A New Definition of “Experienced” in Building Design

by Janna Wandzilak on January 26, 2016 , No comments

imgresAt an event a few months ago, Joel Glanzberg emphasized the importance of reading and tracking living system patterns. Since then, I have observed numerous cases of what he described to be true – that humans, (myself included) tend to default on existing systems because it is what is comfortable, whether or not those systems are actually the best. After all, why reinvent the wheel?

While consulting on green building projects, I have found that the building and construction process is a great example of a system that has remained static for years. However, I have also discovered that this somewhat antiquated system may be changing.

Contrary to the typical construction process, one of the most basic requirements of green building is to have an integrated process. Whether implicit or explicit in the green building standard guidelines, it makes sense that to meet certain credits or requirements, the whole project team must work together. Some examples of this are more obvious than others. For example, to meet renewable energy credits, you need more than just a LEED consultant saying you need solar panels, but also at least an owner who wants the panels, an engineer to design the system and a contractor to make sure everything is getting installed according to plan. All members of the team must be engaged as early as design to make sure project goals are met.

With everyone involved in the early stages of planning, there is less of a chance of problems later, when changes can cause delays and are more expensive.

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Living Building Challenge and Declare – An Early Adopters Game

by Janna Wandzilak on January 19, 2016 , No comments

Screen Shot 2016-01-12 at 11.03.46 AMNot long after beginning work on Living Building Challenge projects, I embraced the phrase, “it’s called a challenge for a reason.”

While vetting hundreds of products, I have had to turn away many manufacturers who can’t explain what their products are made of. It has become more and more energizing to meet manufacturers who are excited to be leading the way and be able to reward them with business.

The supply of green building products is growing through the adoption of green building standards such as LEED and Living Building Challenge (LBC). However, after a tedious search for good green building products, it doesn’t take long to learn that most of the building products around you are still potentially hazardous.

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Special Offer for B Corps on Earth Day

by JD Capuano on April 22, 2015 , No comments

CLA Blog B Corp Earth Day Offer
We’re celebrating Earth Day by offering fellow B Corps special discounts to help them reduce their impact on the planet.

As a sustainability consultancy, we feel like every day is Earth Day. As we reflected on the officially celebrated day our attention focused on the numerous and interconnected environmental and social problems we face. These problems can only be solved through a concerted effort by the business community.

Since B Corps are the vanguard of the responsible business community, we decided to make it easier for B Corps to take steps to be better for the planet. Maybe some could become Best for the Planet!

We work and talk with a lot of BCorps and know that many want to take further sustainability action. After all of the Earth Day events are over, media has been consumed and discussions have been had, we wanted to give an incentive to companies to take action to deepen their sustainability commitment and impact.

So on this Earth Day we offer fellow B Corps a 20% discount on B Corp score improvement or our quick sustainability audit through the end of April. Our quick sustainability audit sets the stage for using business as a force for (even more) good!

Offer lasts through April 30, 2015. Reach out to us via our contact form or call 347.709.3019 to discuss how we can help!

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A Light Amid the Smog: Why Living Building Challenge Works in China

by Eileen Quigley on March 27, 2015 , No comments

unnamedCrippling smog in Beijing is being slashed by vibrant sunrises and sunsets displayed on a giant LED screen in Tiananmen Square. The simulation of nature is, if nothing else, an admission that China has an environmental problem with a not so clear-cut solution. Through my work on a construction project with lofty sustainability goals I experienced first hand the unique challenges China faces.

The country’s building stock is just one part of the infrastructure that is sprouting at record rates. The energy supply – provided primarily by coal – is trying to keep up, tarnishing citizens’ outlook and the natural environment as a result. Environmental organizations and consulting companies such as mine are asking the question: how do we apply more than just a bandage to heal the wound?

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A Sinking Feeling: What you might not realize about Fashion Week 2015

by Janna Wandzilak on February 11, 2015 , No comments

iStock_000018606374LargeWhat comes to mind when you think about the environmental impact of the shirt you are wearing? How about that Chanel jacket or Louis Vuitton dress you will see on the runway this week during Fashion Week? You may think about the labor or materials used to make the shirt, or maybe the energy used to create it and ship it to your local store. For most people, water isn’t top of mind.

Water, however, plays a huge role throughout supply chains in the fashion industry. The Stockholm International Water Institute names the textile industry as the 4th largest industrial water user and also the 2nd largest industrial water polluter. While distinct materials, products and processes require different amounts of water, the global textile industry uses 6 trillion liters of fresh water annually. This averages out to several dozen gallons of water used for every pound of clothing made. The largest amounts of water are used to cultivate crops and in dye houses to dye and finish all sorts of garments.

One of apparel’s biggest consumers of water is cotton. A ubiquitous clothing material, cotton is a popular choice for all sorts of outfits, from athletic to casual to business wear. This is not surprising considering 20 million tons of cotton are produced every year in 90 countries. That’s enough cotton to fill 29 Empire State Buildings!

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Inspiration for Sustainability Movements

by JD Capuano on October 14, 2014 , No comments

2014_09_24_cr ny-dc 2014_day 5_0790In late September 2014, former Congressman Dennis Kucinich stood on the lawn of the U.S. Capital and addressed about 100 Climate Riders. He described how our accomplishment of pedaling bikes 300 miles and raising money for environmental non-profits fit within the greater climate mission.

It takes a lot of people pursuing different actions to drive change. And we all power the movement.

I had the privilege of listening to the Congressman after participating in Climate Ride for the second straight year. The NYC to DC ride is a 5-day fundraiser that also raises awareness about climate change. A few weeks later, I attended the B Corp Champion’s retreat – a celebration of a movement to change business to be better for people and the planet.

Similarities between Climate Ride and the B Corp movement sparked in my mind. The feat of athletic endurance that is Climate Ride struck me as a perfect metaphor to describe the challenges and exaltations experienced by companies that are using business as a force for good.

What we do as B Corps (and social enterprises) is just as mission driven as the cyclists who participate in Climate Ride. While the duration of our mission to “B the Change” is far longer, these similarities inspired me to think about three things it takes to keep such movements going.

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How we helped NRDC complete its first GRI report

by Ryan Meinke on July 25, 2014 , No comments

GRIReportWe are happy to announce that our client, the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) has just released its first sustainability report! We applaud NRDC for “walking the talk” and demonstrating the transparency that they demand from private sector companies. Among major environmental advocacy non-profits (think Sierra Club, Greenpeace, World Wildlife Fund, Environmental Defense Fund, etc.), NRDC is the first in the U.S. and one of the first worldwide to produce a comprehensive sustainability report covering their own operations.

GRI FORMAT NRDC’s report is a Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) G3.1 Level A report – and includes extensive disclosure of their environmental, social and economic impacts. GRI was identified as the best reporting framework for NRDC by a team of Columbia University Sustainability Management graduate​ students in a “Capstone” project for NRDC’s leadership, which Closed Loop Advisors helped coordinate. The graduate student team determined that GRI is the most comprehensive framework, is used across sectors, and is fast becoming the global standard for sustainability reporting.

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Companies and regional governments could take lead on carbon costs

by Kate Burrows on November 27, 2013 , No comments
Tar sands - before and after

Image source: Peter Essick, National Geographic via

Shell has a new policy that could lead to investing in lower carbon projects. The company announced last spring that it would be using a carbon cost of $40 per metric ton when evaluating new projects (2012 Sustainability Report).  This means that when Shell assesses the cost of a new project, it will incorporate a $40 dollar charge per ton of carbon, making plans that result in high emissions too costly for investment.

Such a practice for capital allocation, if adopted on a large scale, could help to shift investment patterns and emissions worldwide. Companies that apply this type of policy would make different decisions – potentially passing up on carbon intensive projects because the self-imposed cost renders them uneconomical.

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Top 5 Themes that Emerged from Greenbuild 2013

by Eileen Quigley on November 26, 2013 , 3 comments

GreenbuildLast week 28,000 people poured into the city of Philadelphia to learn about the latest surrounding sustainable buildings. Abundant amounts of information was shared but these are the main things I took away from Greenbuild 2013:

1. The evidence behind human caused climate change has never been clearer
In the wake of typhoon Haiyan, it’s impossible to ignore the obvious that anthropogenic climate change is happening and the effects are real. Hundreds of thousands of deaths per year are climate change related and the U.S. government is spending more money than ever on disaster recovery.

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Helping NRDC Breathe Easier by Achieving a Global First

by Eileen Quigley on November 20, 2013 , No comments
Steve Hall © Hedrich Blessing, Courtesy of Studio Gang Architects

Steve Hall © Hedrich Blessing, Courtesy of Studio Gang Architects

Do you know that new car smell? And the odors present in new construction from things like carpet and paint? Those odors result from the off-gassing of toxics. Doesn’t it seem backwards that buildings are full of them?

Facilities staff at the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) know how detrimental off-gassing is to human health and did something about it in their Chicago office fit out by achieving one of the loftiest green building standards. In late October, they became the first tenant improvement project in the world to be awarded the Living Building Challenge Petal Certification. Closed Loop Advisors served as sustainability advisor to help NRDC achieve this first.

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