Monday, October 29, 2012

IBE Employee Presents at National Passive House Conference

By: Cody Farmer, MCM, Passive House Designer
                              IBE Green Building Certificate Online Instructor

"The National Passive House Conference recently brought building scientists, architects, engineers, designers and builders, and high-tech vendors to Denver the last week of September. One of our very own Cody Farmer was a featured speaker on construction management and cost control of building one of Colorado’s first Passive House’. Cody finished his Masters in Sustainable Building in 2010 and with his wife Lisa turned their focus on Passive Building taking their company MainStream to the next level and later co-founded Rocky Mountain Passive House, and became founding members of Denver Passive House Alliance.

The conference covered every detail of building Passive House buildings including cost and management, delivery methods, creating business from Passive House, case studies, and monitoring actual performance. Both Cody and Lisa spoke about their project Passivista, a 3 bedroom, 2 bathroom house that was on-tour Sunday for over 80 conference attendees. More than 200 people have now toured the Passivista including representation from the EPA, DOE, HUD, USGBC, and Dept. of Indian Affairs. (

Besides the 5,000 recycled newspapers in the Passivista thermal envelop, and the continuous filtered fresh air system, the hype over the building is likely its simplicity in makeup and intent study of removing energy losses from the building alone. The jury is still out on how the owners will impact the predicted energy usage of the 3,000 sqft home. The current heating demand without any renewables is 3.7 btu/Sqft/yr. And heat will be supplied by a cute little Vermont Castings direct vent gas stove.

People picture our first imported Heat Recovery Ventilation System, AirPohoda, from Czech: from Left to Right (Michal Placek, Roman Salomoun, Cody Farmer, Lisa Farmer)."

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

CLEAR Survey: We Need Your Input

We need your input!

Growing out of IBE’s LENSES work, a new non-profit called the Center for Living Environments & Regeneration (CLEAR) was created to cultivate, empower, and equip a generation of leaders to implement regenerative solutions. Participate in our survey to help us help you become a leader in regeneration.

Just five minutes or so of your time can help CLEAR ensure that our programs are as effective as possible. For the chance to win a $100 gift card to Ten Thousand Villagesplease respond by Friday, November 5.

Creating an Upward Spiral of Value: The responsible business and sustainability

By: Josie Plaut, Associate Director

Over the past 10 years businesses has taken a notable interest in the idea of sustainability. From Fortune 500 companies to small firms and boutique operations, everybody wants to be green. Some companies and organizations, of course, are more successful than others. Shining stars like Interface Carpet, Patagonia, and Seven Generations have integrated sustainability into their core business identity – their corporate DNA. Most companies, however, struggle to fully integrate sustainability as an integral part of their business. One of the reasons for this is that green initiatives are often viewed as an add-on, optional (and often costly) measures that feel good, but are not a fundamental component of good business practice. Like lipstick on a pig…

Carol Sanford’s recent book, “The Responsible Business: Reimagining sustainability and success,” shows how sustainability is an integral part of being a good company.  She uses a star diagram to represent the path toward the quintessential top line – the ultimate measure of success.  The five components / stakeholders are Customers, Co-creators, Earth, Community and Investors.  Like tightening down the lug nuts on the wheel of your car, each of these stakeholders is addressed in a star pattern – none too fast and all are equally important.  The key is to add value beyond expectation in each of these areas, simultaneously.

  • Customers: Start by truly understanding your customers’ life – understand, maybe better than they do, their needs, wants, hopes and dreams.  Ensure the customer feels you are taking better care of them than competitors would.
  • Co-Creators:  Actively develop and engage the creativity and thinking capacity of your employees and key business partners (collectively called co-creators) to serve the customer.  Establishing and maintaining a direct connection between co-creators to the lives of your customers is essential.
  • Earth: Understand how your business is directly dependent on the earth and the services it provides.  Then cultivate a partnership with the earth that enriches and nourishes the systems that your business depends on to ensure that those resources will be available into the future.
  • Community: Become a member of your community through understanding, respecting and building on the special characteristics, strengths and needs of each place.  
  • Investors: By time you have done the other four, there is an upward spiral of value creation that directly benefits the investors.  Increased customer loyalty, remarkable organizational alignment driven by shared purpose, ecological responsibility and strong community connections result in exceptional returns.
Increasingly, environmental, social and corporate governance (ESG) practices are becoming metrics for investors and community members to judge the quality and character of companies.  Goldman Sach’s recently looked at 25 environmental, social and corporate governance indicators across companies in a variety of sectors and found that the ones who performed the best on the ESG indicators also provided 25% higher returns on their stocks than their competitors.  The time to make deep and meaningful shifts toward being a responsible business is now.

This isn’t just for big business, though. Small and medium size companies stand to benefit from taking a responsible business approach.  A great local example right here in Ft. Collins is New Belgium Brewery.  Heck, I don’t even like beer and I’m loyal to them as a company! Why is that? Because they have done a remarkable job of addressing the quintessential top line.  Scotch anyone?

Sustainable Demonstration Home Coming to CSU

By: Sam Hartley, Sustainable Living Associate
                                  M.S. Interior Design

IBE (Institute for the Built Environment) has been given the opportunity to represent SoGES (School of Global Environmental Sustainability) in the Blue Dot Demonstration/Research House, which will be built on the CSU campus in 2013.

IBE was introduced to Jim Gregory, an innovative thinking developer, who believes the construction industry should “move the needle” closer to sustainable practices. His purview is that current construction practices typically create large homes with leaky construction techniques, requiring much energy to maintain a comfortable living environment. An Interdisciplinary group of students at CSU, led by Brian Dunbar and Samala Hartley, will design and build the demonstration home to represent affordable and sustainable building practices. The home will have a small footprint, a tight and efficient building envelope, efficient heating and cooling systems (including passive solar techniques), and will consider water reuse and renewable energy strategies. The goal of this project is to share applied successes with other builders around the country.

The blue dot demonstration house is an exciting opportunity for students from many disciplines to experience the real world design process. The integration of their various disciplines will ensure a well-designed project from the shrubs to the solar panels and everything in between. Students are involved from the departments of Landscape, Construction Management, Interior Design, and Civil Engineering.

Once built on campus, three lucky students will live in the home each semester, where they can learn to live sustainably and share their experiences with others. The home will have real time monitoring of energy use for all to see on scheduled tours of the site.

The home will also be designed to be a canvas for research at CSU, both now and in the future. Current research will include rain water capture and graywater reuse. Behavioral research regarding sustainable living may also be implemented.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Duke Farms - Living Habitats: Center for Land Stewardship and Sustainability

By: Erin Nuckols, Sustainable Building Associate
M.A. History

At the Association for Preservation Trades / Preservation Trades Network joint conference in Charleston, South Carolina, I attended a session under the auspice of “Sustainable Preservation.” Little did I know, I had stumbled upon one of the most interesting case studies to date for environmental and cultural stewardship – Duke Farms.

Orchid Range at Duke Farms
This lesser known historic site rests quietly in Hillsborough, New Jersey. Through their commitment as a center for land stewardship and sustainability, Duke Farms invites visitors to enjoy and learn about the natural environment while also appreciating the cultural value of the estate. Established in 1893, the farmstead quickly grew to over 2,000 acres and became one of the most magnificent estates the world had seen. Several of the original structures exist on the site today, two of which are in full-working condition and utilized by the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation to educate visitors.

Renovations began on the two structures in 2008. Housed in the Farm Barn (c.1906), the Orientation Center invites visitors to explore the history and ecology of the estate through interactive displays and exhibits. The Orientation Center features a small cafĂ© with healthy food options and Eco-kits for visitors that contain binoculars, a compass, a note pad and pencil, and a field guide for identifying plants and animals. While the Orchid Range (c.1903), provides a tour of a Coastal Plain garden and an orchid display. Adjacent to the Farm Barn is a constructed wetlands waste water system. The Farm Barn and other structures on the site are powered by a 640-kilowatt ground mounted solar array.  Restoration of the structures was environmentally conscious. The Farm Barn achieved LEED Platinum and the Orchid Range is under review for LEED Platinum, both in New Construction.

Duke Farms is free to the public along with provide a wide variety of educational opportunities for families, adults, and professionals.  Ecological stewardship is an important concept on the farm. They believe in an active process that connects with the land through recognition of plant and animal communities, attention to soil and water use, and innovative planning and implementation of best management practices. The Green Initiatives that the farm focuses on are: Adaptive Reuse of Buildings, Renewable Energy, and Care of the Environment. The farm promotes research projects in environmental stewardship and has a community garden on site that allows members of the community to grow during the April to November growing season, encouraging organic and responsible agricultural methods.

I hope you get a chance to visit Duke Farms someday. Please continue to keep in mind the value of Integrated Design and Adaptive Reuse when considering your next project. A regenerative community is one that goes above and beyond the structure you are in - it is educational foundation that you depart with and the “pay it forward” mentality that matter greatly to shifting our paradigm. 

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Chrisna du Plessis: Your Role in a Regenerative World (Video)

Colorado State University hosted the presentation, Your Role in a Regenerative World,  by renowned built environment expert, Chrisna du Plessis on Wednesday, September 12th in the LEED certified Lory Student Center Theater.

Chrisna du Plessis is Associate Professor in Sustainable Construction at the Department of Construction Economics of the University of Pretoria, and was formerly Principal Researcher at the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) in South Africa. She is known internationally for her work on the policy and research strategy for sustainable building within developing countries and is currently concentrating on urban sustainability science at both theoretical and technical levels.

“Chrisna is an inspirational leader in the sustainability movement – her compelling messages help all of us to envision healthy, thriving environments and cities and to understand our potential roles in places and economies that regenerate just as nature does,” said Brian Dunbar, Director at the Institute for the Built Environment.

Dr. du Plessis’ presentation, co-hosted by Colorado State University’s Institute for the Built Environment and School of Global Environmental Sustainability was made possible through regional event sponsors including: City of Fort Collins Office of Sustainability, U.S. Green Building Council- Colorado Chapter, Alliance for Sustainable Colorado, Lory Student Center, CSU Public Lands History Center, CSU Department of Design & Merchandising, CSU Department of History,  Center for the Advancement of Sustainable Enterprise, and the Sustainable Living Association.

Collegian: CSU’s Institute for the Built Environment helps Fort Collins businesses stay sustainable

When businesses in Fort Collins want to learn about sustainable building practices, they can turn to CSU’s Institute for the Built Environment (IBE).

The IBE is an on-campus non-profit focused on fostering stewardship and the sustainability of natural and built environments through research-based, interdisciplinary educational forums.

Graduate students from multiple colleges across the university — including construction management, landscape architecture, business, natural resources and interior design — have interned with IBE over the last 17 years.

“Students are given the opportunity to interact with professionals and to start to build their professional network which ultimately helps them be more employable,” Associate Director Josie Plaut said.

Students help lead trainings for companies interested in making their buildings LEED accredited and teach green sustainability programs. They are also involved in outreach education and assist in building renovation plans.

“The benefits (to students) are to interface on real world projects with real world professionals,” Project Manager April Wackerman said. “To learn how to manage time and responsibilities, to gain skills in the professional world related to consulting and green building services in the construction industry.”

IBE was created in 1994 through a grant from the College of Applied Human Sciences. According to Plaut, the dean at the time wanted to encourage more interdisciplinary work so faculty members from different colleges came together to create a project that would focus on sustainable and healthy building practices.

The governing board still has members from multiple colleges on campus, including the Department of Design and Merchandising, College of Business and the Department of Environmental and Radiological Health Sciences.

By having contributions from multiple educational disciplines, IBE is better equipped to execute project plans because each discipline offers a unique perspective, according to Elliot Dale, a green building associate.

“It’s important to get a variety of perspectives and opinions. It gives us a better understanding of the issues to be dealt with; it’s obviously challenging but it’s worth the challenges,” Dale said. “Someone might not know the construction lingo if they’re from the history department but it doesn’t mean that their viewpoints aren’t important and they can add in another, unexpected perspective.”

While IBE started at CSU and still exists within the university and is run by CSU students and staff, IBE is a completely self-funded, independent non-profit. They charge a service fee for their certification programs, trainings and outreach education. They receive no university funding and even though they are an institute within the university, IBE is an independent non-profit.

“We feel like the greatest thing we provide to the students is practical application of the theories and concepts that they learn in the classroom,” Plaut said.

Senior Reporter Kate Simmons can be reached at
Original publication from the Collegian can be found here.

Monday, October 15, 2012

People Respond to Incentives

Written by: Brody Hatch, Sustainable Building Associate
                                              Ph.D Economics
Economics is a science that relies heavily on assumptions in order to model and analyze the real world.  These assumptions can range from the idea that people are rational and will act in their own self-interest, to the idea that resources are scarce and therefore subject to the law of supply and demand.  One of the most basic and fundamental assumptions is that of incentives.  A well-known Harvard economist, Gregory Mankiw, ranked the idea that people respond to incentives at number four on his “Ten Principles of Economics” list.  In his book, The Armchair Economist, Steven Landsburg states that “most of economics can be summarized in four words: ’people respond to incentives.’  The rest is commentary.” 

People respond to many different types of incentives, some altruistic, most, not so much.  Some are motivated by a sense of duty or community in how they live their lives or the choices that they make.  The reality, however, is that the vast majority of people and corporations (especially corporations) are driven primarily by financial incentive.  This fact becomes apparent when we examine the popularity and success of super low-cost retailers, like Wal-Mart or Ikea.  Not to say that they are bad organizations, just they neither is a great example of social responsibility, at least currently.

It’s important to note that these same principles apply to the sustainability and corporate social responsibility movements.  While there are some who will willingly invest in sustainable buildings and social responsibility, most will cite the “high cost” associated with doing so as being prohibitive.  This prohibitively high cost could be the reality or it could just be perceived.  In 2007, the organization Building Design +Construction conducted a survey among a sample of its mailing list.  Among the results published in “Green Buildings Research White Paper: Where Building Owners, End Users, and AEC Professionals Stand on Sustainability and Green Building”, the group found that 86% of respondents believed that a green building cost more to construct.  Most said they believed it to be at least 6% more, with another large group saying over 15% more.  The perception alone of higher costs often deters builders and corporations from providing sustainable and responsible products. 

There are two ways to catalyze change in the business practices corporations and the behaviors of consumers for the better.  One is to make social responsibility and sustainable building cost effective for the producers (financial incentive).  If green building becomes cheaper than traditional building, green building will become the norm; the same is true with socially responsible consumer products.  This is slowly becoming a reality in green building.  A 2007 Davis Langdon Study found no significant cost difference green and non-green buildings of the same type.  A 2006 Cost and Benefits study by Greg Kats found that green building was associated with a 1-2% cost premium.  While a 2% premium may in fact represent a large amount of money when you consider multi-million dollar buildings, these increased costs are quickly recouped.  A 2008 study by the New Building Institute found that LEED buildings perform 25-30% better than average in their energy efficiency, translating into an annual cost savings of more than $8k for an average sized elementary school.

Another catalyst for change is consumer demand for change.  Individual consumers have little influence over the manner in which products are designed and produced, but collectively, consumers wield almost infinite power over producers.  In order to remain successful and profitable, corporations must adapt to the changing tastes and preferences of their consumer base.  An emerging “taste” among consumers is social responsibility and sustainability.  A 2010 Edelman Goodpurpose study found that 87% of global consumers believe that business should place and equal weight on society’s interests as on business’ interests.  The Guardian conducted a survey and found that 60% of UK consumers consider ethics when purchasing clothing, over 80% consider the environment when purchasing groceries and transport, and 79% said that companies offering products and services with low environmental impacts would be more likely to win their loyalty.  This increased demand for socially responsible products has created a situation where corporate social responsibility has become a profit maximization strategy.  Either the corporation strives to become socially responsible, or it loses a large segment of its market (financial incentive). 

If we want things to change for the better, we can’t just expect people and corporations to change their behavior “because it’s the right thing to do.” Unfortunately, in today’s day and age, cash is still king.  There must be a financial incentive associated with doing the right thing in order for the movement to truly gain traction and trend mainstream.  As technology advances and consumer preferences shift, this is slowly becoming reality.  As consumers, we can speed up the process by staying informed and demanding accountability and responsibility.  Collectively, we catalyze change.

Friday, October 5, 2012

A Ski Bum’s Guide to Sustainable Living

Written by: Elliot Dale, Sustainable Building Associate
                                          M.S. Construction Management
As the climate continues to warm and dry, today’s ski bum is on the front line to keep snow in the mountains!  Their very existence depends on it!  Take heart that the ski bum will do whatever’s necessary to see another blue-bird powder day.  Most ski bums already have green tenancies:  they spend most of their free time in the forest, they drink PBR out of cans (recyclable), and many can knit their own beanies.  With a few subtle tweaks, a fairly climate-sensible ski bum can be turned into a lean, mean, sustainable living champion!  Below are a few recommendations to get the ski bum back on the sustainable straight and narrow:

Ditch the car and walk or take the town shuttle: even though your steez factor may take a ding, you know that driving your 1984 Vanagon up to the mountain isn’t doing the environment any good.  Mountain towns are small and don’t require a vehicle.  Choose housing within walking or biking distance to work, the mountain shuttle, the bar… and that’s about everywhere you’ll need to go!  Let’s face it, the town shuttle’s free, and you could really use that saved gas money on an extra breakfast burrito at the lodge.

Support local business through local purchasing: plenty of dining and retail options exist in most mountain towns.  Make an effort to seek out those establishments that are owned and operated by your neighbors.  You’ll help keep money in the local economy, your purchases will travel a shorter distance (thus greatly reducing their carbon footprint), and in the event that you find yourself owning one of those businesses in the future, the favor might get returned to you by the next generation of ski bums!

Buy used ski gear: while many of you are (or wish you were) sponsored and/or get a great pro-deal, consider buying used ski gear.   By doing so, you will drastically reduce the economic and environmental costs of new material extraction, manufacturing, and transportation, all while keeping the goods out of the landfill.  And depending on how retro the used gear is, you may be able to bump that steez level back up a few notches (see the first recommendation)!

For the ultimate sustainability ski bum, go back to the basics and get in the backcountry.  Backcountry skiing creates way fewer greenhouse gas emissions, it’s a nice little workout, you get away from the crowds at the resort, and there are unlimited powder turns for all!  Remember to be safe, educated, and always travel with a partner!

Have fun, and see ya on the slopes!

Monday, October 1, 2012

Green Bash 2012!

Attend the event as 'Friends of IBE' and receive 50% off your non-member discount.
Email: for more information.
Register here.