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



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

Upcoming Event! The LENSES Framework

lenses2The LENSES Framework
Presented by
The Institute for the Built Environment, CLEAR, USGBC & Alliance for Sustainable Colorado

Monday, February 22, 2016 5:30 – 7:30 pm

Leaders in green building design and construction and sustainable development are looking to push beyond current practices into “regenerative design” and “living” built environments. This different way of thinking shifts away from a “less bad” approach to the built environment and toward a wholly positive, benefit-creation process — one that we call “regenerative development.”

LensesAt the leading edge of this transition is LENSES, or Living Environments in Natural, Social, and Economic Systems. LENSES is an open source framework that guides project teams and communities toward regenerative solutions for their development needs. The LENSES approach has already sparked “way-outside-the-box” discussions and innovations in leadership retreats, community workshops, and college courses. The outcome? Living environments that foster and celebrate happier people, a healthier planet, and financial comfort.

Join us on February 22 to learn about regenerative development and LENSES from the creators of LENSES. See how you can use this framework to affect positive change in the sustainable development space, including achieving LEED Platinum, the Living Building Challenge, and other high-performance goals.

This event will qualify as a GBCI credit. Just make sure to sign in at the door to ensure you receive it!

5:30 – 6:00 pm: Networking

6:00 – 6:45 pm: LENSES presentation

6:45 – 7:15 pm: Hands-on LENSES activity

7:15 – 7:30 pm: Wrap up and Q&A

Please register here!

Expanding your Knowledge and your Network One Conference at a Time

amelia_colorBy Amelia Howe
Sustainability Associate, Environmental Communications

There are many benefits that come from attending an educational conference. As a student in particular, you will have much to gain from these events. You are taking your first introductory steps into an industry, and in these beginning stages will be able to absorb knew knowledge, be inspired by your peers, and meet people who have the potential to change your future for the better.


Attending a large international conference like Greenbuild as a student is an eye-opening experience. It introduces you to new concepts and ideas; from industries you never knew existed, to having the first look into this year’s newest technology being showcased in the exhibition hall. Not only are you introduced to these new exciting things, but the leaders of industry are teaching your educational sessions, and the technological innovators are standing next to their exhibit ready to answer questions and enlighten you further.


Through each educational session, and conversation held with a new acquaintance, the knowledge being absorbed will be sure to inspire new ideas within yourself. Many attendees you meet around tables during sessions or grabbing a bite to eat, are creative minds full of ideas of how to move the green building industry closer to success. Being surrounded by people with similar passions working within your industry is a powerful thing. The conversations had with these newfound acquaintances will offer an unconventional kind of educational session. It will move you to become the next genius innovator, builder or educator of your generation. The whole experience will leave you feeling inspired to say the least, and ready to take your fresh ideas back to the office or the classroom.


Not only will you leave the conference feeling inspired, but you will leave with a handful of business cards. Small, 3 ½ by 2 inch pieces of cardstock that could possibly lead you to an open door full of opportunity. These cards may have been handed to you across the table of an educational session or over a cup of coffee in the lobby; with a proper follow-up email, that card may have solidified your next internship. The job market is extremely competitive, and every contact matters when it comes to building your network, you never know, the man or woman sitting next to you at lunch may be able to help you find the job you are looking for. Not only could a potential job opportunity arise from expanding your network, but it opens additional lines of communication with potential mentors and colleagues who could share information regarding what particular companies are looking for, and if they know of an employer looking for someone with your skill set.

Everyone attending university has heard the phrase “it’s not what you know, it’s who you know” a thousand times over. It is extremely important to build your network in a competitive job market, and attending a conference is an opportune time to do so. As a student, you will leave the doors of an educational conference with a brain full of new, exciting knowledge, armed with passion-driven inspiration, and a handful of new contacts. All that you are certain to gain attending a conference will push you that much closer to the career you are searching for.

Technology Is Transforming the Built Environment

austin_colorBy Austin Good | Sustainable Building Associate

It’s no secret technology has made great advancements over the past couple decades. It was only 8 years ago that Apple introduced the iPhone which kick-started the mobile computing revolution. Now, only a few years later, mobile technology is ubiquitous. Just as the rise of mobile computing occurred so quickly we are beginning to see technical advances make their way into the DNA of our built environment. Buildings and systems are being outfitted with sensors and computers allowing them to make their own calculated decisions based on the surrounding environment.
Smart-Home-graphic.jpgSmart buildings support sustainable behavior.

People are becoming more aware and more in control of the built environment through real time information about everything from energy use to bus schedules. The USGBC recently came out with their LEED Dynamic Plaque which shows building occupants updated information about a building’s energy and water use along with other metrics in an attractive easy to read display. Technology like this helps people see buildings as real time systems, with real time benefits and consequences associated with how the building is used. As real time building metrics develop, maybe these dynamic displays will show more than just a building’s environmental impact, they could also display metrics for another building down the street, entire block, or a city creating friendly competitions around reducing resource use. In the future, every home could be outfitted with dynamic information measurements, allowing homeowners to monitor their resource consumption in real time.

Smart buildings can diagnose and fix problems real-time.
Using smart building data to support good behavior is one piece of the puzzle, but another important one that this technology enables is the ability for our buildings and their systems to troubleshoot issues in real time, quickly solving problems and saving resources. A great example are the new thermostats like Nest that enable better control over a buildings heating and cooling. Not only are these thermostats easy to install in existing buildings, but because they are connected they are adaptable. Nest, a leader in the smart thermostat field, recently pushed out an automatic software update to existing Nest thermostats that included energy efficiency improvements. This software update enables these smart thermostats to more efficiently control a home’s temperature by taking into account more factors, like weather, how drafty your home is, and what your personal schedule is like. This software update, that happened overnight for thousands of users, increased home energy efficiency gains of between 3.8-6.5 percent. Imagine if every building was outfitted with a smart thermostat and all of our cities saw those gains overnight.

Smart buildings learn.
Because of integrated, connected software, smart building systems can continually evolve and learn, allowing them to be more efficient without waiting for consumer to adopt the next generation technology. Instead of having to wait to buy an entirely new car to gain efficiency, software updates can enable us to make gains using what we already have. Sure, there will still be need for physical improvements to technology, but software updates may enable us to use products and systems for longer, extending product cycles.
These examples only scratch the surface. In a time where we desperately need to reduce our resource use these advances are critical. 30 years ago, no one could have predicted the technological advancements that we have made. As we continue to develop a connected world it’s exciting to imagine what lies ahead in the next 30 years.