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Sunday, 27 October 2013 22:00

Q&A: Keith Winn, Catalyst Partners

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Keith Winn Keith Winn COURTESY PHOTO

As president of Catalyst Partners, a Grand Rapids-based consortium of architecture, engineering and interiors professionals focusing on sustainable design and building performance, Keith Winn is a longtime advocate for and practitioner of sustainable design. In fact, he was one of the founding members of the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) and helped implement the system at Herman Miller and the city of Grand Rapids. Winn, who is currently running for a seat on the national USGBC board of directors, spoke with MiBiz about green building practices and LEED.

You’ve served on the USGBC board of directors as treasurer and on a variety of steering committees over the years. Why are you running again?

There are many projects here locally that are firsts in the practice. In fact, West Michigan led the nation in the number of LEED buildings for several years after LEED was introduced. We have a great history of leadership here and I’ve participated in the development of the (LEED) standards over the years. I want to continue to use our region as an example and give feedback to the council and bring information from the council back to West Michigan to help continue the momentum behind our green building leadership here.

If you get back on the board, what are some areas you plan to focus on?

I feel that as LEED matures, more attention can be given to the relationships with product manufacturers, the commercial interior community and the existing building community. I’d like to have an opportunity to help the USGBC maintain the focus on those markets.

Do emerging programs like the Living Building Challenge and others gaining recognition in the green building market make it easier or harder for the USGBC to maintain its status as the industry leader?

Most (programs) are very important and very complementary of each other. Living Building Challenge is a stretch goal. It’s the ultimate green building and very hard to achieve, but it’s where the USGBC is heading. Living Building Challenge is the tip of the spear in the green building movement. Not many projects out there are going to attempt it, but those that do are the people putting sweat equity into innovation and stretching the market.

If the USGBC and the LEED program aren’t exactly pushing the boundaries, what is the mission?

As the USGBC has become more mainstream, it’s a segment of the industry that continues to have a leadership role. It’s challenging enough to do a project, but it has to be acceptable to the mainstream but still stretch them beyond the current codes and regulations. LEED is being adapted internationally and in different regions with alternative compliances. It’s on a path to make sense around the world, and LEED certification has become really important to a certain segment of the market — and always will be.

What is your answer to architects, engineers and general contractors that claim to be able to deliver a building that is just as efficient and sustainable without following LEED standards?

Credentials are a way of life in our society and demonstrating your competence is extremely important. I’ve heard stories told over and over about firms that are designing their buildings to LEED standards but (have) never seen any verification, metric or clear statement about how efficient their buildings are or the procedures they’ve followed. It’s easy to say a building is designed a certain way, but how efficient are they against other buildings? Have they had their designs verified by a third party and gone back and proven its performance? It’s all about accountability more than just saying you’re going to do it. I heard about a project the other day that was following sustainable principles, but I have no idea what that means.

What will it take to convince building owners and developers to continue to adopt LEED and other green building standards?

People do things for different reason, but this is a very cost-driven market. I think if we can get developers and owners working closely with professional teams and demonstrate the benefits of getting higher levels of efficiency and that their projects can get further incentives to support their investments, I think they’ll continue to embrace these ideas. Beyond that, there is a market out there that is looking for proven holistic green building solutions.

Interview conducted and condensed by Elijah Brumback.

Read 2881 times Last modified on Sunday, 27 October 2013 22:05