Green and Gold…and More Green: Alumnus Discusses the Green Start He Got at CSU

By Katie Boeder

We often speak of alumni “bleeding green and gold”, but in the case of John Mlade, he has an extra dosage of green in his blood. A 2005 Masters of Science graduate in Construction Management, John led a green building movement on campus and beyond.

“It’s not just what I needed to do, it’s what I wanted to do,” explains John. “The opportunity was there.”

John joined the Colorado State University campus after completing his undergraduate degree in biological conservation and geography from the University of Wisconsin Madison. “I knew I was interested in environmental building, and I was looking for a place that fit,” explains John, on why he chose CSU for his graduate schooling.

He soon found himself in the office of Brian Dunbar, professor and director of the Institute for the Built Environment, a multidisciplinary institute whose mission is to promote stewardship and sustainability of natural and built environments through research-based, interdisciplinary educational forums. John became a graduate research associate with IBE and founded the National Committee of the U.S. Green Building Council’s Emerging Green Builders, a student and young professional group that fosters industry growth and transition in the green building industry.

“John was one of the first IBE graduate interns who has benefitted from CSU’s land grant mission of serving communities in Colorado and beyond. While at IBE, John conceived ideas for our first LEED projects, including Fossil Ridge High School,” explains Brian.

While a graduate student, he also developed and taught multiple courses on sustainability across CSU. In 2004, he was awarded the Colorado State University Campus Sustainability Award. “By the time I graduated, most graduate students in the Department of Construction Management were studying green building,” explains John, who also had the opportunity to lead the green renovations at Guggenheim Hall, which houses the Department of Construction Management. “The classrooms were some of the earliest green projects on campus and served as an excellent service learning project led by Brian Dunbar.”

When talking to John about CSU, it is hard for him to tell a story without mentioning Brian. “He’s got a soft-guiding hand and is great at empowering students to think. He participates in the journey, asks questions, and enables the students to discover,” says John. “My respect for Brian and the IBE runs deep.”

In May of 2010, John had the opportunity to come back to Fort Collins and join forces with Brian and IBE to participate in their new regenerative design research. “Their current Living Environments in Natural, Social, and Economic Systems (LENSES) project is exceptional by nature and has the potential to transform the industry,” adds John.

Following in Brian’s footsteps, John is well on his way to transforming the industry also. As a national sustainable design leader at Perkins+Will, one of the largest architecture firms in the country, he facilitates sustainable design with some of the largest planning, engineering and construction companies in the world. John is responsible for over 22 million square feet of LEED registered building across the globe…and counting.

“John continues to be a pioneer, greening top projects around the world,” adds Brian. “John is a living example of the promise of our land grant mission and CSU’s strong commitment to sustaining our planet.”

In recent years, John has been an impactful donor to the IBE. “I feel like I owe so much to IBE for where I am,” he explains. “I want to help support students and the special projects that provide such important hands-on experience.”

His passion for helping students become the future leaders in sustainable building runs deep…as deep as his green and gold. In his words: “Do what you love and then make it green.”

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