Take 5 on Climate Change

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Recently, I had the opportunity to sit down with the Clark Construction Group communications team to share a bit about me and to discuss some of the top issues our Sustainability practice will focus on going forward.

Below are some expanded takeaways from our talk, published on occasion of today's announcement at #CFD17 to welcome the joint announcement of France and Sweden on their new commitment to green finance, helping the financial sector to advance climate action, including adoption of the Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures recommendations.

What is your role at Clark?

As Clark’s Director of Sustainability, I am passionately leading what I think is the best Sustainability team in the industry, for one of the most respected green builders in the nation. Our staff of over 350 LEED accredited professionals work collaboratively to transform the ideas and visions of our clients into award-winning and environmentally sound projects.

Where did you grow up?

I came to the U.S. as a child from Colombia, and grew up in Queens, New York. 

Can you tell us a little bit about your family?

Though I lost my folks to cancer at an early age, I have a wonderful extended family in Colombia and two amazing sisters and their families here in the States.

What is your favorite vacation spot?

New Orleans – a place that always feels familiar and vibrant.

Who has had the most influence on your life and why?

I served in the United States Army in the 1990's, and although he might not know it, one of the most influential people in my life was Drill Sargent Barnes in Fort Knox during my Army Basic Training. He taught me to stand tall and to embrace creative problem solving with a focus on mission results.

What occupies your time outside of the office?

Since my days of working at the Clinton Global Initiative, I have felt a deep calling to give back to the community I live in. So, I am highly active in my Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC1C) in Washington, DC's Ward 1. As a member of the Adams Morgan Vision Framework Taskforce, I have led a few communications projects and facilitated workshop meetings to identify beautification opportunities for our neighborhood.

Most recently, I was selected to join community leaders in the Design Advisory Committee for the Adams Morgan Partnership Business Improvement District, where a new “gateway beautification project” is underway to enhance key street intersections in our community. Previously, I have created 360 Videos for YouTube to immerse viewers and raise awareness about our neighborhood’s parks and underused spaces.

What is your greatest professional accomplishment or favorite project?

One of my favorite professional accomplishments was leading the creation of a workforce development program at a 26,000-member trade association for interior designers. This program began as a 2014 Clinton Global Initiative valued over $1.2 million and was eventually named the Health and Wellness Protocols, which is targeted to over 40,000 design professionals and industry leaders. By building capacity among design professionals to create healthier workplaces and interior environments, I helped advance the transformation of the sustainability market to adapt to new health-related concerns beyond the traditional energy efficiency approach.

What is your favorite Clark memory so far?

The 2017 Operations Conference, and seeing first hand Clark’s impressive portfolio of projects in Chicago along with the quality people who helped make these stunning sustainable structures happen.

What are your top priorities now that you’ve joined the Clark family?

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Sustainability is all about leaving things better than one finds them, and as a leading green builder we are ideally positioned to continue helping our clients build stunning, award-winning sustainable buildings.

We take great pride in being consistently ranked as one of the nation’s top green builders. Just in 2016, our building portfolio reached well over $3.5 billion from green construction projects, and more than 68 million square feet of Envision, LEED, SITES and other sustainability certified projects delivered or underway. This growing body of work enables us to understand the true costs and benefits of green building, and integrate market research into project outcomes relative to changes in regulations, climate, and population growth.

By procuring smarter materials and products, we will continue to help our clients transform the marketplace and achieve brilliant outcomes from their investments in energy, water and waste efficiencies for their buildings. As of today, the median age of commercial buildings in the United States is 32 years, and half of all commercial buildings were constructed before 1980. These older buildings make up most of the built environment and have vast potential to save money, energy, and water through efficiency upgrades. Buildings account for 73% of electricity consumption in the U.S. and 38% of CO2 emissions, and energy consumption drives both operating costs and environmental risks which are some of the top KPIs our clients care about.

But our clients also want reassurance that their investments are safe from sudden interruptions and ultimately from structural losses. Therefore, Climate Change disruptions which threaten to damage or devastate our client's buildings are becoming one of the most urgent drivers for innovative green building strategies.

Resilience is all about preparing for, adapting to, and recovering from sudden, disruptive shocks such as those created by climate disasters. Given the growing scale and frequency of national climate disasters, our clients will need clear and reliable guidance about the changing risk factors to their buildings and assets, and our company's future growth will position us to deliver differentiated strategic and operational solutions that analyze risk against market drivers.

Headline: Moody's Warns Cities to Address Climate Risks or Face Downgrades

Even the finance sector is starting to take notice of climate change risks and recently, rating firms like Moody’s issued warnings to cities and developers about rising costs of borrowing and insuring their properties if they do not address climate risks through more resilient building construction and design.

At the same time, it's never been more important for the architecture and design community to align around approaches to resilient design. Evolution in established market transformers like LEED through the relatively new RELi system, the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) is advocating for systems-based approaches to resilient design and construction by addressing:

  • Fundamental Access to First Aid Emergency Supplies, Water, Food, and Communications
  • Adaptive Design for Extreme Rain, Sea Rise, Storm Surge, and Extreme Weather, Events, and Hazards
  • Developing or Expand Local Skills, Capabilities, and Long-Term Employment
  • Providing for Social Equity and Edible Landscaping, Urban Agriculture, and Resilient Food Production

Ultimately, preserving life and sustaining essential resources like water and energy will drive even deeper investments in adaptive innovations for all new and retrofit construction. At Clark, we will continue to study climate science reporting to better understand the best approaches to solving the unique challenges our clients and their communities will confront in the decades to come. Our sustained leadership in green building construction will enable us to access a trusted supply chain of materials and products with which to mitigate the impact to our clients' properties and protect their people. And ultimately, we will take pride in being a preferred builder of buildings that save and protect lives, too.