EMERGE Leadership Project Creates Energy for Change

What do a proposal for designing, building, and funding high performance affordable housing, the recent aspirational & outcome based energy code proposal to the Washington State’s Building Code Council, and the Building Carbon Zero California Symposia have in common? In each case, EMERGE Alumni are leading the way.

“Elegant and Agile” is what EMERGE Alumni Alistair Jackson (O’Brien & Company), Julie Kriegh (Kriegh Architecture), and Pat Park (21 Acres) call their proposal to increase housing affordability through high performance design, integrated delivery, and incremental funding. The nation’s affordable housing stock has until recently, prioritized quantity over quality, resulting in an inventory which typically becomes economically unsustainable within a decade of completion. Even as affordable housing leaders strive to make performance a priority, they are thwarted by a funding process that deters early stage investment in design integration, and offers few incentives for investors to favor long-term performance and hence economic, social and environmental sustainability. The EMERGERs propose a new approach that makes economic and social sustainability the primary goal and total cost of ownership the primary metric of success, and which is applicable to both new construction and rehabilitation of existing housing stock. While drawing on existing high-performance examples, it introduces an innovative delivery process. When the team shared their proposal with the local Housing Development Consortium, the group was so impressed they scheduled a repeat presentation to a larger audience; an expanded session is scheduled for the Living Future unConference in Portland in May, 2014.

Mike Fowler manages the PSE Residential New Construction Energy-Efficiency Incentive program. He’s an Architect with 20+ years of experience focused on energy efficiency including two net-zero energy design projects, five LEED projects and past service as a member of the Washington State Building Code Council (SBCC) Energy Code – Technical Advisory Group (TAG). He’s currently Chair for the AIA WA Codes and Planning Policy Committee and a member of the SBCC Green Building TAG. In early 2012 he authored an Outcome-based Energy Budget code proposal focused on reducing actual energy use 70% by 2031. He signed up for the December 2012 EMERGE Leadership Workshop, hoping to use it as a springboard for effectively taking this proposal forward in 2013, with enhanced leadership skills to help him do so.

MikeFowlerMike was confident about the technical content of his proposal, but he wanted help thinking about the process of building support for his proposal. It didn’t hurt that David Eisenberg was co-faculty for the workshop. David is well-known for his work “greening” codes nationally and internationally. But the piece de resistance was the workshop’s team scenario component. Imagine Mike’s pleasure when his project (slightly altered for wider applicability) was offered to workshop attendees as a planning scenario! Mike and several attendees (and David) worked together using emergent leadership concepts to develop an outline of a plan, complete with timeline, possible allies, and suggested resources. (Photo: Mike is presenting the outline at EMERGE.)

But it didn’t stop there. By its nature, EMERGE brings together green building professionals who are already highly committed to taking a leadership role in the sustainable transformation of our built environment. Although participants may be at various points in their career, all of them are bright and talented and bring this to the workshop experience. One of the “favorite” benefits reported on workshop evaluations is the role EMERGE plays in connecting these talented and dedicated individuals, and building a leadership community they can rely on.

When Mike contacted me for support of his updated proposal this fall, which now incorporated peer review feedback from a number of Emerge alumni, other focus groups, and the concept for an Aspirational Code (a new code vision for Washington State), the next step was obvious.  An email to EMERGE Alumni was sent out immediately, asking for letters to the SBCC supporting his proposal. It generated (in Mike’s words), “an amazing response.” No doubt this played a very large part in Mike’s success in making a case for serious consideration of his proposal as the SBCC formally approved development of an Aspirational Code work plan incorporating his proposal and outcome-based codes as one of the possible options.

Connecting committed leaders and supporting their collaboration is definitely key for Bronwyn Barry’s respect for the EMERGE experience. Bronwyn, an architect, is Director of One Sky Homes, and Founding Board Member of Passive House California, and very active in Passive House International. After meeting Bill Worthen (of Urban Fabrick and former Director, Resource Architect for Sustainability, AIA) and Bill Burke (of PG&E’s Pacific Energy Center) in the January 2013 workshop, she was able to reframe and enlarge the conversation that groups focused on net zero energy, Passive House, etc. were having individually. While the “Building Carbon Zero California Symposia” featured Passive House Heroine, Joke Dockx, from the City of Brussels, it also featured an expert panel of local net zero luminaries, hosted by Bill Worthen. The goal of the event, says Bronwyn, was to “gather all the players — city planners, public utility and state energy commission representatives, architects, builders, and facilities managers — to find a way to work together to work on the larger goal of creating a built environment that is ‘carbon-zero’.” Since the initial symposium, a “spin-off” event has been held in Marin County, focused specifically on local issues, and a “series” of similar events are in the works to serve as local catalysts for more effective collaboration.

Clearly, the EMERGE Leadership workshop draws to it very special people.   But its fair to say that in bringing these individuals together and providing tools and context for leadership it creates something much more.

The next EMERGE workshop is scheduled for January 25-25, 2014, Portland, OR, at the new Earth Advantage Headquarters. For registration and program details see:  http://emergeleadershipproject.org/emerge/events/elw-portland-2/ (Note: Earlybird registration deadline is December 15th!)

San Francisco Based Urban Fabrick Uses EMERGE to Launch New Business Initiative

Bill Worthen, AIA Fellow, LEED AP, attended the EMERGE Leadership Workshop last year in Sausalito after a two-year stint as the AIA National Director and Resource Architect for Sustainability in D.C.
He was impressed enough to bring his entire Urban Fabrick team to EMERGE this year – four total.

“I’m putting together a new business initiative to expand my consulting services,” says the nationally recognized sustainability and collaborative design thought leader. “The EMERGE curriculum is totally aligned with my thinking; the workshop was a great way to kick-start training and team-building for my new staff.”

In addition to serving AIA National, Bill’s twenty year career has included consulting on high visibility green building projects for clients such as MGM Resorts International, Tishman Speyer and the Energy Foundation, working on local policy initiatives such as San Francisco’s pioneering Green Building Ordinance and the formation of San Francisco’s Eco-District, and authoring professional education on building material selection and life cycle assessment (LCA). His policy work earned him the first World Green Building Council Government Leadership Award in 2011.
UF-InfographicUrban Fabrick’s mission is to connect policy and practice with design (see infographic); part of its expansion plans includes an initiative to provide technical design assistance and targeted sustainable business consulting to small and medium-sized A&E businesses, real estate professionals and design firms.

Readers: Find out more about group rates available for the upcoming EMERGE Leadership Workshops at the Islandwood Conference Center in Bainbridge Island, WA (December 7-8) and the Earth Advantage Classroom in Portland, OR (January 24-25).Call Kathleen O’Brien at 206-200-1864 or e-mail her at info@kathleenobrienleadership.com.

Mission (totally) Possible

Brett DeSantisThree EMERGE Alumni met this past weekend to formalize the first local EMERGE Discussion Group (EVER!) giving proof once again Margaret Mead’s thought that one should  “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed people can change the world.” 

“Agent” Brett Marlo DeSantis, MFA, LEED AP BD&C, provides a recap:

  • Place: Gig Harbor Washington
  • Conditions: clear crisp Sunday afternoon (post seahawk loss)
  • Agents: Nick Cutting, Dan Smith, and Brett Marlo DeSantis
  • Assignment: E.A.T. it up!  Emerge Accountability Team Mission engaged: tangible, measurable and actionable items.
  • Deadline: quarterly or goals will self-destruct.
  • Next mission date: 3.24.13

Agent Dan

Mission: endings are great beginnings

1. Finish Project zero-energy house. Prepare for ribbon cutting. Find students to present on process. Create video from pictures.

2. Prepare for Community Lecture Series to commence. Define target audience. Agenda. Venue. Date. Speaker. Format. Possible dates: May 8th or 9th 2013.

3. Apply to masters program at UWT. Interdisciplinary program.

Agent Nick

Mission: momentum, quantity + quality will increase speed

1. Meet with heavy green hitters. 1 per week. On target list.

2. Strengthen established relationships. 1 per week. On existing contact list.

3. Evaluate commitments and roles in current organizations. Define time commitments & successors.

Agent Brett

Mission: community transformation in my backyard

1. Increase awareness of sustainable codes. Meet with Gig Harbor city officials. Review code adoption.  Introduce code innovation data base.

2. Create market transformation in real estate market via green talks/education. Meet with realtor and lender network. Support and introduce Fiona to local connections. Write columns on accessing money for retrofits. Co-create presentations and look at local panel.

3. Engage in Gig Harbor’s revisioning. Prepare for invitation as panel with city officials to discuss sustainable tourism, community connectivity and the future of Gig Harbor’s waterfront.


Your mission, fellow agents, should you choose to accept it…

…is to form your own E.A.T. before we meet again. As always, if any of your force is caught without an objective, the Emerge Alumni will disavow any knowledge of your actions.

This blog will self-destruct in ten seconds. Good luck agents EMERGE Alumni!




Graduate Story

When Brett de Santis, MFA, LEED AP called to inquire about registering for the Emerge Leadership Workshop she was in line to take the chair position of the Tacoma Branch for the Cascadia Green Building Council and about to launch her second business enterprise. Even so, she wondered if she was “too young” for a workshop on leadership.  Kathleen O’Brien’s response was “absolutely not!”  Hear what Brett has to say about her investment in leadership development.

Case Study: Building Sustainability into the Codes

David Eisenberg, faculty for the Emerge Leadership Workshop series, explains how his work to create a sustainable context for building codes is deeply aligned with Emerge Leadership principles.

Terry Phelan Interviews Kathleen O’Brien

Why Emerge?

Download the interview with Terry Phelan, owner of Living Shelter Design, in two parts:

Interview Part 1 – 15 minutes

Kathleen O’Brien, founder of O’Brien & Company, shares her perspective on how far we’ve come with green building, some of the issues we are now facing, and how her new project Emerge is intended to address them.

MP3 download (8.5 KB)

Interview Part 2 – 15 minutes

Kathleen O’Brien, founder of the Emerge leadership project and nationally recognized sustainability expert shares why a new approach to leadership is so critical if we are to achieve a sustainable society and describes her commitment to work with those called to create a sustainable built environment as part of that vision.

MP3 download (8.5 KB)