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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The GSB Interview: David Muller, Green-Sports-Corporate Partner Matchmaker

David Muller has successfully shown sports teams, venues, and leagues, as well as corporations large and small, the value of attaching themselves to the Green-Sports Movement. After playing a key role in building the Green Sports Alliance from start up to mature force, Muller went off on his own to increase his impact. We sat down with Muller to get his take on the Movement, where it’s going and what he sees his role as being.

 

GreenSportsBlog: David, how did a kid from Springfield, IL find his way to the epicenter of the Green-Sports Movement?

David Muller: Things certainly didn’t start out that way. Yes, I am from Springfield. Grew up a Bulls fan during the Jordan Years, and of course love the Bears and White Sox too. But I didn’t intend to work in sports at all. I wanted to move west and went to Lewis & Clark College in Portland, OR as a Religious Studies major. Thought I would go the academia route but you know what? Whenever I looked at an academic, they seemed so unhappy—bored, really, and removed from the real world. So I ditched that plan and wandered—worked in education and journalism, taught English in Argentina, then worked in software project management. Over time I came to the conclusion that I needed to work in sustainability in some way, shape or form. Ended up going to the Bainbridge Graduate Institute’s (BGI) Graduate Business School for Sustainability in Seattle. Now part of Presidio Graduate School, I was attracted to it because it embedded sustainability in every aspect of the curriculum with the goal of making the world a better place through business, or “changing business for good” as the motto goes.

GSB: That’s a lofty goal, indeed…

DM: No doubt about it. They really want to change business from the inside out.

GSB: So how did you go from BGI to the Green Sports Alliance?

DM: During my time at BGI, Jason Twill came to speak. He was working at Vulcan

GSB: …Vulcan is Paul Allen’s company, Allen being one of the co-founders of Microsoft.

DM: Correct. Included among Vulcan’s assets at the time were the Seattle Seahawks, Seattle Sounders and the Portland Trail Blazers. Twill worked for Allen at Vulcan and was one of the co-founders of the GSA. He made the point that sports can change the world; that it can be a powerful platform for social change. I got it immediately, being an avid sports fan, having experienced in person and up close the power of sports to be a great unifier. Twill also said, “If you hear someone speak that inspires you, reach out to him/her.” So I took him at his word and did just that. The GSA hadn’t even launched yet, but Jason invited me to a board meeting/workshop. Soon enough I was an intern, there for its birth. And 9 months later, I was the second-ever staffer behind the original Executive Director Martin Tull.

GSB: What was your role there?

DM: I started out as a Jack-of-all-Trades, handling communications, writing blogs, and researching the ‘state of the state’ of the fledgling Green Sports Movement. I developed and managed the webinar program from its inception, focusing on the key identified impact areas of waste, energy, water, purchasing, transportation, and fan engagement, and featuring leading practitioners and successful case studies. We secured some terrific speakers early on, including several GMs and Directors of Operations of major professional sports venues, executives from international corporations like Aramark and Waste Management, as well as leading environmental NGOS and the U.S. EPA—and we quickly built a solid audience.

muller-matt-cohen

David Muller (Photo credit: Matt Cohen)

 

GSB: How many people attend those webinars?

DM: We started with an audience of 20-30; as of the spring 2016, we were getting 150-200 people per webinar. And then I took on generating memberships among teams, venues and leagues.

GSB: How did you do there?

DM: Well, from about 20 members when I came on board in 2011 as Membership Director, the GSA grew to nearly 400 members as of 2016.

GSB: That’s really impressive, David. Congratulations! How much did the memberships go for?

DM: There were two levels: Basic was $500/year and Premier went for $2,500. Premier members got a deeper level of direct support on greening initiatives from myself and other staff, as well as more significant promotion through the GSA website, public communications, and events.

GSB: What kind of services did the GSA offer its members?

DM: As far as the team and venue members were concerned, the we helped them reach their sustainability commitments and goals, whether it be recycling, composting, energy efficiency, etc. We really became sustainability consultants for stadium operators who increasingly were getting the direction from team management that they needed to take smart and fiscally responsible actions to reduce environmental impacts.

GSB: And they weren’t equipped to do so…

DM: Well, we provided the sustainability expertise they needed by reviewing their operations, examining their supply chain, researching available grants and incentives, etc.

GSB: At $500-$2,500 per year, that’s a great bargain!

DM: We thought so. And the spirit of collaboration among GSA members and staff was incredible.

GSB: Can you share a specific example of how you and the GSA worked with a team?

DM: Ah, it’s tough to pick out just one…

GSB: That’s why I ask the tough questions!

DM: OK, I really enjoyed working with the Baltimore Ravens, M&T Bank Stadium and the Maryland Stadium Authority. My key contact was Jeff Provenzano, who at the time was running Stadium Operations at M&T Bank Stadium. When we first met in Baltimore, we spoke for almost three hours about how Jeff and his team, who already helped make the operations more efficient, needed to secure the investments to take their greening program to the next level. It was invigorating, really.

GSB: Did the Ravens buy in?

DM: The Ravens owners challenged the stadium ops team to prove greening measures could save them money. So, Jeff and his team showed them how this could work with a modest investment and a terrific pay off. The entire staff at the stadium was engaged in a massive effort to lower its energy usage. It started off with little things like closing doors when leaving the office, turning lights off, reporting spaces that were being heated/cooled even though no one spent any significant time there (e.g. supply closets). Over several months, they reduced their energy usage by some 40-50%, which translated to an annual savings of ~$500,000—or about the cost of a rookie contract at the time.

GSB: I bet that got their attention.

DM: No doubt about it. Ownership embraced this and agreed to invest some capital in the program. They decided to go for LEED certification for existing buildings, but in order to achieve it, they needed access to a substantial amount of comparison data from other stadiums. In the spirit of collaboration that really defined the GSA at the time, I was able to work with other GSA members and obtain the relevant, sensitive data the crew in Baltimore needed for their LEED application, and they were able to attain Gold status a year or two later.

mt-bank-stadium-balt-sun

M&T Bank Stadium, now the LEED Gold certified home of the Baltimore Ravens, thanks in part to the work of David Muller and the Green Sports Alliance. (Photo credit: Baltimore Sun)

 

GSB: That’s a great story; one that the NFL should’ve told. Turning to the annual GSA Summit; that must also have been part of your responsibilities, no?

DM: Absolutely. The GSA was a very a small team the first few years, so everyone had to pitch in. We only had about three or four months of planning time for the first summit in Portland in 2011. Despite the short lead-time it turned out to be a big success—and we surprisingly turned a meaningful profit, mainly through getting the sports supply chain as sponsors/exhibitors–the Aramarks and Waste Managements of the world.

GSB: Did you manage that as well?

DM: No, sponsorships were mainly the responsibility of Martin Tull at the time, while I handled the memberships and communications.

GSB: As the Summit grew over time, with 700-800 attendees, the responsibilities must’ve grown with it.

DM: No doubt about it. I played a central role in designing the program, securing speakers, writing up session descriptions, coordinating volunteers, that sort of thing. And everyone else on the GSA team was multi-tasking as well. It was lots of work but it was also a lot of fun as we were all mission-driven and riding this rapidly-rising wave of engagement and activity.

muller-chicago-gsa

David Muller (l) presenting University of California, Berkeley with the Pac-12 Zero-Waste Award, at the 2015 Green Sports Alliance Summit in Chicago. (Photo credit: David Muller)

 

GSB: I can imagine. Why did you end up leaving GSA?

DM: Well, over time, in large part because of how many members we brought in while still maintaining a very small staff, the GSA became more focused on PR and storytelling—which they’re good at and is important—while moving away from the consulting, advisory, and operations support work. We simply didn’t have the capacity to continue the same level of service to individual members.

GSB: …Like what you did with the Ravens?

DM: Yes. And that’s what I was most interested in doing. Plus, I was also interested in the health and wellness aspects of sustainability and seeing how sports venues, and everyone who spends time in them, could benefit by focusing on people’s health and wellness within their operations, be it that of staff, fans, the active roster, etc. So, I left GSA last summer and became a sustainability-focused consultant. I’ve worked with small-to-medium sized health and wellness organizations including Green Seal, Delos/International WELL Building Institute (IWBI), and AtmosAir—to help them with market research and also how to compellingly present what they offer to sports venues.

GSB: I gotta believe sports venues and teams want to keep their athletes healthy—and their fans, for that matter. Good niche. Talk about your involvement in Sport and Sustainability International or SandSI.

DM: SandSI is an outgrowth of work I did in Europe in the spring of 2015 with Allen Hershkowitz…

GSB: Then the President of GSA.

DM: Yes. Allen, as well as Alice Henly, who also worked with Allen at the NRDC before coming to the GSA. I had connected in late 2014 with Neil Beecroft, who was the Sustainability Manager of UEFA at the time.

GSB: And, shameless plug, Neil’s a GreenSportsBlog interviewee.

DM: Yes. So in conversation with Neil, we kind of realized that while Europe is ahead of the U.S. in terms of environmental concern and government action, it was behind in Green-Sports. So, we accepted Neil’s invitation to meet with him and other leaders of the European Green-Sports Movement in Lausanne, Switzerland, as well as in Paris and London.

GSB: Lausanne is the capital of European sports, home of the IOC, FIFA and UEFA.

DM: The European sports entities, to a person, said “we need help” with greening. We were excited about sharing the knowledge we had gained over the previous few years, and making the GSA a truly global organization. But the GSA felt, at the time, that there was still a lot more to do in North America, and didn’t see an immediate ROI, so the European work was put on the back burner.

GSB: And, Allen, having left GSA, became one of the prime movers of SandSI.

DM: Yes. It’s still early days but things have really heated up over the past six months or so. I am an Organizing Committee member, and am helping develop the membership program for sports entities as well as corporations and NGOs.

GSB: Aside from the geographic differences, what do you see as the main distinctions between SandSI and GSA?

DM: I’d say the main differentiator is that SandSI takes a broader view of sustainability than the GSA. SandSI takes a “Triple Bottom Line” approach, considering social sustainability and ethics on an equal level with environmental and economic sustainability. The GSA made a strategic decision very early to become experts on the environmental side only, which made good sense at the time as a start-up trying to gain relevance. But I think an environmental-only approach puts a ceiling on what you can accomplish, because legitimate sustainability is comprehensive at its core, and the best environmental policies are always at risk of backsliding or discontinuation if the people responsible for carrying them out aren’t well-taken care of themselves.

GSB: I think that’s smart overall but my fear is that environment, and in particular, climate change, could be de-emphasized—just when the opposite is necessary.

DM: Oh don’t worry, SandSI places great priority on taking on climate change! But I think people often forgot that environmentalism is still ultimately about people, about keeping the environment clean and stable in order for humans to thrive. It’s not about saving the Earth for Earth’s sake (in the geologic timeframe, all of human history is but a blip), it’s about keeping the Earth livable so that our children, grandchildren, and grandchildren’s grandchildren have the opportunity to lead healthy, happy, meaningful lives as well. It is for them, as well as those already suffering from its impacts right now, that we confront climate change with all our resolve and ingenuity.

GSB: Amen!

 

 


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