The GSB Interview: Carlie Bullock-Jones of Ecoworks Studio; Helping Stadia and Arenas Earn LEED Gold or Platinum Status

Last month, Mercedes-Benz Stadium became the first pro stadium to earn LEED Platinum certification. For that honor and more, the new home of the Atlanta Falcons and Atlanta United, won GreenSportsBlog’s Greenest New Stadium/Arena of 2017 award. How the stadium became a Green-Sports beacon is an interesting story. To get the inside scoop on that project and more, we talked to Carlie Bullock-Jones, CEO of sustainability consulting firm Ecoworks Studios, which helped Mercedes-Benz Stadium achieve Platinum status.

 

GreenSportsBlog: Sustainability consulting for sports stadium and arena projects is a very specialized niche. Carlie, tell us how you got into it…

Carlie Bullock-Jones: Well, I’ve been into sports and design since as far back as I can remember. Grew up in Auburn, AL — my dad went to Auburn…

GSB: War EAGLE!!

CBJ: War Damn EAGLE!! He then became a professor of Industrial Design there. Then, to top that off, I went to Auburn and studied design. I was interested in how buildings affected people and the environment. Heck, my thesis was “The Built Environment and its Impact on the Natural Environment.” Anyway, I got a job in Atlanta as an interior designer at an architecture firm. And even though sustainability wasn’t common practice in the industry, I started a sustainability committee at the firm in 1999, the same year as LEED was born, so the time was right, unbeknownst to me. Some of our government and education clients wanted to pursue LEED for the facilities we were designing — the CDC and Georgia Tech come to mind — and the practice just blossomed.

 

Carlie Headshot

Carlie Bullock-Jones (Photo credit: Ecoworks Studio)

 

GSB: That’s fantastic! When did sports venues come into the mix?

CBJ: Well, before sports, we started with getting convention centers LEED certified— the two are similar in that they’re both large public spaces. Raleigh’s (NC) convention center was one of our early LEED projects. This gave me experience that would later prove valuable for stadia and arenas — working with “surge buildings” — structures that accommodate a few hundred people on most days and then jump to tens of thousands on a few days. I should mention that in 2007 I left the architecture firm and started my own professional consulting practice, with a focus on sustainability and LEED certification, Ecoworks Studio in Atlanta. Among other things, that gave me freedom to work on a wider variety of projects, which would end up including sports venues.

 

Raleigh Conv Center Barnhill

Raleigh Convention Center (Photo credit: Barnhill Contracting Company)

 

GSB: 2007…That was about a year before the “econ-o-pocalypse,” perhaps not the best time to go out on one’s own, especially with a sustainability-focused design and consulting firm…

CBJ: It did turn out to be a big challenge. Thankfully, Auburn asked me to teach. And we were able to get some work from the get-go, including teaching LEED certification workshops. In fact, in 2007-8, I taught 22 such workshops all over the world, with about 80 people in each. I loved it. Now, the economic crash did affect our growth. Until 2011, Ecoworks Studio was just, well, me. But with interest in and, acceptance of LEED growing in the industry, and by keeping up with the frequent changes and updates to LEED made by the US Green Building Council (USGBC), we were able to add value to project teams. During the downturn we also helped turn projects from non-LEED to LEED — a relatively low-cost way to add value. That allowed us to keep going and grow, so that by 2012, we were able to add staff. And we continued our focus on what I’d call “atypical projects.”

GSB: Like the aforementioned convention centers?

CBJ: Yes, and also data centers — which consume tremendous amounts of energy — and zoos. And, in May 2013, we were interviewed by 360 Architecture, which has since been acquired by HOK, a leading sports architecture firm— about working with them on LEED certification for new construction of stadia and arenas and to help convince teams and stadium authorities that going for high levels of LEED certification — think Gold or Platinum — was worth the added effort. 360 ended up hiring us and we started working on sports venues.

GSB: Were there any stadium/arena projects in 2013 that were going for LEED Gold or Platinum?

CBJ: No. At the time, teams building stadiums and arenas were not pursuing Gold or Platinum levels of LEED, since the LEED Rating System at that time was really focused on certifying an office, but they were interested in going for LEED at Certified or Silver, which was still a move in the right direction. And we became the conduit to work creatively with USGBC to apply LEED standards specifically to arenas, stadiums and convention centers to reflect the uniqueness of those structures, and we in turn showed the designers and managers of sports, as well as those other atypical venues I mentioned earlier, the benefits of applying for LEED certification.

GSB: That sounds like a great niche to occupy. How did you go about making this happen with USGBC and with designers of stadia, arenas and other big public building projects?

CBJ: Great question. Ecoworks Studio looked at office buildings, which host roughly the same amount of people every day, but only a fraction of the numbers a stadium or arena hosts on a surge day. It makes sense for office buildings to earn a significant number of LEED points for having enough bike racks to service five percent of peak visitors — if the 2,000 people occupy the building on average, that means 100 bike racks. But it makes no sense for the standard to be five percent for an arena that holds 20,000 people on surge days (1,000 bike racks?) or a stadium that holds 60,000 (3,000 bike racks?). So we worked with USGBC to reasonably apply this to stadiums, arenas and other big public buildings with surge traffic to a realistic number of bike racks. In a similar vain, we helped adapt CO₂ monitoring standards for big public building projects like stadia to account for spikes on surge usage days.

GSB: I imagine that the high profile nature of stadia and arenas would make the vendors that architects and builders employ want to be a part of the LEED-ification movement.

CBJ: No doubt about it. The move to LEED at sports venues has been a great way to leverage conversations with materials manufacturers — paints, carpets and adhesives are just three examples — to come up with more environmentally friendly, healthy offerings.

GSB: So I get that sports stadium developers and designers of convention centers increasingly were interested in getting LEED certification five or six years ago. What drove some of them, in more recent years, to go for Gold — or Platinum for that matter?

CBJ: Well, there was interest among big public space projects in LEED Gold and Platinum even back to the early part of this decade. But the general thought was that doing so was too expensive. It took visionaries to break through that way of thinking, like Arthur Blank, owner of the Falcons…

GSB: …Along with Jed York of the San Francisco 49ers with Levi’s Stadium and Vivek Ranadive, owner of the NBA’s Sacramento Kings with Golden 1 Center

CBJ: …to see the value in LEED Gold or Platinum. I can speak to the Mercedes-Benz Stadium case as I worked on that project. Mr. Blank said “we’re going for LEED Platinum” early on in the process and he and his team never wavered. The project team saw that sustainability-oriented companies, who might not have become stadium sponsors otherwise, saw Platinum as a reason to sign on…

 

Five minute video featuring, among others, Carlie Bullock-Jones, tells Mercedes-Benz Stadium’s LEED Platinum story

 

GSB: …That is music to my ears — corporations deciding to sponsor a stadium  specifically because it goes for the high levels of LEED certification. And those sponsorship dollars help defray some of the added cost of going for Platinum! So when did Ecoworks Studio start working on the Mercedes-Benz Stadium project?

CBJ: Ecoworks Studio joined the 360 team in 2013, early on in the design process for Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Expansive thinking on what the stadium could be was a hallmark throughout the planning process. Stakeholder charettes or brainstorms were held at the Arthur Blank Foundation with local environmental nonprofits taking part. An innovative “What If” approach was part of the process in which pie in the sky ideas were encouraged. The broad question that started things was “What if a stadium could contribute to a more sustainable future?” Sub-teams drilled down to more specific questions. Our Green Team asked questions like “What if the water leaving the stadium was as clean as it was coming in?” and “What if we could store the kinetic energy fans create when they walk through the stadium?”

GSB: Did any of the ideas get put into practice?

CBJ: Many did, including installing urban gardens on the property. This strategy was also an opportunity to connect with the neighboring community. This might sound like small stuff but it was all of these little things, along with the consistent commitment to go for Platinum, which got the project over the finish line…

 

Carlie Scott Chris M-B Stadium

Carlie Bullock-Jones, flanked by Scott Jenkins (l), Mercedes-Benz General Manager, and Chris DeVolder of 360 Architects — now HOK (Photo credit: Ecoworks Studio)

 

GSB: Not only did Mercedes-Benz Stadium achieve Platinum certification, it earned 88 points, blowing by the minimum 80 point Platinum threshold. Congratulations on being a part of the team that made this happen. What other stadium and arena LEED certification projects has Ecoworks Studios worked on?

CBJ: Thank you. Mercedes-Benz Stadium going LEED Platinum was a classic case of “right teams, right time.” Beyond that, we are wrapping the LEED certification process for Little Caesar’s Arena in Detroit, the new home of the NHL’s Red Wings and the NBA’s Pistons. And we are working on LEED certification efforts for Welsh-Ryan Arena in Evanston, IL, the existing home of Northwestern University basketball as well as its training center. Back in Atlanta, we are working with Atlanta United of MLS on LEED certification for their training facility and with the Atlanta Hawks on getting LEED certification for Philips Arena…

 

Welsh-Ryan Northwestern

Ecoworks Studios is working on LEED Certification for the renovation of Welsh-Ryan Arena, home of Northwestern University basketball (Photo credit: Northwestern Athletics)

 

GSB: It is great to hear that Ecoworks Studios is so busy with LEED certification in sports venue world! I have one more question: What isn’t happening yet in the LEED certification end of the sports venue world that you think should be?

CBJ: I’ll answer that with a “What If”: What if a stadium could help improve your health from wellness, fitness and nutrition perspectives? We should be looking at that and I think women sustainability practitioners in particular are well-positioned to play important roles in that arena, pun intended. I also believe we have the opportunity to focus on fan engagement initiatives.

GSB: I’m a bit disappointed that’s not the case now…

CBJ: Facilities can apply for and sometimes earn what are called “innovative points” – this would be the area in LEED where fan engagement could be included. This needs to be brought up with the USGBC as something to consider, that’s for sure. The impact can be far-reaching, going beyond the walls of the building.

GSB: Somehow I can picture Ecoworks Studios playing a key role in that conversation.

 


 

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GSB News and Notes: 49ers Take Part in UN Dialogue on Sport and Climate Action; Compostable Peanut Bags at KC’s Arrowhead Stadium; Sacramento Kings Put Spotlight on Sustainability for Fans

We are pleased to bring you a GSB News & Notes column full of firsts: The San Francisco 49ers represented the NFL in the first UN Dialogue on Sport and Climate Action. The first compostable peanut bags anywhere in the world are sold at Kansas City’s Arrowhead Stadium. And, the NBA’s Sacramento Kings host the first sustainability-themed fan engagement program at Golden 1 Center, their LEED Platinum certified arena (also a first!) 

 

49ERS PLAY IMPORTANT ROLE AT UN DIALOGUE ON SPORT AND CLIMATE ACTION IN GERMANY

The San Francisco 49ers, along with the Philadelphia Eagles, represented the NFL when leaders of global sports organizations and sustainability experts convened October 30-31 in Bonn, Germany at the inaugural UN Dialogue on Sport and Climate Action. Its primary goal was to develop collaborative approaches by which stakeholders at the intersection of Sport & Climate Change can contribute to achieving the long-term goals of the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement and the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

The gathering was a preliminary of sorts to the main event in Bonn: The 23rd session of the global UN Conference of the Parties, or COP 23. That larger summit was held to advance implementation of the Paris Agreement, the multi-national accord which aims to limit global average temperature rise to well below 2 degrees Celsius and as close as possible to 1.5 degrees Celsius, and to build greater resilience to climate change.

You might have heard this is also the very agreement the United States, on the direction of President Trump, is planning to exit as of 2019. With Nicaragua and Syria having decided to join the Paris Agreement, that will leave the U.S. as the only country not to be part of the pact. Now, I’ve certainly heard of “American Exceptionalism” but this is ridiculous — along with wrongheaded and dangerous.

But, I digress.

Back to the 49ers.

The team earned its seat at the Sport and Climate Action table, thanks in large part to its LEED Gold certified Levi’s® Stadium, which opened in 2015. The Santa Clara-based stadium, which played host to Super Bowl 50 — generally regarded as the “Greenest Super Bowl Ever”^ — in 2016, is a leader among green-sports venues, as it features on-site solar, green roof, recycled water usage, composting and much more.

 

Levi's Stadium HNTB

Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, CA, LEED Gold certified home of the San Francisco 49ers (Photo credit: HNTB)

 

“Meeting with sports venues and organizations from around the world…really demonstrated that our Levi’s Stadium team is really well positioned to help lead the movement towards a more sustainable future for our industry,” said Pat Rogan, Levi’s Stadium Director of Engineering Operations, who represented the 49ers in Bonn. “The conference showed us there are many organizations as committed as we are to being environmentally responsible neighbors and that if we all work together, we can be meaningful resources for the rest of the sports industry.”

The UN Dialogue on Sports and Climate Action featured two full days of workshops, panel discussions, and keynote speeches focused on leveraging sport and its ability to influence fan behavior in areas like energy consumption, water conservation, and more. Group working sessions included assessments of the sports industry’s impact on climate change, the risks to sport from climate change and related potential governmental policy decisions, and the expectations of the sports industry to be climate change advocates. The groups also discussed what the sports industry can do to promote broader climate action.

Joining the 49ers and the Eagles at the UN Dialogue on Sport and Climate Action were a who’s who of world sport and green-sports, including:

“Rapidly halting greenhouse gas emissions and achieving a carbon-neutral economy in the next few decades requires a fundamental change from all sectors of the business world, including sports,” said Justin Zeulner, Executive Director of the Green Sport Alliance, who also attended the conference. “And few sectors cross cultural boundaries in the way that sports does.”

Back in Santa Clara, the 49ers are committing to take the necessary steps that will enable them to sign and live up to the UN’s Climate Neutral Now Pledge:

  1. Measure and report their greenhouse gas emissions for an agreed-upon period of time
  2. Reduce their greenhouse gas emissions as much as possible
  3. Offset remaining emissions with UN Certified Emission Reductions (CERs)

Per a statement from the team, these commitments and acts of leadership “are designed to help inspire the growing movement of governments, companies, and individuals [to take] proactive actions to mitigate the impact of climate change, a movement that the 49ers are determined to help lead.”

 

COMPOSTABLE PEANUT BAGS AT KANSAS CITY’S ARROWHEAD STADIUM

Most of the 74,929 fans left Arrowhead Stadium in a funk on Sunday after the hometown Kansas City Chiefs’ 26-14 loss to the Buffalo Bills, their fifth defeat in the last six games. Those fans were likely unaware of perhaps the best thing to happen at the game — the introduction of compostable bags of peanuts, which concessionaire Aramark says is a first for sports. The Chiefs and Aramark made the compostable bags a reality by teaming up with bag maker/Green-Sports leader BASF and Hampton Farms, which is among the country’s top peanut suppliers.

 

Compostable Peanuts Aramark

Compostable peanut bags, made of a material developed by BASF, were introduced by the Kansas City Chiefs and its concessionaire, Aramark, at Sunday’s game vs. the Buffalo Bills (Photo credit: Waste360)

 

Aramark, which sells 15,000 bags of peanuts every season at Arrowhead, said Chiefs officials approached them to find ways to comply with the team’s Extra Yard for the Environment waste reduction and diversion-from-landfill initiative.

As part of the 18-month developmental process, BASF worked with Missouri Organic Recycling in Kansas City to test packaging prototypes and ensure the final product met composting guidelines for quality and safety. The product is the first commercially available peanut bag to be made from BASF’s certified compostable ecovio biopolymer and Epotal adhesive.

The Chiefs are selling the peanuts for $5.75 per bag, the same price as the old bags made of non-compostable materials. Fans at Arrowhead can dispose of empty bags at compost bins or leave them under their seats for postgame pickup and sorting.

Paul Kearns, BASF’s business development manager, said, “We welcome the opportunity to demonstrate to snack producers and users of flexible packaging that compostable is a viable waste reduction strategy.”

“Over the past few years we have put an increased focus on our sustainability program, Extra Yard for the Environment, and have worked to find new, innovative ways to reduce our organization’s carbon footprint,” added Brandon Hamilton, Chiefs vice president of stadium operations. “We have received tremendous support from our partners, such as Aramark, and have been fortunate to work with…organizations like BASF and Hampton Farms, who are dedicated to helping us meet our goals.”

Philadelphia-based Aramark’s main objective, pending additional testing at other NFL stadia, is to expand the compostable bag concept to include all peanuts sold for all of their food clients.

 

SACRAMENTO KINGS “SPOTLIGHT” SUSTAINABILITY AT RECENT HOME GAME

On November 20, the Sacramento Kings Foundation hosted the first Spotlight Night of the 2017-18 season at Golden 1 Center, supporting regional non-profits using NBA basketball as an agent of change in the community. While the Denver Nuggets walked away with a 114-98 victory, it was Yolo Farm to Fork — a nonprofit whose work educating students on the importance of locally grown fresh food and reducing waste through school gardens — who won the night and earned its place in the “Spotlight.”

 

Spotlight Night Kings

 

“Sustainability is one of our core values, and we’re passionate about how we can continue to reduce our impact on the planet,” said Kings President of Business Operations John Rinehart. “Through our Spotlight Nights, we’re able to support the work of incredible non-profits by sharing our stage with over 17,000 fans to raise awareness.”

During Spotlight Nights, a Sacramento-area nonprofit will “take over” the arena and engage Kings fans through in-arena programming, social media, concourse activations, and more. The Spotlight on Sustainability Night was the first in this season’s three-part series with future game nights focusing on health and education.

Yolo Farm to Fork took over the arena, sharing their message at an informational table and with special farm boxes in the suites and lofts in the arena. They educated fans on best practices for growing in-season produce, composting techniques and incorporating farm-fresh food into school lunches – thus helping Sacramento area residents reduce their environmental impact.

The Kings made sure fans were engaged and entertained, with a “Veggie Race,” videos featuring farm-to-fork trivia, as well as sharing some of the team’s innovative practices that helped Golden 1 Center become the world’s first LEED platinum arena while earning GreenSportsBlog’s “Greenest New Stadium/Arena” award for 2016.

 

 

 


 

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GreenSportsBlog News and Notes: Meet the New Timberland Sustainable Boot…Same as the Old Boot?; Levi’s Stadium Advanced Stormwater Control System Explained; Musto Apparel Greens Its Game as Part of Volvo Ocean Race Sponsorship

Sustainable apparel and stormwater control systems make up today’s GSB News & Notes column. Outdoor sports leader Timberland just announced the launch of a new sustainable boot. This is great on its face, but it appears the new boot is no greener than one the company brought to market ten years ago. Santa Clara’s Levi’s Stadium, home of the San Francisco 49ers and the first NFL stadium to receive LEED Gold certification, recently announced the details of its innovative stormwater control system. Musto Apparel, a leader in Sailing, Country and Adventure apparel, makes good on its sustainability commitment by reducing its packaging waste as part of its sponsorship of the 2017-18 Volvo Ocean race.

 

TIMBERLAND INTRODUCES NEW SUSTAINABLE BOOT; COULD IT HAVE BEEN GREENER THAN ITS PREDECESSOR?

Timberland, the outdoor athletic apparel icon based in Stratham, NH, has been a sustainable business leader for at least the past 10 years. Back in 2007, it introduced its Green Index® label to measure and communicate the environmental impact of its products. Appearing on Timberland shoe boxes and then on other packaging, Green Index labels have the same look and feel as nutrition labeling on food, but instead of measuring calories and fat, Green Index labels look at energy used and waste produced in manufacturing, among other things.

 

Timberland Label

Example of a Timberland Green Index® label

 

Also in 2007, Timberland launched the Original Earthkeepers® boot, a breakthrough in sustainable footwear. Made up of 50 percent recycled Polyethylene Terephthalate (PET) linings and laces, 34 percent recycled rubber outsoles and certified leather with a silver rating by the Leather Working Group, Original Earthkeepers warmed the hearts of Green Index label readers.

Fast forward to 2017 and Timberland is again introducing a boot, the Eagle Bay, with an impressive Green Index label. But is its environmental “nutrition” performance that strong? According to a July 23 story in Just Means by Antonio Pasolini, the Eagle Bay ​only matches its Earthkeepers predecessor with​ the same silver-rating from Leather Working Group, the same 50 percent recycled PET linings and 34 percent recycled rubber outsoles.

 

Timberland Just Means

Timberland’s new Eagle Bay boot. (Photo credit: Timberland)

 

Given Timberland’s sustainable bona fides, shouldn’t the company have been able to increase the recycled content of its premier boot lines over a 10 year period? From where I sit, the answer should’ve been a resounding yes.

 

LEVI’S STADIUM’S ADVANCED STORMWATER CONTROL SYSTEM EXPLAINED

Levi’s Stadium, home of the San Francisco 49ers, made history when it opened in 2014 as it became the first NFL stadium to earn LEED Gold certification. And, while it opened during the midst of the extremely severe California drought, the stadium was built with an elaborate system for stormwater management.

With the drought now over, details about this novel system were recently made public and were laid out in a July 19 Environmental Leader story by Alyssa Danigelis.

Designed by HNTB, Levi’s Stadium is 1.85 million square feet, has a capacity of 68,500 (not including club seats and luxury suites), and approximately 30,000 parking spots. Ms. Danigelis, citing a new case study by stormwater collection treatment company Oldcastle Building Solutions, points out that “all those hard surfaces can generate enormous stormwater runoff…turn[ing] a football field into a muddy swamp…and a parking lot into a floodplain.” That the stadium site sits on land that has a high water table with storm drain lines close to the surface makes stormwater collection even more challenging.

To deal with stormwater in the parking lots, project engineers GHD installed a modular lineup of precast concrete biofiltration units. These contain cells made up of mulch, biofiltration media, and drainage rock. The biofiltration media units drain 5 to 10 inches per hour to be in line with the county’s requirements. According to Ms. Danigelis, “above ground the system resembles normal landscaping, but it allows the water to flow downward, get treated, and then go into an underground pipe. Microbes break down the filtered pollutants while the water irrigates plants and trees nearby.” Altogether, the stadium has six biofiltration systems in parking lots and areas right next to the building.

 

Levi's Stadium Parking Lot The Comeback

Fans stream into Levi’s Stadium from one of the parking lots that benefits from the recently announced stormwater control system. (Photo credit: The Comeback)

 

Ms. Danigelis reports that Oldcastle Building Solutions claims the systems “are self-sustaining for the most part and protect the surrounding areas from contaminated runoff.” This is particularly crucial because the San Tomas Aquino Creek flows right by the stadium and “ultimately feeds the ecologically-sensitive Guadalupe Slough as well as San Francisco Bay.”

 

MUSTO APPAREL IMPROVES ITS PACKAGING-RELATED CARBON FOOTPRINT

Musto, a leader in Sailing, Country and Adventure apparel, recently unveiled its new Official Volvo Ocean Race Merchandise Collection, coinciding with the 2017-2018 edition of around the world sailing race. Sustainability — especially concern about plastic ocean waste — played a key and constant role in the new line’s development.

Vestas 11th Hour Racing, the innovative, sustainability-focused sponsor of the boat manned by Charlie Enright and Mark Towill, challenged Musto to reduce the environmental impact of the plastic packaging used to deliver garments. Musto accepted, committing to find a more sustainable packaging alternative.

It wasn’t easy to make good on the commitment. There were considerable operational challenges on the road to reducing the environmental impacts of packaging while making sure the goods that customers receive remained top quality.

But, working with Vestas 11th Hour Racing and the sustainability team at the Volvo Ocean Race, Musto was able to identify pre-consumer waste as an area where efficiencies could be realized. This is waste generated in a manufacturing plant through the production of carrier bags, such as punch out holes and trimmings from measuring out plastic.

Pre-consumer waste is normally sent to landfill, but it was found that this plastic could be used as part of garment bags for delivery. This now means all Musto garment bags are 100 percent recyclable and are made from 30 percent recycled material.

The Musto manufacturing team also discovered that by adding a single fold to the garment delivery bags, the size could be reduced by 40 percent without any impact on product quality. These two initiatives will reduce the weight of plastic used in the manufacture, packaging and delivery of Musto goods by 70 percent.

Musto has committed to rolling out these innovations for packaging on all product lines in 2018. This is projected to save 11 tons of plastic a year, the equivalent of over 61,000 plastic bottles.

Mark Turner, CEO of the Volvo Ocean Race, said that “Partnering with Musto to make these changes reflects our commitment to sustainability, particularly, plastic pollution and our program to help ‘Turn the Tide on Plastic’.”

 

Mark Turner Ainhoa Sanchez Volvo

Mark Turner, CEO of the Volvo Ocean Race. (Photo credit: Ainhoa Sanchez,

 

“We…hope our [sustainable product line] will help raise awareness of ocean health,” added Petra Carran, Head of Marketing at Musto. “We are proud of the sustainability innovations we have made in the past six months and remain committed to further exploring this area in the future.”

 


 

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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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