Laying the Foundation for Sustainable, Regenerative, Just Cities: EcoDistricts Summit 2016

katie_color.jpgKatie Vega

Sustainability Associate, Public Health

Sustainable. Regenerative. Equitable. Multi-generational. Community-driven. Collaborative. These six concepts stayed with me after my experience at the EcoDistricts Summit held at Denver University from September 13-15, 2016. The Summit is an annual conference hosted by EcoDistricts, a non-profit focused on developing a new model of urban regeneration and community development. The Summit convenes multi-disciplinary practitioners, researchers, experts, developers, professionals, academics, students, facilitators, and community members to collectively build a vision for a more sustainable and resilient future. IBE assisted in coordinating the Summit’s Research Forum, which took a deeper look at what’s needed to develop interdisciplinary teams across institutions to strengthen the bridge between collaborative research and practice.

As a new graduate and public health researcher, the EcoDistricts Summit was an incredible experience that inspired and challenged us to rise up and tackle existing and developing challenges in our own communities. My degree is in public health, but the Summit connected me to a large, diverse network of placemakers from the public and private sectors. During the three days, I saw firsthand how cross-disciplinary collaboration is the first critical step to better understanding topics like healthy community design, gentrification and displacement, clean energy and climate resilience, district-scale performance metrics, and urban regeneration. By opening the door to contributions from fields other than our own, we gain greater perspective on issues facing our increasingly urbanizing communities and can begin to develop truly innovative solutions.

During plenary sessions, examples of successful cross-disciplinary collaborations were shared from cities like Portland, Oakland, Los Angeles, and Washington, DC. Panelists discussed the relationships that supported these neighborhood and district-scale projects, but most importantly, emphasized the community engagement that drove the efforts. Panelists argued that disinvestment in communities has led to increased gentrification and displacement in our cities and towns. In fact, the number of city tracts being gentrified has reached record proportions—such as in Portland, where 58% of eligible tracts have been gentrified since 2000, and Denver, close behind at 42% (ACS). Panelists shared strategies to create in-placement—from creating more affordable housing below 15% of Annual Median Income to launching Streetwyze, an online crowdsourced data tool that uses civic engagement to prioritize public investment.

One of the most important takeaways from the Summit was the notion that equity awareness should be institutionalized. This idea may seem like common sense, but the truth is that our city departments have placed most, if not all, of the responsibility for public health on a limited number of departments (such as Social Sustainability, Public Health, and the Housing Authority). In reality, departments across cities are responsible for the health of their citizens. A suggested approach is to engage leading community organizations in city planning processes and to invite community members to speak to City Council and individual departments. Perhaps by humanizing each department’s work, all city employees can be inspired to collaborate with fellow departments and community stakeholders to develop solutions that achieve health equity. No one person is responsible for all of the challenges rising in our urbanizing environment. Yet each person, no matter what field they represent, has important skills and experience to contribute toward solutions. This is the call to action that was put forth at the EcoDistricts Summit: We cannot take the weight of the world on our shoulders alone, but together—in collaboration with our cities, placemakers, and community members—we can create more sustainable, resilient, and equitable places.


The relationship between IBE and EcoDistricts began almost two years ago when IBE was selected as a member of the Fort Collins EcoDistricts Incubator Team. Since then, IBE has been developing its approach to district-scale sustainability approaches in Fort Collins and Denver. As an EcoDistricts Summit partner, IBE participated in the Summit and assisted in coordinating the EcoDistricts Research Forum. Comprised of studio sessions, keynote speeches, plenary sessions, and tours of inspiring developments around Denver, the Summit provided an opportunity to network with community facilitators, professional landscape architects, and students from universities across the U.S., and to connect with a diverse group of advocates for healthy community development.

American Community Survey (ACS), 2009 – 2013. Retrieved at

CAPPA Leadership Conference 2012

Presenter: April Wackerman, Project Manger
Title: CAPPA Leadership Conference 2012
Date: Oct. 15-17, 2012
Audience: Physical Plant Administrators in Higher Education in the Central Region of the US

IBE was invited to speak on the feasibility of LEED for Existing Buildings: Operations and Maintenance at College Campuses at the Central Association of Physical Plant Administrators in Higher Education Leadership Conference in October. Central Association of Physical Plant Administrator’s (CAPPA) purpose is to develop and maintain high standards in the administration, maintenance, operation, planning, and development of physical plant facilities of institutions of higher learning, and to promote professional ideals and standards to better serve the objectives of higher education. IBE was invited based a recent study conducted at Colorado State University where IBE and Facilities Management analyzed gaps, barriers and opportunities in pursuing LEED for EB: O&M certification on university campuses. LEED certification provides a framework for developing and implementing best management practices in operations and maintenance. Universities and campuses, however, struggle to allocate the human resources required for program and policy development and implementation, in addition to the financial resources required for building assessments and improvements. IBE outlined the process for pursuing LEED EB: O&M certification, the challenges with this one-building-at-a-time certification program for campuses, and offers a streamlined process. IBE highlighted lessons learned from a building currently pursuing certification at CSU and action steps to consider when implementing at your own physical plant.

For speaking engagements or more information on this topic please contact April Wackerman at

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).”

"Sustainability in Schools: Why Green Building Has Become a Catalyst"

In February of this year, Stephanie Barr and colleague Craig Schiller presented at the CEFPI (Council of Educational Facilities Planners International) Sustainable Schools Symposium in Tempe Arizona. The presentation centered on research on whole-school sustainability and utilizing the building as a teaching tool. Embedded below is their online presentation. Following this presentation, they were invited to submit an article to the CEFPI Educational Facilities Planner. CEFPI’s flagship publication reaches a diverse population including school and college administrators, school board members, school and college faculty members, facility maintenance and operating personnel, architects, engineers, builders and contractors. Published three times annually, the Planner is read by key decision-makers in the school building business worldwide. The publication follows a simple, straightforward editorial style and offers practical knowledge through case studies, interviews and feature articles.

Written by Stephanie Barr, Brian Dunbar and Craig Schiller, the article, “Sustainability in Schools: Why Green Building Has Become a Catalyst” explores how green school buildings can go beyond an energy efficient, healthy building shell to a dynamic sustainability teaching tool.

With the increase in both green school construction and research linking green schools to healthier students and higher performance and financial return on investment, it is no surprise that green school design practices are quickly becoming standard practice. This is reason for celebration, yet there are still many mountains to climb to achieve holistic sustainability in schools. There is a measure of success that we haven’t fully explored – are green schools actually producing sustainably-driven students? Yes, we want high performing and healthy students, but we also want students to lead a sustainable future, right?

The full article can be viewed online here:

Barr, S. & Schiller, C. (2012). Building as a Teaching Tool: Connecting Curriculum, Culture, and The Physical Environment. CEFPI Sustainable Schools Symposium, February 2012. Tempe, AZ

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Colorado State University School of Global Environmental Sustainability Spring Symposium

In the US the largest portion of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions do not originate from cars & trucks; they originate from residential, commercial and industrial buildings which together constitute the built environment.

Come to the Colorado State University School of GlobalEnvironmental Sustainability Spring Symposium to hear presentations about how assessment, standards, and measurement tools can reduce carbon emissions in the built environment.

Revolutionary architectural pioneer and founder of Architecture 2030, Ed Mazria, will explain how American citizens can enable pathways to carbon neutral towns and cities in his presentation of, “The Next Built Environment Today.”  
Rocky Mountain Institute (RMI) principal and founder of Green Step, Dr. Victor Olgyay, will present “Design for Climate: Buildings with Nature’s Metabolism.

Dr. Scott Denning, CSU Monfort Professor and a Director at the National Science Foundation Center for Multiscale Modeling of AtmosphericProcesses (CMAAP) will present “Climate Change: It’s worse than you think, but it is not the end of the world.
Also, join in cross-disciplinary, cross-cutting breakout groups and panel discussions focusing on the future of a carbon neutral built environment.
Who: Host, Carbon Footprint Metric for the Built Environment and Keynote Speakers, Ed Mazria, Dr. Scott Denning, and Dr. Victor Olgyay
When: April 27th at 8:30am (check in begins at 7:30am)
Where: Lory Student Center, Room 230

Registration is required. To register, please visit

Planning to attend Greenbuild?

We hope you will join us Wednesday, October 5th for Green Schools that Teach: Whole-School Sustainability

What constitutes a successful green school? Through a nationwide research study, we are learning that success involves more than innovative green building. A high-performing green school should also be a teaching tool by actively engaging users. Several green schools that have integrated sustainability and green building within their core curricula were analyzed. The results of this study will showcase the various methods, processes, and resources used to create learning environments that actively ‘teach’ all building users.

Stephanie Barr, M.A. LEED AP BD+C
Green School Specialist, IBE
Katharine Leigh, Ph.d. LEED AP BD+C
Professor, Department of Design & Merchandising, CSU
Brian Dunbar, M.Arch. LEED AP
Executive Director, IBE