Meet the Intern: Amelia Howe, Sustainability Associate

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Amelia Howe
Sustainability Associate


I recently graduated from CSU with my BS in Human Dimensions of Natural Resources and a minor in Global Environmental Sustainability. With programs like mine that focus on natural resources and natural resource management, the connection to the built environment may not seem obvious. However, with increasing urbanization and population growth, urban ecosystems and our built environment have officially connected with nature. I am surprised it took me so long to realize that these entities need to work together as a single system rather than act as two separate systems to thrive, and I owe the majority of this realization to my work with IBE and my CSU courses in Human Dimensions.

Finding IBE

So how did a natural resource student

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Brian Dunbar, Amelia Howe, and Katie Vega after a Denver Water facilitation.

find her passion in the realm of urban and regional
design and the built environment? Rewind to Summer of 2015. I was interning with the US Forest Service and volunteering with the City of Fort Collins Environmental Planning department when I met Brian Dunbar, IBE’s executive director, on a walking tour of Fort Collins. He told me all about IBE and a project called “Nature in the City” that immediately sparked my interest. I left that fateful tour with a business card in hand and a mission in mind: become a part of IBE’s team. I remember interviewing for my position a few weeks later and feeling that my background did not relate much to IBE’s mission to “Advance the development of healthy, thriving built environments,” but IBE saw the connections between my work and its mission in ways that I was not yet able to understand.

Discovering the Built Environment Lens

I will never forget my first day on the job. I took a deep breath, walked in, and dove straight into a sustainable affordable housing design charrette. Talk about intimidating. At that point, I knew nothing about the building and design process, and had to look up the word “charrette” before I left my house that morning. While I felt a bit out of place at first, it was in this meeting where I began to see the connection between people and place through a new lens. We were discussing plans for a new development and the conversation was not focused on time, money, and convenience, but instead on how healthy, efficient buildings lead to healthy, thriving humans. It all began to click for me in that four-hour design charrette; the connections foreseen by my mentors finally made sense to me.

The Intersect of Urban & Natural

Amelia Blog.jpgDuring my time with IBE, I have been given the opportunity to dive headfirst into an abundance of diverse project work. With each new project comes new lessons learned, new additions to my “professionalism toolbox,” and new realizations of how I can apply my passion of the natural-urban intersect in the real world. From corporate sustainability projects with Denver International Airport and Harrison Street Real Estate (a $12B asset management company), to city planning initiatives like Nature in the City and the Green Built Environment Program, to LEED and other green building projects like the new Warner College Building addition, it is safe to say I have cultivated a unique project portfolio. Looking at these projects on the surface, one may wonder how I did this all in the scope of one internship. I did not understand it at first either, but the answer is this: the one tie that these entirely different projects share is the importance of sustainability, in all scales and forms. If we are intentional in the way we operate our businesses, build our buildings, develop our city plans, and make purchasing decisions, we can make huge differences on not only a local scale, but also a global scale.

Today

Fast forward to the present. I have just accepted a job offer as program administrator of field education with Teton Science School in Jackson, Wyoming, and am transitioning out of my project work at IBE. I can confidently say I understand what a design charrette is, and can even help facilitate one. I feel that I have gained a lifetime’s worth of professional experience in the span of two years and I never could have felt this confident entering into my new job than I do now thanks to the mentoring and professional development IBE has offered me. IBE was the best part of my undergraduate experience at CSU, and I will always be so grateful for the skills I gained through the mentoring program and the projects I tackled. On to the next adventure I go!

Upcoming Event! Better Decisions Faster: The Social Science of Integrative Design

Thursday, Sept. 8, 12-1 p.m. at the Alliance Center in Denver

Cost: FREE

Earn CEs: GBCI, AIA

Join IBE to hear insights from its research paper, “The Social Network of Integrative Design.” Learn how to make the integrated design process expedite the decision-making process and elevate the quality of decisions. Register.

Upcoming Event! EcoDistricts Research Symposium

Sept. 13-15 in Denver

Join urban leaders to explore how district-scale innovation can address critical issues facing today’s cities. On Sept. 15, IBE and CSU will co-sponsor the inaugural EcoDistricts Research Symposium, which will highlight IBE’s collaborative efforts to develop district-scale sustainability solutions that support replicable metrics. Register.

IBE Student Intern Opening!

Are you a student at CSU and have experience with marketing & graphic design?  Please apply for our internship!

Work on a variety of marketing and graphic design projects including collateral, website, copy, presentations, and managing our blog/social media presence. Tasks will include project management, graphic design, marketing, and writing for internal and public facing publications.

  • Internship is paid – $11-13 based on experience.
  • Position will require 5-10 hours per week with the potential for additional hours as project work allows.
  • Hours are flexible during normal business hours.
  • Minimum 18 month commitment, starting April 2016.

Key Functions: Graphic Design, Social Media, & Copy Editing

  • Graphic Design
    • Design and manage IBE marketing collateral
    • Edit and format presentations
    • Support IBE projects and clients in graphic development, report design, presentation design, etc.
  • Social Media
    • Follow key industry trends
    • Disseminate achievements of internal projects
    • Maintain presence on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn
    • Manage blog calendar, support author delivery
  • Copy editing
    • Review, write, and manage website content
    • Draft new content for blogs, press releases, etc.
    • Review all content published by IBE for grammar and style

Desired Skills

  • Excellent communication and writing skills
  • Ambition & strong ability to take initiative
  • Exceptional enthusiasm and a commitment to learning
  • Experience with social media and wordpress
  • Experience in basic HTML, CSS, etc.
  • Proficiency with Excel, Word, & PowerPoint
  • Proficiency with Adobe Creative Cloud products (Photoshop, Illustrator, In Design)
  • Ability to commit at least 18 months and work at least 5 hours per week
  • Related course work in design, web development, and writing

About IBE

The Institute for the Built Environment (IBE) is housed within the College of Health and Human Sciences at Colorado State University (CSU) and our mission is to advance the development of healthy, thriving built environments. We form interdisciplinary teams of on-campus faculty and students, and off campus professionals to take research to practice.  Our paid internship program offers experiential education and practical knowledge for students who aspire to be leading sustainability professionals. Students are supported and mentored by senior institute staff and provide professional work products for our clients.

Learn more about our mentorship program.

 

How to apply

Please send the following items to Stephanie Barr at s.barr-at-colostate.edu.

  • Cover letter that includes:
    • An overview of your key strengths, both professionally and personally
    •  A description of your past experiences related to the primary duties and qualifications
    • The reasons you feel you’re a great addition to the IBE team
  • Resume that includes:
    • Previous work experience & current commitments
    • University program and relevant courses
    • 3 References
  • A writing sample (for example: a class paper, blog article, essay, report, etc.)

5 Things You Need to Know about Life Cycle Assessments

ellie_colorEllie Troxell
Sustainability Associate, Civil Engineering


There has been discussion for a number of decades about the environmental impacts of materials and processes, but only recently has a tool been developed in an intentional way to measure those impacts.  The newest addition to the life cycle toolbox is the Life Cycle Assessment (LCA).  LCA’s provide valuable information for exploring decisions related to the environmental impacts of buildings, materials, products, and services.

  1. A Life Cycle Assessment is an evaluation of the environmental impacts of products, processes or services through their life cycle.

The International Standard for Organization (ISO), a world-wide federation of standards bodies, has standardized the LCA framework.  ISO-compliant LCA is the most reliable and referenced technique used to verify environmental impacts.  According to ISO 14040 and 14044 standards:

Life cycle is defined as the “consecutive and interlinked stages of a product or service system, from extraction of natural resources to the final disposal.”

lifeLife Cycle Assessment (LCA) is defined as a “systemic set of procedures for compiling and examining the inputs and outputs of materials and energy and the associated environmental impacts directly attributable to the functioning of a product or service system throughout its life cycle.”

In simpler terms, LCA is a systemic evaluation of the environmental impacts of products, processes or services through their life cycle, and—most importantly—provides a tool that supports making sound, considerate environmentally-relevant decisions. It is also worth noting at this juncture that LCA’s do not analyze economic or social impacts—they focus exclusively on the environmental considerations for a product or service.

  1. Life Cycle Assessments are driven by environmental accountability, corporate sustainability, and procurement policies.

In short, pretty much everyone that makes anything has a reason to use LCAs.  LCAs have been conducted on a variety of products and services across a number of sectors—from jeans to jet engines, trash disposal, and computers.  Various factors are driving this new trend.  First, regulations are moving towards “life cycle accountability”, the idea that the manufacturer is not only responsible for the direct production impacts of a product or service, but its inputs, use, transport, and disposal.  For example, the LEED rating system currently has two MR LCA-based credits in LEED v4, following a now-retired LCA pilot credit.  Green Globes, the International Code Council (ICC), the International Green Construction Code (IGCC), ASHRAE, and Calgreen now all provide alternative LCA compliance paths.  Second, business is voluntarily participating in initiatives that involve LCA and other elements of stewardship.  Third, consumer markets and government procurement parameters have started to cite environmental precedence.

  1. Life Cycle Assessments follow a 4-phase process.

So now you know what an LCA is, and why they are useful.  But how might you go about actually doing a Life Cycle Assessment?  The following four main phases briefly define the LCA process:

Goals & Scoping – Identifies the purpose of the LCA, determines which environmental concerns will be included in the study, and notes all assumptions based on the goal definition.

Inventory – Quantifies the life-cycle for all environmental inputs and outputs of the parts of the building, material, service, or product system involved in the LCA.

Impact Assessment – The assessment takes inventory data given the inputs and converts the information to indicators for a given category. Typically, LCA reports on these environmental effects due to a product, building or service:

  • Fossil fuel depletion
  • Other non-renewable resource use
  • Water use
  • Global warming potential
  • Stratospheric ozone depletion
  • Ground level ozone (smog) creation
  • Eutrophication of water bodies
  • Acidification and acid deposition (dry and wet)
  • Toxic releases to air, water and land

Interpretation – This last step is an analysis of the data evaluating opportunities to reduce waste at each step of the product life-cycle and defines whether the conditions of the goal and scope have been met.

For a typical product, the environmental life cycle impacts (commonly known as “cradle-to-grave” impacts) include the extraction of raw materials, the processing, manufacturing, and fabrication; the transportation or distribution of the product to the consumer; and the disposal or recovery of the product after its useful life.  It is worth keeping in mind, however, that these may not be applicable to every product; there may be instances where one or more are not of particular environmental concern.

  1. There are a wealth of tools to make Life Cycle Assessments easier and faster to conduct.

There are a few tools already available for anyone interested in conducting an LCA.  The following tools differ due to the purpose of the LCA.  Explore which might be the best fit for your purpose:

  1. The two-sides to Life Cycle Assessments: Benefits & Pitfalls.

While LCAs highlight important considerations in the development of a product, they are not yet a silver bullet for environmental concerns.  Thus, it is worth keeping in mind both the benefits of LCAs, as well as those areas where they may fall short.

Benefits Pitfalls
• Pragmatic standard for green design (performance-based)

• Ability to evaluate opportunities to affect environmental improvements

• Introduces the notion of calculating the environmental footprint of a product/service/building

• Greater awareness of environmental implications

• Creates common metrics that can be shared and compared to help choosing one path over another

• Improve product/ corporate image

• Reduce environmental impact & waste

• Difficulty in assessing the environmental effects of resource extraction (biodiversity, water quality, soil stability not easily measured and only minimally addressed in LCA)

• Can be costly and time-consuming limiting their use as analysis techniques

• Quantity of assumptions (all rough estimates)

• Limited ability to account for land-use impacts


 

References:

Athena Institute (2016). About LCA. Retrieved from http://www.athenasmi.org/resources/about-lca/who-does-lca-why/

Williams, Aida S. (2009). Life Cycle Analysis: A Step by Step Approach. ISTC Reports. http://www.istc.illinois.edu/info/library_docs/tr/tr40.pdf