the integration of resilience goals into green building policies and practices, both in the course of normal construction and remodel, and in the massive rebuild (and often underutilized) opportunities that occur in the case of a disaster such as Katrina. For example, we have begun conversations with the US Green Building Council regarding LEED pilot credits addressing resilient design. We're also looking at how resilience might be reflected in the International Green Construction Code.
4) To develop a resilient community assessment methodology, and eventually use the results of those assessments to inform recommendations for the development of public policy. I'm talking today to folks in Brattleboro about the possibility of using the Town as a case study for this aspect of our work. We want to learn how to assess the vulnerability of primarily smaller towns, highlighting their resilient features, and identifying areas for improvement. We'll look at the community as a whole, but also key buildings in an emergency. For example, the hospital that is intended to provide shelter in a crisis: does it have operable windows to allow for ventilation during an extended power outage when fuel for the generator might be depleted? Many new hospitals have inoperable windows.
Are there any ways where sustainable building and resilience conflict? I think there are aspects of green building that at some level may be in opposition to resilience. For example, redundancy is an important aspect of resilience, while efficiency is more in line with green building. This is fine; we'll need to rethink some strategies. But in most cases, the sustainability and resilience are synergistic and work well together.
Does it really matter what we call it? Terminology is important. After Hurricane Katrina I spent five years promoting "passive survivability" in articles and talks. Unfortunately the term conjured up a bunker mentality and didn't get the traction I'd hoped for. Resilience has a much more positive feel to it. I did note though that after Hurricane Sandy, the topic of "passive survivability" received significant attention in stakeholder conversations hosted in New York City by the Urban Green. Perhaps the more serious term makes sense once you've been throttled by a storm, and seriously considering how to survive another disaster.
Much of resilience research and application has been focused on the ability of humans to bounce back in surprising or traumatic circumstances. How do you see this applying to buildings? A resilient building is one where you can throw anything at it, and it does okay. Cut off power, heating fuel, throw wind and rain at it, flood it -- a resilient building will hang in there.
It has grit. Exactly. Buildings in general are about providing us with shelter. A resilient building will actually do that even after an event.
Is it possible for a single building to be resilient? Or does it require a certain scale for the resilience concept to be applicable -- for example a neighborhood? You raise an important point. Focusing on the building itself is important; there are a lot of aspects in building design that contribute to resilience, especially in the case of residences and public buildings that serve as emergency shelters. But an equally important contributor to a building's resilience is actually its transportation energy dependence -- which broadens the conversation to location. Looking at the community scale is very important; that's why we're hoping to develop the community assessment methodology I mentioned previously.
Nonetheless, what are some examples of resilient building features in residences? Specific features will be different depending on whether the building is a single family detached or high-rise. But generally, you want to optimize your energy efficiency to maintain reasonably comfortable temperatures even without fuel and/or electricity. In rural areas, one of the biggest challenges is the inability to pump water out of your well if your power goes out. This is where redundancy comes into play. Including a submersible hand pump that can be attached to a food-rated hose or fill buckets in the same well as your electric pump will provide water through a crisis. There are versions now that include features that prevent freezing, so the pump will work in the winter months. (Editor: Photo shows a hand pump made in Maine by Bison Pumps. This pump fits into a standard drilled well and the above-ground portion replaces the sanitary cap on the well casing. The unit can pump from a static head of up to 200 feet. Credit: Alex Wilson.)
Capturing and storing rainwater is another resilient strategy. PV also offers opportunities. The issue right now is that 95% of PV systems out there are grid-tied and will not function with the grid down. There are now inverters that allow use of PV-generated electricity during the day even during power outages. With minimal battery back-up to establish the proper waveform, such systems can be used during the day to re-charge the fridge, pump water, and so forth.
There are also design strategies that are aimed at addressing specific disasters. For example, the Miami Dade Building Code includes "storm design" adaptive strategies to provide better safety in hurricanes and major storms. These should be adopted throughout the eastern U.S. And in areas subject to wildfire (which will likely become more prevalent due to climate-change induced drought) Firewise Construction Practices should be adopted. I think the most common cause of homes burning down in wildfires are from embers blowing through the soffit vents into the attic, so incorporating ember-excluding soffit vents makes sense. In many cases the strategies can be implemented immediately, are pretty intuitive, and very affordable. But not always; super-insulating the nation's housing is far from trivial.
Schools are used a lot as emergency shelter. Any guidance on making schools resilient? For schools an important consideration is daylighting, which will reduce the energy requirements considerably, and reduce the wear and tear on emergency generators during power outages. Within 48 hours of Hurricane Sandy, most generators were no longer working; they were not designed for continuous use or they simply ran out of fuel and no more was available. (Which leads to another needed innovation -- better, more efficient generators.) (Editor: Photo shows a flood barrrier at the New England Youth Theater. These were deployed when Hurricane Irene came through and prevented hundreds of dollars of damage. While the building was above the 100-year flood elevation, flood water came up to within an inch-and-a-half of the top. Credit: Jerry Stockman.)
Can you differentiate an adaptive design from a resilient design? We tend to use the terms synonymously. Adaptive design recognizes long term trends that could impact life safety in the future. For example we should assume higher summer design temperatures. For buildings that are not currently in the flood areas but close by, designers should consider the potential for sea level rise. Culverts should be able to handle bigger storms. In Vermont, culverts that were rapidly overwhelmed in Hurricane Irene in 2011 have been replaced with double or triple the capacity.
Do you have any suggestions you'd like to give our readers? Three things: First, with any home addition, renovation, or window replacement project, look for opportunities to improve the building's energy performance. It will make your home, or the homes of your clients safer now and in the future—and it will save money and improve comfort. Second, get involved right away with planning boards to try to influence policies—for example, transportation policies to reduce reliance on the automobile. Pedestrian and bike friendly options are not "just" an amenity, nor just a mitigation measure to reduce carbon emissions, but can now be justified as a smart way to maintain mobility in the event of fuel shortages or outages. Third, RDI would love to hear from you. What ideas do you have to improve resilience at the building and community scale? Please let us know. (Editor: you can email Alex at the Institute's Website)
Kathleen O'Brien is Editor of Building Capacity Blog, and contributes monthly to the Daily Journal of Commerce's Green Building Blog. She has been in the sustainable development field for nearly three decades. She provides consulting on special projects for O'Brien & Company, the firm she founded over 20 years ago, and provides leadership training and mentoring through her legacy project: The Emerge Leadership Project. Her book The Northwest Green Home Primer, is popular with both professionals and the public. Kathleen also had the pleasure of working with Alex at NESEA in the mid-1980s, when solar panels were being taken OFF the white house roof, and the term "green building" had not yet been chris tened. Photo credits: Alex Wilson
I recently wondered aloud with Bronwyn Barry why members of our tribe (and by that I mean anyone actively working in the green building, sustainable development field on the West Coast), wait 'til the last minute to register for the Emerge: Leadership Skills for Green Building Advocates. In taking this route, it costs more money, risks not getting a place, and generally adds unnecessary tension to the process for you and for me.
Bronwyn, planner and convener for many successful Passive House California events cleared it up for me. "It's not just Emerge," she countered "but pretty much any event. What I've found is that people put it in their calendar, but hold out on actually registering, just in case something 'better' comes along."
Well, I'm here to say there isn't anything better coming along. "What Chutzpah!" I can hear you saying!
Maybe so, But I am certain that Emerge is genuinely different from anything else out there. It's a leadership workshop, and yes, there's lot of leadership offerings to be found. In fact, if you Google the term(s) leadership workshop, you'll get dozens of interesting entries. It's a workshop that incorporates sustainable concepts, as well, and yes, there are plenty of laudable offerings to be found in that realm as well.
And I've been told that the philosophy of Emerge -- an integrated systems-based approach to leadership that combines the best leadership practices with an emphasis on servant leadership, change science and technology, and the collective intelligence and impact of community -- would be helpful for anyone endeavoring to lead social change in any realm.
However, Emerge has a specific mission, is designed with that mission in mind, and designed FOR those who align with that mission. And for that reason, it does a really good job. If you want to hear that from attendees, check out the testimonials (written and video) at www.emergeleadership.net. Emerge alumni share success stories relating to personal, organizational, and communitywide leadership. Anonymous evaluations compiled at the conclusion of the workshops are through the roof with positive ratings and comments. No lie.
Emerge is designed for you if: First, you are somehow involved in the shaping of our built environment and desire a built environment that is sustainable; Second, you know that leadership is involved in creating that world in the truest, biggest sense; and Third, you are personally committed to providing that leadership.
For that reason, you will find the Emerge curriculum incorporates examples, exercises, and stories pertinent to the overall mission: to create a built environment where sustainability is the norm, not an abstraction. Rather than professional motivational speakers, you'll find a faculty that is inspiring because we share your goals -- we just happen to be further down the road with some important lessons to share. The faculty scheduled for Winter 2012-2013 are award-winning dynamos, heartfelt speakers, and authors with a combined experience of nearly a century in the sustainable building arena.
Besides the obvious benefit of such a focused learning environment, there is the additional advantage of building a community that shares the emergent philosophy AND is committed to a sustainable building. When you leave you'll have become part of a network with strategic professional alignments and personal commitments. And you can stay connected through alumni "clinics" and fun gatherings.
Regardless of when you register, you'll get the benefit of all this, and more: CEUs for your LEED CMP, and/or ILFI Living Future Accreditation, a follow up mentoring session to complement the personal leadership development plan you created at the workshop, and permanent access to alumni resources on the Emerge Leadership Project website.
Additional discounts encourage membership in local green building non-profits and reward those who've taken the Sustainable Building Advisor Program and passed the national CSBA exam, and these exist for both the Early Bird and Standard optons.
So you don't HAVE to register by the Early Bird registration deadline...but it would be fabulous if you did. (Here's how.) Save some bucks, ensure your seat, and make me very happy.
Kathleen O'Brien is Editor of the Building Capacity Blog and contributes monthly to the DJC Green Building Blog. She has been in the sustainable building field for nearly three decades and currently provides special projects consulting for O'Brien & Company, the firm she founded over twenty years ago, and leadership training and mentoring through her legacy project: The Emerge Leadership Project (ELP). She was instrumental in the development of the Sustainable Building Advisor Program and the SBA Institute (SBAi).
For those in the sustainable building field hoping to distinguish themselves with a Living Future Accreditation (LFA), the ILFI has just rolled out a clear path to do so.
There are actually two paths, Path One for those with LEED APs with Specialty, which requires 45 hours of approved education, and Path Two for those who are already certified as a Living Building Challenge/Facilitator, which requires 35 hours of approved education. Additional requirements, including prerequisites can be viewed at the ILFI site.
The LFA must be renewed on a two-year basis. According to Mona LeMoine, Vice-President, Education and Events for the International Living Future Institute and Executive Director of the Cascadia Green Building Council, "Accreditation demonstrates that an individual frames sustainability holistically and understands what is needed to help lead a transformation toward communities that are socially just, culturally rich and ecologically restorative."
LFA's debut includes an on-line education catalog that lists approved programs that in the ILFI's view contributes towards an individual's capacity to understand sustainability in this transformative fashion and would earn hours towards accreditation. If you peruse the inaugural catalog you will see some familiar titles, such as "Emerge: Leadership Skills for Green Building Advocates" and the Sustainable Building Advisor certificate course offered by the SBA Institute.
These partner-offered programs are approved in addition to ILFI-specific training programs (required for the LEED AP Specialty Path) in order to benefit from existing educational resources that already support the comprehensive framing that implementing the Living Building Challenge successfully requires. It also, according to LeMoine helps professionals "avoid the hassle (and cost) of redundant training." Each course listed in the catalog has been curated through an application process similar to those offered by other professional credentialing bodies (such as GBCI).
Kathleen O'Brien is Editor of the Building Capacity Blog and contributes monthly to the DJC Green Building Blog. She has been in the sustainable building field for nearly three decades and currently provides special projects consulting for O'Brien & Company, the firm she founded over twenty years ago, and leadership training and mentoring through her legacy project: The Emerge Leadership Project (ELP). She was instrumental in the development of the Sustainable Building Advisor Program and the SBA Institute (SBAi). If you visit the GreenBuild Expo, you can learn more about both ELP and SBAi at Booth T-34 in the North Building.
The Emerge Leadership Project took to the road this past summer, introducing the concept of emergent leadership to green building advocates in Northern California. Introductory sessions in Yountville, Santa Rosa, and San Rafael and Pleasanton (where Kathleen is "feeling it" at Dahlin Group's LEED Silver Headquarters, see photo) provided an overview of emergent leadership. The intros were an opportunity to provide a taste of the learning tools used in the Project's more intensive two-day workshop, which will be offered for the first time in California at NatureBridge Conference Center (Marin Headlands), January 12-13, 2013.
Emergent leadership combines three elements -- servant leadership, change science, and community context -- to forge a path uniquely appropriate for achieving the vision of Emerge's founder, Kathleen O'Brien. "To reach the stage where sustainable building is the norm and not an abstraction, we need a transformation that really only integrated solutions will provide. Emergent leadership is designed to encourage integrated solutions. It's that simple," she says.
Ann Edminster, long term green building advocate and author of Energy Free: Homes for a Small Planet, agrees. Ann partnered with Kathleen on the Bay area educational road show this summer and will be part of the faculty for the two-day workshop. "Those of us who have been immersed in green building for many years have arrived at the collective realization that our highest-performing (i.e., lowest-impact/most restorative) building projects inevitably come about through extreme collaboration, a.k.a., integrated project delivery. This is not our normal industry process, and its successful implementation is an acquired skill – one of emergent or servant leadership. It also is a skill that can be taught (by effective emergent leaders). We need a lot more people learning, applying, and teaching this skill!"
Local educational partners for Emerge Leadership training in California include the Sustainable Building Advisor Bay Area Program and local chapters of the Green Building Council, including the Northern California and Redwood Empire Chapters. Venue partners for the introductory sessions included Dahlin Group, Dominican University's Sustainable Enterprise MBA Program, the North Coast Builders Exchange Green Building Program and LEED Platinum certified Bardessono Hotel, Restaurant, and Spa*.
Lorraine Alexander, U.S. Green Building Council Redwood Empire Chair and Pacific Regional Council Vice-Chair (and Interior Designer), explains the significance of her organization's educational partnership with Emerge: "It seems the topic of leadership gets very little attention in the realm of sustainability and green building. Many people may shy away from the term 'leader,' as they may not feel worthy of such a lofty title. Leadership is not bigger than us, it is not beyond us. Stepping into those shoes can be an exceptional experience, and if you are effective in your role, personally satisfying. Leadership is something we all need to hear and learn about, as we work towards sustainability in our lives and professions."
In addition to Ann, faculty for the Bay Area Emerge workshop will include David Eisenberg, the Executive Director of the non-profit DCAT, the Development Center for Appropriate Technology based in Tucson, AZ. "David is an outstanding example of emergent leadership," says O'Brien, "as he's managed to help bring about a true transformation in the thinking among code officials and code development bodies that's led to green building codes and related policy. And his humility about this achievement is absolutely inspiring."
The workshop is designed for a special type of person -- someone who is already committed to a sustainable future and to leading the change. Bob Massaro, owner of Healthy Building Technologies Group (HTBG), Andres Edwards, author of Thriving Beyond Sustainability and The Sustainability Revolution and Bronwyn Barry, Director of OneSky Homes all attended introductory sessions and are planning on attending the workshop in January. Notes Bronwyn, "I've already effectively used two great leadership concepts that I learned at the Introductory Workshop. I can't wait to attend the full two-day program to learn more." (Watch a video invitation.)
The workshop offers 13 CE hours through the Green Building Certification Institute (GBCI) allied with the US Green Building Council and has been approved for credit towards earning Living Future Accreditation. Earlybird and educational partner discounts are available. To maintain an intimate learning environment, registration is limited so, given the interest expressed by participants in the introductory sessions, early signups are suggested. Learn more about the Bay area workshop.
Kathleen O'Brien recently returned to the former site of a derelict Sears Auto Store and now the award-winning high performance headquarters for RiceFergusMiller. This urban Infill project reveals how a sustainable built environment is about so much more than bricks and mortar.
In 2009, James Jenkins and I met with RiceFergusMiller principals and staff to lay groundwork for sustainable goal-setting for their new office and studio. They had just purchased the old Sears Auto Center near their existing (and crowded) digs in downtown Bremerton and wanted to showcase sustainability. In addition to O'Brien & Company, Shawn Oram from Ecotope participated in the workshop, bringing a depth of building energy expertise and innovative spirit.
RFM was still in the process of cleaning up the building at the time to see what they had. As prelude to the workshop, we carefully (and I mean carefully!) wended our way through the abandoned structure that in the 80s had been an anchor for Bremerton's retail business core. Old signage gave us an inkling of what it must have been like at its peak, but it was truly a mess. However, it was hard not to get too excited. Here was an existing building in a downtown that was crying out for revitalization, with a team invested in all three aspects of sustainability -- environment, economy, and social benefit. Wow!
And in particular, they had the good sense to recognize the importance of "place" in achieving sustainable goals. "We didn't want to replicate green building projects being built in more urban areas. We wanted a project that was the most sustainable it could be, and that would further the agenda, here in Bremerton," Principal Steve Rice opines. In addition to keeping a piece of Bremerton's retail heritage intact, they have proven that with a bit of willingness to experiment, what they call "high performance sustainability" is achievable even outside green building hubs. Unlike nearby Seattle where LEED buildings abound, RFM's LEED Platinum headquarters is one of a very few LEED buildings on the West Sound. LEED is the nationally recognized rating system of the US Green Building Council (GBC).
One of the major factors in how far any client is willing to go is risk. In that early workshop, we ran through an analogy of river rafting and asked the RFM team to choose which "class" of difficulty they were willing to take on, with Class 1 representing the least risk and Class 6 representing suicidal risk (really). They chose Class 3 - Difficult. This class requires expertise for maneuvering, scouts who have been there before, a good operator, and a good boat. In a recent interview and tour of the facility, I asked Steve whether the project experience rated a Class 3, and he quickly responded that it was probably more difficult than that. But like any good run after it's done, the satisfaction he and his mates are experiencing is written all over Steve's smiling face.
And he wants everyone to know about it. "This may seem weird, but for me this building is a sort of 'temple' where everyone who comes here leaves as a bit of a green disciple, because they all see it makes sense." The first floor is designed for easy reconfiguration for public events. In the 15 months since they've opened (June 2011) they've had nearly 40 community events with anywhere from 10 to 200 attendees at a pop. Whether the event is focused on green building or not, host Steve gets to say something about what they've been able to accomplish.
Which is no small thing. At a very reasonable $105/sf cost, RFM's design team reduced energy consumption from the CBEC Standard for this building type by 78%, saving $24K annually. They saved 58% in construction costs due to retaining as much of the original structure and materials. They've reduced water consumption by 70% and save over 60,000 gallons of potable water a year. And, according to Steve, they've done this with off-the-shelf components, used innovatively. They were also willing to work with local officials when water saving technologies didn't pencil out simply because of municipal billing policies, rather than just giving up on them.
Much of what they've accomplished has been made visible by leaving elements exposed. Rather than an industrial environment however, the building has a very clean, calming aesthetic. Even the 14-foot fan circulating air above the heads of those in the lobby for practical reasons, provides flair, and for those of us in the biz, a reminder that hidden under the building's success is the circular pattern provided by an integrated project process.
Steve recalls that after that very first workshop, he and his partners realized that this was much bigger than even creating a high performance building -- which is big enough. They were creating a story of transformation. Of a derelict building in a struggling downtown. What they may or may not have realized is that, in the opinion of this author, they too have been transformed -- into the best type of green building evangelists there are. The kind who practices what they preach.
Kathleen O'Brien is Editor of Building Capacity Blog, and contributes monthly to the Daily Journal of Commerce's Green Building Blog. She has been in the sustainable development field for nearly three decades. She provides consulting on special projects for O'Brien & Company, the firm she founded over 20 years ago, and provides leadership training and mentoring through her legacy project: The Emerge Leadership Project. Her book The Northwest Green Home Primer, is popular with both professionals and the public. James Jenkins now works with BNBuilders.
Kathleen: So Hunter, what brings you here?
Hunter: I'm teaching at Bainbridge Graduate Institute this weekend at Islandwood, which is truly a singular honor. BGI remains the MBA program with the deepest and most authentic commitment to their vision -- "changing business for good." If you look at the most recent data projected for our planet's future, all of life is literally at risk. Things have to change. They are going to change. It's a matter of how. Transforming business education, which is what BGI has done, is critical to transforming our business model, which is critical to our survival. One of the things I am most impressed by is BGI's willingness to keep improving an already successful program.
Yes. I noted a similar impression in my post about Vision 2050 this past year. At that point BGI had decided to integrate the Vision 2050 goals into their curriculum, across the board. It's an incredible example of leadership. Speaking of leadership, I know you've met this past week with green team members from some of the most committed cities in the region. What do you think of their work?
I met with some folks on an informal basis, at a potluck hosted by the City of Shoreline's green team, and then got to participate in King County Green Tools' Sustainable Cities Roundtable. What I saw were some truly dedicated and intelligent individuals grappling with all the right questions, and reporting on the fairly sophisticated projects they have underway. There are a million reasons to get discouraged, but the work at the local level is really where much of the work is being done. And you've been pretty successful in the Pacific Northwest providing leadership in sustainable development.
In what way?
Well, this where the Living Building Challenge came from, for example. And you have the legacy of leaders like Greg Nickels and Ron Sims who years ago recognized that we'd already locked in harm from climate change, and that we needed to look at adaptation not just prevention. One thing I've noticed is that local government leaders in the Northwest are willing to look beyond their jurisdictional borders and beyond serving only constituents. For them it's about truly serving the public and the well-being of all.
What advice would you give to public sector folks working in the trenches?
First I would caution them to prepare for the disruption that climate change will -- not may -- produce. Our best hope is for a soft landing. Cities need to plan for that transition and look at how to provide the basics -- food, water, health care -- using local resources. Second, I would celebrate what you are already doing. For the Sustainable Roundtable discussion, we met in the Kenmore City Hall. This is a LEED Gold Building that narrowly missed Platinum. LEED isn't perfect but it does provide accountability. The quality of light, air, and acoustics was just so high in that building. People feel better and produce more in green buildings. In conventional buildings, everyone's tense with their shoulders up around their ears. Keep up with good, basic green building practices -- performance contracting, transit oriented development, green team management, keeping yourself accountable by using LEED for your public buildings.
One of the issues public servants face is the lack of financial resources, especially with the economic downturn, do you have any suggestions? Foster initiatives that bring businesses together to work on conservation, perhaps through their Chamber of Commerce. Improved profitability through sustainability will both improve your local economy (and thus your tax base), but it will also help meet your goal of sustainability.
Since not all businesses have the resources of a Walmart, my organization has developed a rapid e-learning tool (Solutions @ the speed of business)
to help small businesses (which is what comprises the majority of business in most towns) improve their profitability through sustainable practices. You can also look at local educational institutions for students that might help coach small businesses in sustainability. We are working with the City of San Rafael, where students from the Dominican Green MBA program provide this kind of hands-on assistance. BGI's internship program is an obvious resource for coaches here.
Hunter Lovins, author and a promoter of sustainable development for over 30 years, is president and founder of Natural Capitalism Solutions, a 501(c)3 non-profit in Colorado. She teaches sustainable business management at Bainbridge Graduate Institute (BGI) in Seattle, Washington, and Denver University. She co-founded with Amory Lovins, her then-husband, the Rocky Mountain Institute (RMI), which she led for 20 years. Named a "green business icon" by Newsweek, a millennium "Hero of the Planet" by Time Magazine, she has also received the Right Livelihood Award, the Leadership in Business Award and dozens of other honors.
Kathleen O'Brien is Editor of Building Capacity Blog, and contributes monthly to the Daily Journal of Commerce's Green Building Blog. Like Hunter, she has been in the sustainable development field for nearly three decades. She provides consulting on special projects for O'Brien & Company, the firm she founded over 20 years ago, and provides leadership training and mentoring through her legacy project: The Emerge Leadership Project. Her book The Northwest Green Home Primer, is popular with both professionals and laypersons alike.
Chris Edlin, Donna Trost, and Kathleen O'Brien from O'Brien and Company attended Living Future 2012 in Portland. In addition to enjoying great food at the local street food carts for lunch, we picked up some tasty tidbits we'd like to share with Building Capacity fans. Please keep in mind we weren't everywhere, and this isn't everything we participated in, either.
Note: If you were there and you have additional highlights (or critiques) you want to share, COMMENT on this post. If you weren't there, you can download or view presentations at Living Future 2012 -- and start planning now to go to Living Future, Seattle, 2013. They are (happily) capping attendance at 1000 (this year's tally), so don't miss out.
Both Kathleen and Donna attended sessions focused on money -- how to get it (funding) and how to get others to spend it (investment). The bottom line for the first continues to be creative partnerships that produce projects that have multiple uses (and therefore benefits) that can be monetized and "pitched" to potential funders. The Portland Public School District hooked up with the Boys and Girls Club and the University Park Recreation Center in a partnership that not only saved the school from building their o wn gymnasium but also created a Community Campus for the largest revitalization project in Oregon history. Hood River Middle School's new science and music building; and greenhouse doubles as the local farmers’ market on weekends and offers its amphitheatre for public use.
The Vernonia School in Northwest Oregon was able to achieve LEED Platinum partly because it also serves as a community and emergency center and received funding to rebuild its flood damaged school (on higher ground!) for these uses; in addition the school was able to meet FSC wood goals because it included local lumber companies in its planning discussions. Another reason the Vernonia School succeeded in its fundraising is its decision to work with local residents first to approve a bond measure. This local buy-in was compelling when the district applied for county, state, and federal funding.
Partnership also figures in moving the needle on real estate investment. A team, including Jason Twill (Vulcan), David Batker (Earth Economics), Theddi Wright Chappell (Cushman & Wakefield), Stuart Cowan (Autopoiesis), reported on the work they've done to identify where the investment barriers (and opportunities) are now relevant to sustainable real estate. The results of their efforts, which they now call Phase I, are included in "Economics of Change: Catalyzing the Investment Shift Towards a Restorative Built Environment." They are now partnered with the International Living Future Institute (ILFI) for Phase 2, which is anticipated to produce an open source investment decision making tool that integrates public and private benefits not currently considered for a variety of reasons. In the U.S. where investors are driven primarily on ROI, going beyond LEED Platinum is not yet defensible, in the opinion of the panelists. In Phase 2, the team hopes their work will help justify investments in meeting the performance requirements of the Living Building Challenge.
Another tool that might be used to justify investment in the future if and when decarbonization becomes a defensible real estate investment has been hatched in Chicago by architects Adrian Smith and Gordon Gill. The decarbonization strategies they are promoting for existing buildings and infrastructure are familiar to most of us, but the new angle is a calculator that provides feedback on the potential carbon emissions reduction these design strategies have in a specific building project and/or a district (in their research case the Chicago Loop). Of course, one hopes that investors will look at this data in the context of other benefits.
What's the Economy, Stupid?
Turning perceptions on their head is a regular exercise at the Living Future Unconference. This year was no exception. The Living Future bookstore featured "What's the Economy For Anyway?" co-authored by David Batker (mentioned above) with John de Graaf. The book explains "why it's time to stop chasing growth and start pursuing happiness." David and Kathleen traded books and autographs, and Kathleen just lauuuvs the book -- really.
Donna attended a session on "Living Economies," which posed the need for a more complete articulation of economic value (to include social and natural assets now seen as externalities to the economy) as a design problem, not a design constraint, and suggested that Biomimicry could be the framework for solving this problem.
Vandana Shiva offered an inspiring keynote at the conference that touched on the Living Future conference theme "Women Reshaping the World." She described the critical importance of seeing nature as a living feminine being, not an industrial resource to keep the world's GDP spinning upward. With her project Naydanya (Nine Seeds), and her book "Soil not Oil" she is working for food security in India, while enlarging the definition of economic value to include seeds, soil, and the protection of nature as a whole.
This larger view of our natural, living systems should not be unfamiliar, but a form of "Re-Connecting." Chris enjoyed a presentation by Bill Reed (Alliance for Regeneration) and John Boecker (7Group), which explored the nature and practice of pattern thinking to harmonize the interrelationships between human aspirations (where the economy comes in) and the nature of living systems.
Speaking of the larger view, Pliny Fisk, as usual, invited us to his orbit on EcoBalance design, but thank goodness, Gail Vittori (his life partner and his Co-Director at the Center for Maximum Building Potential) was there to explain what Pliny was talking about. (It's okay, Pliny can take it, he and Kathleen are old pals.) Chris' take-homes: think in cycles, utilize new information visualization tools to bring together abundant and complex data, reprogram thinking that your product will look different, and learn the value of cycles and regeneration.
See Women Lead
To be honest, Kathleen, and several of her women colleagues, cringed at first when this year's theme was announced at the 2011 conference. Would the conference "trivialize" women's issues by making the their contributions "special?" Although there were a few odd moments in the program -- for example why (???) should women especially be the ones balancing business and families, the topic of one session. (Shouldn't we all be concerned about that? Let's hear it for paternity leave!) And a keynote by Carol Sanford that seemed to promote being tough and argumentative, while selling her book (Did anyone not know the name of her current and future books by the time you left the talk? Shame on you.)
But there were two workshops on the theme that were just terrific. The first launched "Making Women's Leadership Visible"-- an advocacy project that involves women interviewing each other as a way to make our achievements visible. As women readers are painfully aware, women are generally uncomfortable taking credit for their work, often qualifying their claims with "helped, was instrumental in developing, was part of a team, etc." Nothing wrong with these statements, except that men don't seem to share this discomfort. Project principals Ann Edminster (Design Avenues), Christine Magar (Greenform), and Karen Tucker (iLiv) believe that building womens' ability to stand up and be counted will actually benefit all of us . For the curious, interviews are located on youtube channel seewomenlead. If you want to contribute an interview, contact any one of these folks for the instructions.
The second workshop included a panel of women leaders ranging in age from the mid 20s to the early 80s. Besides the fact that this was a total hoot for the panelists (we know this firsthand, since Kathleen was on the panel) it was clear that the topic and the workshop design were pretty darn engaging. From what we can tell, not a single person -- woman or man -- left before the session was over! In addition to visual presentations and stories by each participant, focusing on significant moments in each panelist's professional development, as well as personal inspiration and achievements, a timeline exercise designed by Ellen Southard (Site Story) allowed participants to identify critical moments in their lives that led to their current passion and involvement in sustainability. And Marj Barlow (The Possible Woman) and Nadine Gudz (InterfaceFlor) led an affirmation exercise that brought the session to a resounding and hope-filled finale. Other panelists for this workshop included Patti Southard (King County Green Tools), Jamie Statter (Clinton Global Initiative), and Kerry Mason (TetraTech).
Chris was particularly moved by Pete Munoz (Natural Systems International) in the closing session, who emotionally voiced his opinion that the UnConference theme was not about gender at all, but about all of us integrating the qualities often associated with the feminine. This attitude will go a long way towards redefining the value of money, the scope of our economy, and the health of our professional community.