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, 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.


A Personal Small Step to Sustainability

By: Anderson Lewis

When someone makes a conscious decision to live more sustainably, it is easy to get discouraged by the mindset of “I’m just one person. What difference can I really make?” But when it comes to being sustainable, the Axiom “ the little things make the biggest difference” can certainly hold true.  Don’t get me wrong; I still think much has to be done before humanity can reach a state of benign or regenerative interaction with our natural environment. However, it is dangerous for us to assume that our seemingly small actions do not have a meaningful, positive impact.  For example, it is easy to equate turning the lights off when you leave the room to saving a few cents. No big deal, right?  However, when you factor in the process energy used to harvest and transport the raw material used to create your energy, the transmission losses from power lines, and all the carbon emissions associated with this overall process, it makes turning off the light seem more important.
Having the ability to measure the positive impacts of your sustainable actions and track your progress is a great motivator to continue being more sustainable.  Knowing where you started from (your initial energy usage, water usage, etc.) gives you a baseline to compare improvements against (aka benchmarking).  This allows you to see if your changes (actions, energy retrofits, etc.) are indeed positive and can help guide your decisions on where to focus future actions to make the largest impacts.  Lastly, associating your sustainable accomplishments (energy saving, water savings, etc.) with an easily comprehensible reference can make them more palpable and rewarding.  For example, it is hard to know if saving 1 kWh is good or not, but when you consider that 1 kWh could power a T8 fluorescent lamp for 31 hours and 15 minutes, it gives greater context to your accomplishments.
At IBE, we have been diligent about tracking information from the projects we have worked on.  This historic data is helpful to us in multiple ways.   First, it allows us to compare and contrast different project types and their performance and to monitor how the sustainability of our projects has progressed over the years. This helps us know that we are on the right track to higher levels of sustainability. Second, this historic data acts as a marketing tool for the IBE, allowing for us to more easily convey the benefits of our services to clients and more accurately predict what type of performance and savings our clients should expect. Lastly, when this historical data is put in easily understandable terms or comparisons, it can really act as a motivator for IBE staff/project stakeholders and affirm the fact we are making a meaningful positive impact.  For example, in total, projects that the IBE has been involved on have diverted over 15,000 tons of waste material from the landfill (the equivalent weight of 60 statue of liberties).  These materials were recycled and reused in various ways and reduced the amount of raw materials that would have been harvested to meet the needs that this recycled material filled. In addition, the aggregate of IBE projects on average save approximately 95 million gallons of water a year (enough to fill 143 Olympic sized swimming pools (assuming a 2 m depth).
If these aforementioned accomplishments seem large, well, it’s because they are! And this is before considering the added energy/carbon savings that come from not having to harvest, transport raw materials to produce new materials or to treat and transport the water saved.  At IBE we are proud of our accomplishments but recognize that there is still so more to be done.  We will not rest on our laurels and encourage you to do the same.
In the global scheme of things the changes we have helped instate might be small but they are far from insignificant. If everyone were to view their own actions in this way then all these small actions will add up to one big change.

The New Integrated Sustainability Manager Certificate Program

By: Cole Schumacher

In an effort to further educate the business world on the positive impact of sustainable business practices, Institute for the Built Environment is launching a new professional certification in spring 2014. This certification, coined the Integrated Sustainability Manager Certificate Program, aims to deliver knowledge and practical applications to sustainability professionals.
In my time at Institute for the Built Environment I have been given the opportunity to work closely with the launch of this certificate and truly believe that it offers an innovative perspective and practice that similar certificates do not.
This certificate focuses on four emphasis areas: People and Behavior Change, Organizational Sustainability, The Built Environment, and Natural Resource Management.
People and Behavior Change: discover tools for engaging people in positive behaviors.
Organizational Sustainability: learn how to integrate sustainability into company culture and strategic goals to save money and create a thriving environment.
The Built Environment: learn to implement facility-based strategies for reducing the financial and environmental impact of the built environment.
Natural Resource Management: understand best practices for optimizing the flow and consumption of resources in your organization.
The development of this certificate addresses the tremendous growth sector that is sustainable business management. Many professionals are growing into this role of sustainable management without having much background in the industry. This professional certificate will be a tremendous resource for anyone transitioning into a sustainability management role or seeking such a career in the future.
Another aspect that speaks to the innovative nature of this certification is our diverse group of instructors. We have gathered instructors from academia and industry leaders.  Our instructor pool includes leaders from New Belgium Brewing and the Institute for the Built Environment, and the Colorado State Universities departments of Psychology, Sociology, and College of Business.
This program will be launching the first courses in early summer 2014.  Courses can be taken a la carte or can be combined for the full certification. Please reach out to IBE for more information or read more about the program.
Stay tuned for more details coming this February…

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.

NCRES Special Event: Hands-On Advance Air sealing Workshop with SIGA

Location: 320 E. Vine Drive, Fort Collins, CO  (Rocky Mountain Innosphere)
Date/Time: Wednesday, October, 3rd  5:00 to 8:00 p.m.
Cost:  $25 for NCRES members ($45 non-members)
Registration:  Contact John Fassler 970.556.6195 or
The Three Elements for Successful Air-tight Construction: Planning, Application and Quality
This three-hour workshop will help improve the value you provide to your customers and will help you differentiate yourself from others in the building industry. The work shop will include examples of building assemblies, how to tackle problems of moisture management, how to design and construct an air tight envelope, and how blower doors quantify performance.  
This workshop is both discussion and “hands on”. We will use SIGA membranes and adhesive tapes on model houses to understand the planning and application of a system that creates an air-tight envelope, manages both interior and exterior moisture and seals the construction from pest infiltration. 
Benjamin Lüssi, from Switzerland, will be teaching the workshop.  Benjamin has been in the building industry since 1995 working as a Carpenter, Project Manager and now as Product Manager for SIGA – U.S.  His goal for the workshop is to teach European air sealing methods while learning more about U.S. construction methods.  SIGA is a leading provider of Air Sealing products in Europe where air sealing standards and codes are extremely stringent.  This is an exceptional opportunity for building practitioners in the Front Range to get hands on experience with European Advanced Air Sealing methods – without the expense of going to Europe. 

The workshop is limited to 20 participants. If you plan to attend, please register as early as possible.  The class fills quickly. Please register here.

IBE’s Online Green Building Certificate Program Concludes

After three years, CSU’s Online Green Building Certification Program wraps up, making room for new offerings*. The Institute for the Built Environment (IBE) pioneered the certificate program 7+ years ago when green building was just catching on. Taught by Brian Dunbar and a cadre of local industry professionals, our program experienced overwhelming success in the State of Colorado by offering the certification in a face to face environment. Realizing the need for a larger audience they hired on graduate student Cody Farmer and The Institutefor Learning and Teaching (TILT) to produce, coordinate, and package the education.

The program has grown every offering since 2010, with this most recent class of 28– some of the best Green Building students ever.  We’ve seen students from Brazil, Japan, Costa Rica, Canada, and Germany to name a few. Classes commonly engage people at all levels of education: Military, Associates, Bachelors, Professional Engineers, Doctorates, and others who have held experienced positions in the construction and real estate fields. All of them energized, intrigued, and ready to pay-it-forward Green Building style.

Students get to banter about LEED navigation, and their frustrations working with the bureaucracy, while at the very same time arming themselves with valuable contributions to help solve those exact problems. There is a refreshing light students gleam around week three, and what transposes into a final report around week 10 (out of 12 weeks) is amazing. Student projects range from outdoor stadiums designed utilizing biomimicry, historic preservation projects informed by principles of sustainability, and high-performing homes designed to thrive throughout time in harsh humidity and weather swings.

The final report, a reflection on a project in its entirety unifies the thought process required for integrated design and sustainable building. At-large, students learn how to participate and identify their own place in the Green Building gamma. Something that we at the IBE call a sense of place. 
Surround yourself in it, and blossom.

*Please note: As a result of the LEED 2012 delay, it is possible this program may be offered one last time in response to demand. Please contact Cody Farmer with your interest.

Student Testimonials:

 “Thanks, Cody. The class was great, and I’ve decided to take the LEED GA exam soon.  Good luck with the IBE there in Colo.”

 “Thanks Cody, I thoroughly enjoyed the course…even thinking about transferring to the grad program for construction management at CSU.  Keep up the good work!”

“Hi Cody, I have enjoyed the course and have been inspired to pursue building differently when residential construction picks up again and I return to General Contractor duties.”

SoGES Offers Interdisciplinary Graduate Course for Fall 2012: GES-580

The School of Global Environmental Sustainability (SoGES) is very excited to announce the recent addition of a new interdisciplinary course opportunity for graduate students in any discipline on campus. GES-580, Issues in Global Environmental Sustainability, is now open for fall registration, and is designed for graduate students across campus to benefit from the interdisciplinary discussions and lend a unique perspective to the course dialog and curriculum.
This first offering will be taught by Professor Emeritus Brian Dunbar, Director of the Institute for the Built Environment, and will pull together a diversified group of 25 graduate students to help be a model for cross-disciplinary graduate education on campus.
“The concept of sustainability is most successful when simultaneously approached from multiple perspectives,” said Professor Brian Dunbar. “Our new graduate course provides a unique forum for expansive learning about current and future opportunities and trends in sustainability.”

GES 580 will provide graduate students the opportunity to interact, synthesize and collaborate in a multi-disciplinary learning environment and will promote knowledge synthesis from the diverse programs across campus. Students will achieve a holistic understanding of environmental, social, and economic sustainability through individual research work as well as interdisciplinary collaboration, an essential component to the successful integration of sustainability knowledge.

GES-580 will be run on Wednesdays from 4:00-6:50pm, for questions, please contact SoGES Education Coordinator, Patrick Canavan, at