The GSB Interview: Rick Fedrizzi, Chairman, International Well Building Institute

If there were a Green-Sports Hall of Fame (hey, that’s an idea!), Rick Fedrizzi would be an inductee. As one of the founders of the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) and its CEO for 14 years, Fedrizzi was instrumental in LEED becoming the certification standard for the built environment, including the sports world. During his tenure, LEED-certified stadia and arenas became the rule rather than the exception; permanent, high profile exemplars of the greening of the sports world. You’d think that would be enough. But, rather than retiring, Fedrizzi has chosen to start an important second act, as Chairman and CEO of the International WELL Building Institute (IWBI), which administers the WELL Building Standard, a new standard that looks at how to use buildings to improve and enhance human performance and comfort. In a wide-ranging GSB Interview, Fedrizzi shared his vision for IWBI and how it can positively impact the sports world in general, and Green-Sports in particular.

 

GreenSportsBlog: Rick, thank you so much for chatting with us. I can’t wait to discuss your work at the International WELL Building Institute—IWBI—and how the WELL standard can accelerate the sports sustainability movement. But, before we get there, how did you get there?

Rick Fedrizzi: My pleasure, Lew. Going back a ways, I started out in accounting at Carrier Corporation right after graduating from LeMoyne College in Syracuse. Found out I didn’t much care for accounting, nor auditing. I much preferred marketing so I angled my way in that direction. Moved to South Florida with the company and was later pegged by the CEO to lead a unit that was tasked with greening the air conditioning business. So I became the Director of Environmental Marketing…

GSB: Did you have a real interest in environmental marketing before this job?

RF: Not specifically. But as I got into the job, I really got into it. In a year’s time, we delivered an entire platform for environmental marketing in the air conditioning arena, including dramatic improvements in packaging and refrigerants. We created, in essence, an internal ratings system…energy, sound, air quality…

 

Fedrizzi Michael Dambrosia

Rick Fedrizzi, chairman and CEO, International WELL Building Institute (Photo credit: Michael Dambrosia)

 

GSB: Sounds like part Energy Star, part LEED.

RF: Exactly…When I was asked to lead the team at U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) temporarily, I saw the possibilities and ended up signing on for 14 years as the full time CEO. We started the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design or LEED certification program, which first focused on environmental performance of new and existing commercial buildings, and later expanded to pretty much every building type – schools, retail, healthcare. It was my mission—I cared deeply about an organization that linked environmentalism, capitalism, and business—so it was the right place for me to be.

GSB: LEED has become standard operating procedure for new and upgrades to existing commercial buildings, including stadia and arenas. So congratulations are in order!

RF: Thank you…

GSB: So you decided to leave USGBC, and then a new opportunity came your way…

RF: With the International WELL Building Institute or IWBI…

 

IWBI

GSB: What is IWBI?

RF: IWBI is an organization at the intersection of building science, business metrics and health science. We look at, measure and certify, through the WELL Building Standard, what goes on inside a building and how it affects the people in the same way LEED looks at, measures and certifies mainly for external environmental impacts. LEED’s main targets are to protect the environment, reduce carbon emissions, environmental toxicity, and more. In terms of inside buildings, LEED does provide credit for human health related measures like air quality, water quality and light. But it represents only about 22-24 percent of LEED credits. WELL picks up where LEED leaves off, focusing on how human beings interact with the built environment.

GSB: What kinds of buildings can receive WELL certification?

RF: Right now, we work primarily with large scale commercial buildings and interiors – new and existing — which includes stadia and arenas, and large scale, high rise residential. But we have an “all buildings in” effort underway, and we’re beginning to register smaller scale building, affordable housing and later this summer, communities. With WELL we’re looking to change mindsets. In real estate, we want to the industry to move from simply building buildings that are functional and, yes, environmentally efficient, to one that builds buildings that inspire, attract and nurture, all with improved human performance in mind.

GSB: WELL basically sounds like a natural evolution from LEED…

RF: We hope so! LEED had to come first but now WELL gives us the opportunity to add health and wellness to the definition of sustainability of buildings. I call it the “second wave” of sustainability.

GSB: Where do sports fit in? I mean it’s clear how LEED fits—teams and venue owners want to build or renovate in an environmentally friendly way: It saves money—owners really like that—and it’s better for the environment.

RF: Great question, Lew. By looking at and measuring for air, light, but also acoustics and ergonomics, among others things WELL will help improve a player’s performance just like LEED will improve a stadium’s performance. Some Major League Baseball clubs have—or will have soon—high-end comfort pods at their stadiums. Players can read, relax, even sleep there. Putting your players in the best environment gives them the best chance to succeed on the court, on the field.

GSB: When did the IWBI and WELL get started?

RF: About seven years ago. Paul Scialla, CEO of Delos, a company focused on sustainable design, health and wellness real estate, really got the ball rolling. He saw the need for a collaboration between architects, engineers, sustainability executives—the key players in LEED—and doctors, public health officials, athletic trainers, dietitians, and more. It took awhile, but the WELL Building Standard finally went to market in late 2014, and I was brought in last November.

 

Delos Paul Scialla

Paul Scialla, CEO of Delos (Photo credit: Delos)

 

GSB: Is WELL only a North American thing?

RF: That’s our home base but we’ve got WELL Certified projects in more than 30 countries and a growing supporting infrastructure in key growth markets – China, India, UK, Europe, Canada. WELL was “prepped” for it by LEED.

GSB: So let’s get into the WELL Building Standard credits a bit. What do they look like?

RF: Let’s look at air: I’ve read a great deal and heard many stories about indoor air quality and its effects on the human body and human performance. There is a significant body of research that shows that human performance suffers when people are not properly ventilated, if it’s too dry or wet, too hot or cold. If CO2 is too high in a room, people can yawn, get fatigued, and/or suffer from headaches. WELL features tackle these issues: They include air quality performance and balance, material selection, filtration, moisture control, ventilation, construction processes, maintenance and operations, and more.

GSB: I did not know that about indoor CO2; never thought about it. What about lighting and water?

RF: Lighting is a complex topic. An office worker may be lucky enough to have a window nearby, indoor overhead lighting, a local desktop light and light from the computer. The optic nerve and brain try to process all four light sources to give you the best chance to perform. But the odds are that the mix of those light sources are not optimal which can lead to eye fatigue and overall sluggishness, and can disrupt your sleep patterns.

GSB: Which hurts productivity, I imagine.

RF: That’s right. So we measure light balance, as well as access to natural light, indoor light quality and more. On water, we are concerned with more than how clean it is—of course we measure that—but access to water inside a building is also very important as is how a company goes about encouraging hydration.

GSB: Talk to me about some of the areas that are unique to WELL as compared to LEED.

RF: WELL measures nourishment—things like access to healthy, organic food. Balanced meals. How clean the food is. Fitness is a very interesting area. Think about the old office building model: You sit at your desk and take the elevator. The new model, favored by millennials and I’m sure their successors, includes standing work stations, fitness rooms, shower access, bike commuting, and stairs inviting enough to use.

GSB: So how is WELL doing so far.

RF: I’ll tell you, Lew, with LEED we had to push, push, PUSH at the beginning to gain acceptance from developers, architects, engineers and more. It was really hard. With the WELL Building Standard, it’s still early days but it’s been just the opposite: People want this. WELL is in the realm of the personal, in the realm of health, especially the health of the people we care about – our families, our colleagues and employees.

GSB: That makes perfect sense. How does WELL deal with climate change? Or is that more of an issue for LEED?

RF: Great question, Lew. In “Thoughtful Living,” Thomas Blakenhor talks about how if we have access to healthy food, healthy buildings and a healthy lifestyle, concern about climate change will become more obvious, more ingrained. That healthy lifestyle will, of course, include more walking and cycling and less driving. When companies encourage this among their employees, they can apply for WELL credits via an “Alternative Adherence Path”…

GSB: Sounds like the WELL equivalent of “Independent Study” credits…

RF: You got it. The carbon reductions from encouraging employees to shift from driving to walking or cycling to work can be a WELL credit opportunity.

GSB: I really like the flexibility you’ve built into WELL. The more I think about it, the more I think that sports stadium and arena architects, engineers and construction managers need to jump on it for every new project and renovation.

RF: There are 345 stadiums and arenas that have or are applying for some level of LEED certification. Of those, 20-30 have indicated a very strong interest in WELL. So I think we’re off to a good start.

GSB: I’ll say!

RF: You know, with a LEED certified stadium or arena, a team is making a strong ESG (Environmental, Social, Governance) type of sustainability statement. When you add WELL, you’re investing in the improved performance of your players, and you show your fans and community that you care about health and wellness of all stakeholders. If players feel good and proud of being in that type of environment, that’ll inspire fans to think “I too can be healthy.”

GSB: That will depend on strong messaging about WELL to fans…And one thing I’m concerned about in the Green-Sports world is that teams and leagues seem loathe to talk about their sustainability efforts directly to fans, which ironically limits the reach and potential impact of Green-Sports.

RF: I think teams and leagues will want to talk about how WELL is helping make their players perform better and fans enjoy their experience at the stadium or arena better. But it’s more than just spectator sports—participatory sports are getting into the act as well. And this is just the tip of the iceberg. Airports and other big, high profile buildings will be designed with WELL certification in mind. And imagine this future: A worker is wearing her FitBit-type device to work. The FitBit signals to the building that the wearer didn’t sleep well the night before; her pulse is off a bit. In response, the building drops its temperature by 1° and increases its fresh air intake slightly. Lights around her work space are brightened a smidge. By lunchtime, the worker is feeling good, not craving a sugar hit. She enjoys a lunch featuring slightly more fruit and vegetables than is typical. And when she gets home, she is destined for a good night’s sleep. So with WELL, buildings, including stadiums and arenas, will start to actually take care of humans. And that’s a big win for all of us.

 


 

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GSB News & Notes: Eco-Vegan Race Car Driver Leilani Münter Back on Track; MLB Organic Tees from SustainU; USGBC Touts Effects of LEED Stadiums

Leilani Münter competed at Daytona in her first race in two years, spreading her Eco-Vegan message to auto racing fans. SustainU will be making t-shirts from 100 percent recycled content for all 30 MLB clubs again this season, this time with a fun twist. And the US Green Building Council (USGBC) gives a big shout out to LEED-certified sports venues for their important energy saving work. All this in a chock full GSB News & Notes column.

LEILANI MÜNTER RETURNS TO THE RACETRACK, DRIVES FAST, SPREADS ECO-VEGAN GOSPEL

Leilani Münter, GreenSportsBlog fave and the self-described “eco, vegan, hippie chick with a race car,” hadn’t raced in over two years, owing to a busy schedule of animal rights and environmental activism, documentary film making and a lack of sponsors. That all changed Saturday afternoon at Daytona International Speedway when she strapped into her Vegan Powered Toyota at ARCA Racing Series Presented by Menards season-opener.

Her five year sponsorship sales effort (that’s right, she sells the sponsorships, too) had borne fruit as a collection of nonprofits signed on to help her promote a plant-based diet to stock car racing fans. In a February 17 interview, Münter shared with espnW’s NASCAR writer Bob Pockrass how new lead sponsor A Well-Fed World joined the team after hearing her acceptance speech for winning the Vegan Athlete of the Year award. In addition to the car and crew, the funding also supports a tent that gave away vegan food samples on Saturday. More importantly, Münter will be educating race fans and passing out food samples from her vegan-themed tent located in the fan zone at Sunday’s Daytona 500, NASCAR’s Super Bowl.

leilani-arthur-molainvision-ap

Leilani Munter (Photo credit: Arthur Mola/Invision/AP)

 

“When I’m going to vegan festivals or clean-energy events, it’s preaching to the choir,” Münter told Pockrass. “Giving out the food will probably be the greatest impact I will have. We’re serving the kinds of foods race fans are going to find at the track. I’m not going to show up with kale. I’m showing up with vegan chicken wings and meatballs — stuff they would expect to find at the race track. … We’re not going to open minds if we’re not putting food in their mouths. That is the moment where people change.”

But before Münter dishes out vegan food this weekend, she finally got back on the track on Saturday. 

Leilani, as she’s known to her fans, brought them to their feet as she moved into the top-5 during the late stages of the race after qualifying in 17th position out of a stacked 40-car starting field. Catching the lead pack at speeds approaching 200 mph, Münter drafted to catapult herself into fourth position, eyeing a career best finish. Her hopes came to an abrupt end when a trailing car made contact with her rear bumper sending her Toyota up the track and into the outside wall, spawning a multi-car crash. Münter’s crew patched up the damaged Toyota and got her back out on the track to finish the race in a more-than-respectable 19th position. 

When Münter gets back on the track is anybody’s guess as her non-profit sponsors are not nearly as deep pocketed as her competitors’ traditional Fortune 1000 backers. As she told espnW’s Pockrass, “[Non-profit sponsors] don’t have multimillion-dollar budgets where they can run a full season. That comes with the territory of me being an activist and wanting my car to carry these cool messages…You work really hard, you get the car on the track, you get one race and then you’re starting over again.”

To hear/see Münter tell her story, click here for her 5 minute interview as part of FOX Sports NASCAR Race Hub’s “Women in Wheels” series.

 

SUSTAINU ANNOUNCES MLB “T-SHIRT CLUB” FOR 2017; MADE FROM 100% RECYCLED CONTENT

“PLAY BALL!—With t-shirts made from 100 percent recycled content!”

Last summer, Chris Yura, CEO and Founder of Morgantown, WV-based SustainU®, told GreenSportsBlog that his company’s mission is to “chang[e] the way clothes are made to improve the environment [and] reinvigorate America’s manufacturing sector.”

One of the ways the young company is making good on that promise is through sports, manufacturing fan wear from 100 percent recycled content for collegiate sports programs (Notre Dame, Clemson and more), the 2013 America’s Cup in San Francisco, and, starting in 2016, for all 30 Major League Baseball (MLB®) clubs.

With Opening Day 2017 little more than a month away, SustainU announced an extension of its licensing partnership with MLB, with an innovative twist. 

The SustainU T-shirt Club allows fans of all 30 clubs to “Wear the Season” with shipments of officially licensed apparel arriving at their doorsteps throughout the year. There are various levels of membership available through the T-shirt Club that determine the timing and quantity of shipments during the 2017 baseball season, ranging from The Lead Off (one shipment of two exclusive tees) to The Homer (four shipments of five exclusive tees, one long sleeve and one fleece item).

chicago-cubs

The SustainU® T-Shirt Club, 2016 World Champion Chicago Cubs version. (Photo credit: SustainU®)

 

All SustainU shirts are printed with eco-friendly inks and are Made in the USA, increasing employment opportunities in places like Appalachia that have seen massive globalization-related job losses over several decades.

GreenSportsBlog loves this program—and would love it even more if SustainU could figure out a way to make fewer shipments during the season, thus reducing its carbon footprint. Ideas?

 

USGBC SAYS LEED CERTIFIED SPORTS VENUES MAKING A MAJOR DIFFERENCE, ENERGY- AND COST-WISE

The Orlando Magic’s Amway Center, the first NBA arena to earn LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Gold certification for new construction, saved almost $1 million a year, including about $700,000 in annual energy costs alone.

amway-center

Signage at the Amway Center, home of the Orlando Magic, heralding its LEED Gold status. (Photo credit: Amway Center)

 

In Peoria, AZ, the LEED Gold Peoria Sports Complex, which serves as the spring training facility for the Seattle Mariners and San Diego Padres, saves 322,700 gallons of water and more than 1 million kilowatt hours in electricity annually. In the construction phase, the city convinced its baseball team partners to retain portions of the building frame and outer envelope, saving an estimated $1.5 million on each clubhouse and diverting 1,323 tons of construction waste from landfills. The Mariners’ Clubhouse parking lot was also converted into an impressive array of solar modules that, combined with a 320 kilowatt solar instillation, can offset up to 30% of the clubhouse’s annual reliance on fossil fuels.

peoria-sports-complex

Peoria (AZ) Sports Complex, the LEED Gold spring training home of the San Diego Padres and Seattle Mariners. (Photo credit: AZ Central)

 

These significant accomplishments are but two examples highlighted in a recent US Green Building Council report, LEED in Motion: Venues, which details how LEED certification benefits more than 30 venues’ triple bottom line (People, Planet, Profit).

Venues that incorporate LEED into their buildings increase cost-savings, decrease annual operating costs and see a higher return on investment overall, the report says. This builds on an earlier study, the 2015 Green Building Economic Impact Study, which estimated from 2015-2018 LEED-certified buildings in the US will have saved more than $2.1 billion in combined energy, water, maintenance and waste savings.

Sports stadiums and arenas represent some of the most iconic buildings in any community. Their size and scope—the top 200 stadiums in the US alone draw roughly 181 annual million visitors—allow them to engage, inspire and educate millions of people. They also are big energy users and waste producers—according to Waste Management, the NFL, MLB, NBA and NHL generate a combined 35,000 metric tons of CO2 each year from their fans’ waste. Their high profile combined with their significant room for improvement on energy usage make sports venues an ideal megaphone for Green Building/LEED. 

 

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