Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Looking for a Professional Credential in Sustainability?

By: April Brown
Senior Projects Manager


In 2011, the MIT Sloan Management Review's sustainability survey of global corporate leaders found that about 70% of respondents are increasing their commitment to sustainability within their organization, a drastic growth from the 2009 version of this survey, which was only 25%. Consequently, in the last decade, a career in sustainability management has gone from virtually non-existent to ranking as "hot" on a list of in-demand professions. 
From third-party sustainability consulting to salaried sustainability management staff and C-Suite executives, millennials have an ever increasing opportunity to find a job that makes an impact and aligns with their values. Furthermore, the massive growth in demand for higher education degrees in sustainability has led to corresponding growth in degrees in social and environmental business and management among most colleges and universities throughout the states - big and small, public and private.


That said, until now, there has not been a professional credential that assesses and maintains the professional expectations and competency of the sustainability practitioner.  The International Society for Sustainability Professionals (ISSP), whose mission is to empower professionals to advance sustainability in organizations and communities throughout the globe, is setting out to change that. ISSP started in 2007 and, since then, they served their mission by providing professional development in the form of webinars and a structured sustainability certificate program. Additionally, ISSP provides  a professional membership program and resources for active members. In the last few years, ISSP has been seeking input and feedback on the needs of the field through a handful of surveys of working sustainability professionals.  

The results show professional certifications and credentials are what hiring managers look for in the candidate pool. Since 2010, ISSP has developed a comprehensive understanding of the core competencies and job task requirements for a sustainability practitioner. With this thorough understanding, which they have published on their website, they are now developing 2 professional credentialing exams, ISSP Sustainability Associate and ISSP Certified Sustainability Professional, which will be available to the public in November 2015.  

What is a sustainability practitioner?
According to ISSP, a sustainability practitioner is a professional who spends more than 25% of his or her time planning, implementing, managing, and reporting sustainability efforts for organizations and/or communities. This includes internal and external practitioners.

While the complete details are still under development, what they do know is that the two levels will require the following, in addition to on-going professional development to maintain the credential:
  • ISSP Sustainability Associate - Individuals who are new to the field of sustainability but have sufficient education and training to pass a test on basic knowledge and understanding of key sustainability concepts. Specific eligibility requirements include:
    • Complete application form and pay application fee
    • Sign the Code of Ethics Declaration
    • Pass the ISSP-SA Certification Exam
  • ISSP Certified Sustainability Professional - Experienced sustainability practitioners who demonstrate a combination of sustainability-related work experience and formal education. The certification for the ISSP CSP will be awarded to those who pass a more comprehensive test based on ISSP's job task analysis. Specific elegibility requirements include: 
    • Complete application form and pay application fee
    • Meet the ISSP-SA requirements 
    • Pass ISSP-CSP Certification Exam 
    • Meet certain educational qualifications 
    • Meet certain work experience qualifications
The exams will cover a comprehensive list of job tasks that are documented in a 20-page report by ISSP. In summary, an ISSP Certified Sustainability Professional should be competent in the following areas:

  1. Core Sustainability Concepts - Demonstrate a familiarity with foundational concepts of sustainability
  2. Stakeholder Engagement - Develop and maintain interpersonal relationships with key stakeholders
  3. Plan Sustainability Strategies - Lead and influence the creation of comprehensive sustainability strategies and systems
  4. Implement Sustainability Strategies - Manage the implementation of sustainability strategies and initiatives
  5. Evaluate Sustainability Efforts
  6. Adjust Plans 
Each exam is a 2-hour, 100-question online exam. All candidates must begin at the Sustainability Associate level and progress to the Certified Sustainability Professional level. Specific eligibility requirements do apply. The questions will be randomly generated from a pool of 1000 questions contributed by a team of subject-matter experts. Because the exam is delivered online, candidates will know their score immediately upon completion. A candidate must earn a score of at least 80% on the certification exam to pass. As with any professional credential, there will be credentialing maintenance and professional development requirements, within a 3-year reporting period.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

The 5 Principles of Innovative Teams

Projects Manager

Building design and construction is incredibly complex.  Countless perspectives and disciplines—from users to engineers, architects, contractors, craftsmen, and financiers—are required to collaborate in order to design a multitude of building systems that will work in harmony, while also being functional and beautiful.  The process we use to bring together these individuals is called integrative design (ID).

Why integrative design? 
To many, this simply means getting more people in the room. But is more people and more meetings really what it takes to develop meaningful solutions? 

The Integrative Design Process is the arguably largest determinant of the success and efficiency of a building. Along with the advancement of building technologies, this process is a critical tool in reducing the environmental impact of buildings and supporting the health of those who inhabit them. So it’s really important we get this right.

But with so many people involved, how can we come to better decisions faster?
Most design teams would agree that the Integrative Process is meaningful, but they are often overwhelmed with the number of people that should be at the table and the time required to make decisions in large groups.  They often ask, how can we come to better decisions faster?

IBE: Taking research to practice
In 2009, the Institute for the Built Environment, Dr. Jeni Cross and additional CSU researchers began evaluating what differentiates the best integrative design projects from those that struggled.  From this research, we discovered that team structure was one of the primary indicators of success in the ID process. 

We used social network analysis to visualize teams and illustrate the people, relationships, and structure of teams.  These diagrams showed that although diverse team membership is necessary, this is not all that is required to support collaboration and innovation.  Instead, it is the communication patterns and relationships between people that distinguishes successful integrative design teams.

So, how do we create successful integrative design teams?
Through this research, we identified five key principles of Integrative Design.  By using these principles, teams can build a network with the capacity to make better decisions faster.

1. A Facilitator Guides the Team

A trained facilitator is necessary to moderate the interactions on a team and build trust. Facilitators also develops willingness to take risks and openness to learning within the team, while encouraging equal participation.

Every Team Needs a Cat Herder 

2. The Team Establishes Rules of Interaction

Teams must establish ground rules to guide their interaction.  These ground rules most often resemble:
-Everyone knows everyone
-We all have an equal voice & an expectation to contribute
-Decisions are informed by whole group input
-We are all learning and don’t individually have all the answers

3. The Team has Diverse and Inclusive Membership 

Innovation doesn't happen in a team with people who all think the same or have the same perspectives and opinion. Diversity is required in order to bring the unique data, perspectives, and specialized expertise which are necessary for innovation.

4. The Team has a Core-Periphery Structure 

The core team is dense and everyone is very connected (everyone knows everyone), but this team reaches out to a periphery of resources to bring in new ideas and information to the group.

5. The Team Utilizes Integrative Decision Making

The team utilizes a process of generating major decisions as a group, vetting them with appropriate individuals, making sure they align with project vision and goals, and refining decisions as a team.


To learn more about optimal team structure, why it is critical to success, and how to create it download the new white paper, the Social Network of Integrative Design.

At IBE, our mission is to advance the development of healthy thriving built environments, and we do this by taking research to practice.  So, take advantage of the other white papers, presentations, and publications in our research library to advance your knowledge and your work. 

Monday, March 30, 2015

Zero Waste or the Six R’s

By: Allison Smith
Sustainable Associate

In primary school I was introduced to the three R’s: reduce, reuse, and recycle. At school and at home, we sorted cans, glass, and cardboard for recycling. All the messages focused on recycling with a secondary emphasis on reusing, and little to no focus on reducing our waste. Zero Waste is a whole systems approach to waste reduction.

Today, advocates have expanded on the three R’s and frequently include a variant of the following: redesign, refuse, and rot. 

Redesign: goods should be designed to minimize their resource use, including packaging. A smart manufacturer should understand that waste is wasted profit. Though this is corporate responsibility, as consumers we can ‘vote with our dollars’ and buy long lasting, durable goods.
Refuse: As consumers we should refuse freebies (pens!), refuse printed receipts (opt for an emailed receipt), and refuse purchasing products with excessive packaging.
Rot: In lieu of throwing out compostable items, compost organics and encourage your community to establish curbside compost and/or biodigesters

Your compostable waste is packed so tightly at landfills that it will not decompose. As I continue to learn more about sustainability and regeneration, I’ve learned it’s not about the last two R’s I learned about as a kid, but really about the first neglected one: reduce. We need to focus on REDUCE-ing our resource use to create a truly sustainable society.  

Zero Waste, as defined by the Zero Waste International Alliance, is a means of “designing and managing products and processes to systematically avoid and eliminate the volume and toxicity or waste and materials, conserve and recover all resources, and not burn or bury them.” The process is similar to that found in nature, wherein resources aren’t disposed of to never be used again but are truly reused and recycled into new life.

Last year, following the lead of other worldwide communities, the city of Fort Collins adopted a Zero Waste plan. The plan focuses on four priorities:
Culture Change: raise awareness!
Reduce and Reuse: those other two R’s we learned in primary school!
Compostable Organics Out of Landfills: Rot!
Construction, Deconstruction and Demolition: divert debris from construction related activities!
The expansion of the city recycling requirement for construction projects and the development of a waste management plan is a move in the right direction. This is addressing the third-R and for those of us working with the built environment we should look for ways to promote zero waste throughout the design, construction, operations, and deconstruction of projects.

As we move forward we need to adopt zero-waste sensibilities at home, at work, and in the community. If you follow design blogs and periodicals trend pieces, you are aware that minimalism and tiny house living are gaining traction and are closely aligned with zero-waste principles. Many of us are unlikely to achieve the levels of BeaJohnson and her family’s trash reduction to less than a quart a year or of Beth Terry’s eschewing of plastic from her life, but each decision in reduction is a move towards a community I want to belong to. Perhaps Mahatma Gandhi said it best, “Be the change that you wish to see in the world.”


Additional Resources:
Books:
Connett, P. (2013). The zero waste solution: untrashing the planet one community at a time. Chelsea Green Publishing.
Humes, E. (2012). Garbology: Our dirty love affair with trash. Penguin.
McDonough, W., & Braungart, M. (2010). Cradle to cradle: Remaking the way we make things. MacMillan.
Royte, E. (2007). Garbage land: On the secret trail of trash. Back Bay Books.

Blogs and websites:
Plastic Free Life by Beth Terry http://myplasticfreelife.com/
Zero Waste Home by Bea Johnson http://www.zerowastehome.com/
Zero Waste Fort Collins http://www.fcgov.com/zerowaste/

Movies:
Trashed (2012) documentary with Jeremy Irons


Tuesday, March 10, 2015

UPCOMING EVENTS: Designing for Hope Lectures

We are entering a time when many tipping points will be passed, resulting in unexpected consequences. Yet, a growing group sees opportunity and the potential of thriving cities and environments. Based on the book, Designing for Hope: Pathways to Regenerative Sustainability, Dominique and Joel will convey a beneficial way of re-imagining design and development. Designing for Hope contends that we can actively create a positive and abundant future through a living systems-based worldview. The presentation will pose questions such as: 'How can projects focus on creating a positive eco-footprint and contribute to community?', 'How does design focus hope and create a positive legacy?', and ‘If nature is the master designer, what are the lessons we can gain from looking at her patterns and processes?’ Dominique and Joel’s work are recognized by leaders in the movements of Regenerative Development, Sustainable Cities, Biophilic Design, Biomimicry, Permaculture, and Positive Development.

Designing for Hope Lecture in Denver

Lecture featuring Dr. Dominique Hes
Wednesday, March 25th
5:30pm-7:30pmThe Alliance Center
1536 Wynkoop St, Denver, CO 80202


While the lecture is free, registration is required. Space is limited.
>>Register Here<<


Patterns for a Hopeful Future Lecture in Fort Collins

Lecture featuring Dr. Dominique Hes and Joel Glanzberg
Thursday, March 26th
6:00-8:00pm
New Belgium Brewing Company, Tasting Room500 Linden St., Fort Collins, CO 80524

While the lecture is free, registration is required. Space is limited.
>>Register Here<<

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Biophilia and Placemaking: Influencing Design Decisions

Sustainable Building Associate

What role does nature and our inherent need for natural connections or biophilia play in placemaking?  To understand the relationship between placemaking and sense of place and biophilia, we must first understand biophilia, biophilic design, and placemaking.
According to E. O. Wilson (1984), biophilia is defined as “the connections that human beings subconsciously seek with the rest of life; the urge to affiliate with other forms of life”.  Wilson and Kellert (1993) take this definition one step further, and define it as “the inherent human inclination to affiliate with natural systems and processes, especially life and life-like features of the non-human environment”.   So if biophilia is the connections we seek with the rest of life, it would make sense that biophilic design would be the “deliberate attempt to translate an understanding of the inherent human affinity to affiliate with natural systems and processes (known as biophilia) into the design of the built environment” (Kellert, 2008).
Placemaking or sense of place as it is sometimes called is thought to be “an overarching idea and a hands-on tool for improving a neighborhood, city or region” (What is Placemaking, 2015) that is “a multi-faceted approach to the planning, design and management of public spaces” that “capitalizes on a local community’s assets, inspiration, and potential, ultimately creating good public spaces that promote people’s health, happiness, and wellbeing” (Placemaking, 2015).
How might we use biophilic design to promote people’s health, happiness, and well-being?  According to the text Biophilic Design: The Theory, Science, and Practice of Bringing Buildings to Life (Kellert, 2008), there is an element of biophilic design that specifically addresses place and place-based relationships.  This element and the corresponding attributes can be used to connect the built environment to the area in which it is located.  Kellert (2008) defines place-based relationships as “the successful marriage of culture with ecology in a geographical context”.  Through biophilic design you can create place-based relationships through a historical, cultural, geographical, and/or ecological connection to place.  You can also use the landscape and materials of the location to create place through the use of indigenous materials, use of the landscape in defining the building form, and creating wildlife corridors and promoting biodiversity.

While the Biophilic Design text gives wonderful descriptions of these elements and attributes of biophilic design, it was still somewhat theoretical and conceptual to me as a designer and educator, so I sought out images of that I thought exemplified some of these attributes.


Cultural and Historic Connection to Place:

Mesa Verde Visitors Center, Mesa Verde National Park, CO   Design by: Landmark Design and ajc architects


 Indigenous Materials:

Myrick Hixon EcoPark, La Crosse, WI  Design and Photo by: Whole Trees Architecture & Structures


Ecological Connection to Place:

Nest Home, Onomichi, Japan  Design by: UID Architects   Photo by: Hiroshi Ueda







References:
Kellert, Stephen R., and Edward O. Wilson. The Biophilia Hypothesis. Washington, D.C.: Island, 1993.
Kellert, Stephen R., Judith Heerwagen, and Martin Mador. Biophilic Design: The Theory, Science, and Practice of Bringing Buildings to Life. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley, 2008.
Placemaking. (n.d.). In  Wikipedia. Retrieved February 27, 2015, from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Placemaking
What Is Placemaking? (n.d.). In Project for Public Spaces. Retrieved February 27, 2015, from http://www.pps.org/reference/what_is_placemaking/
Wilson, Edward O. Biophilia. Cambridge, MA: Harvard UP, 1984.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Self Driving Cars & the Future of Urban Environments

By: Austin Good
Sustainable Associate 

Self driving cars are coming. It’s not a question of if but when. Google has recently unveiled its latest self driving machine which will soon be hitting public roads for testing . It is theorized that these self-driving cars will be far safer than human operated cars as they are able to constantly survey their surroundings and are programed to take less risks than a person might. What if the introduction of self-driving cars could reduce the 1.3 million deaths from car crashes each year – most of which are largely due to human error. In addition, self-driving cars could also create huge advances in efficiency by communicating with each other on the road. The benefits seem overwhelmingly positive. But what will this mean for our cities?

Public car pools

Googles Latest Self Driving Car Prototype via Google
Once self-driving cars take hold, one likely scenario is that people won’t own private cars anymore.
Instead, whenever you would need to get around you would simply summon a car from the public pool, probably with your smartphone, and then be taken to your destination. This ‘ride share’  system could be run by private companies or by municipalities. This scenario would not only be more efficient than today’s private car model, but would be much more cost effective. Socially, this could mean more equal access to transportation regardless of wealth, ability, or age. This is also a huge win for the environment as only a fraction of cars would need to be manufactured.

Fewer parking lots, more parks

The urban environment we have built is largely based off of our love affair with the car. The infrastructure that cars require for parking and driving has shaped our cities. So what will self-driving cars and the likely outcome of car pools impact this infrastructure? Simply put, we would have a lot more space. Without the need for so many parking lots and parking garages per capita, imagine what we could design. Former parking areas would create  new infill opportunities within our current city boundaries, helping to rein in urban sprawl. We could create more walkable neighborhoods or reintroduce natural areas in the hearts of our cities. The amount of impervious area in our built environment could be cut down drastically, allowing for better handling of storm water and urban runoff. The safety and efficiency of self-driving cars could allow cities to reduce the number of lanes on roads, which could be reclaimed for green areas, expanded sidewalks, or bike lanes.  Self-driving cars would make it much safer to ride a bike or walk near roadways by reducing collisions. This could create new bike and pedestrian networks allowing people to live healthier lifestyles.
Space once used for parking and road lanes could
become urban gathering places, much like
Denver's 16th St. Mall.
One potential challenge of the self-driving can could be an increase in urban sprawl. Just as the car helped to create the suburbs, self-driving cars could allow people to live even further from work – due to increase driving speed, safety, and decreased congestion.  This could perpetuate the problems with urban sprawl, such as taking away farm land and natural areas.
In all likelihood, self driving cars are the future. This future presents many opportunities for us to strengthen our cities economically, socially and environmentally. In order to insure success, we need to begin imagining a new transportation system and a vision for our cities. Through innovative design and smart planning we’ll be able to create truly sustainable places in our transition to a more automated world.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

So you want to be a sustainable business?


By April Brown, Projects Manager

You might be asking yourself - What does a sustainable business look like? Where do I start?
The path toward organizational sustainability will look a little different for everyone. Simply speaking, a good first step is to make a plan that includes sustainability goals and activities that will support the organization becoming more sustainable overtime: it’s a journey, not a destination.
“In my opinion, there are four primary areas that you should consider when developing a sustainability investment plan: management infrastructure, eco-efficiency programs, strategic initiatives, and marketing programs,” reflects Geoffrey Barneby of the FairRidge Group. “Clearly, there is a need to address these areas somewhat sequentially; you cannot successfully market sustainability before making strategic changes, and you cannot develop strategic initiatives without already having an appropriate management infrastructure in place. There is, however, room for overlap and most mature companies manage to do all four in parallel.”
Setting measurable goals and tracking your progress is important, so it is good to identify your goals and opportunities before starting to retrofit the bathroom sink faucets. In a recent article on GreenBiz.com, a sustainability consultant shared feedback he's received from a client that also illustrates the traction integrated sustainability is gaining. He said, 
"We've gone through a paradigm shift on sustainable development in the last year. It's no longer seen as an environmental thing. It's fully integrated into the way we think and plan around economic growth."
Sustainability efforts are, also, most successful when you elect and empower someone to spearhead your sustainability efforts and make sure your goals remain on track. This position is a 21st century invention that has created jobs in the leadership ranks of most large companies, including Fortune 500 companies and political and economic powerhouses. Depending on rank, authority and responsibility titles range from “Chief Sustainability Officer” to “Sustainability Director” to or “Sustainability Analyst.” Sustainability professionals, like any high paid professional, require a certain level of knowledge and training. While there are more and more undergraduate and graduate degrees with a focus on sustainability, there is a shortage of qualified professionals to lead and implement strategic sustainable business initiatives. To help professionals keep up with the changing demands of the sustainable future, the Institute for the Built Environment at Colorado State University has created online courses for professionals to learn and practice the skills and tools they need to lead their organization’s sustainability initiatives. The online learning platform, which is being offered by OnlinePlus at Colorado State University, is intended for busy professionals; therefore classes are designed to accommodate typical business schedules.
“By participating in this program, you will enter into this important movement toward healthy economies, cities, and work practices and learn and apply real skills from leading researchers and professionals,” said April Brown, LEED AP BD+C, GGP.
"People that work in sustainability often come at it from one angle. They may ask, 'How do we best engage occupants for sustainability?' or 'How do we retrofit our facility to get the biggest bang for our buck?',” said Jeni Cross, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Sociology, Colorado State University and expert instructor for the Integrated Sustainability Management Certificate program. "While these are really important questions, this program focuses on the systems approach, which will teach you how to use the work in one quadrant to leverage bigger change in the other quadrants.” 
To build the holistic mindset, the program is set up into 4 quadrants: people, resources, facilities, and organization.

When you have created your plan and you’ve designated someone to implement it, the next question you might ask yourself is – How? Much of the how relies on people adopting more sustainable behaviors. Much about behavior change is to be learned from social sciences. Jeni Cross, leading sociology researcher at Colorado State University, tell us about three myths of behavior change during a popular Tedx talk.

Cross explains that we all think we know how to encourage people to adopt sustainable behaviors, however, most of our encouragement actually does nothing to change anyone’s behavior. There are proven techniques for engaging behaviors of occupants and employees that support the organizational sustainability goals that should not be overlooked.

Business leaders worldwide agree that sustainability is an opportunity for growth and innovation, according to a 2013 report of CEOs’ views on creating a sustainable economy. Organizational sustainability is one of the fastest developing sectors of business in our modern world. Business is developing a heightened awareness on the importance of global issues, including social justice, climate change, energy independence, and water scarcity. Moreover, businesses are finding competitive advantage through sustainability and corporate responsibility. As an organization or business, taking sustainable strides will sincerely help you keep up with the growing market and increasing demand for transparency and responsibility. In the process, you can make a better place for your employees and a better product for your customers. Start by making a sustainability plan, then designate a knowledgeable Sustainability Coordinator to spearhead the initiatives outlined in the plan, and use tools from social science to engage your employees and building occupants and create a sustainability-minded culture to meet your sustainability goals and create lasting impact in your business.