Bringing LEED Standards to Atypical Buildings with Ecoworks Studio’s Carlie Bullock-Jones

September 23, 2015

John Shegerian: Welcome to another edition of Green Is Good. This is the Green Sports Alliance edition of Green Is Good, and we are here in beautiful downtown Chicago, and we’ve got Carlie Bullock-Jones with us. She is the founder of Ecoworks Studio. Welcome to Green Is Good. Carlie Bullock-Jones: Thank you. John Shegerian: So, Carlie, before we get talking about Ecoworks Studio, share a little bit about your journey in sustainability. Carlie Bullock-Jones: Sure. My journey started back at Auburn University – an undergraduate – and I was very concerned in the College of Architecture, Design and Construction about the spaces I was designing for people and the products, and where I was getting these products from, and where they were manufactured, so my thesis at Auburn was about the built environment and its impact on the natural environment. So when I took my first job out of college at a large architectural firm in Atlanta, Georgia, I started an in-house committee to teach the architects and interior designers about sustainably sourced materials and why we should create healthy premium workspaces for people. Around the same time, the LEED rating system was born. John Shegerian: Right. Carlie Bullock-Jones: I don’t know if you are familiar with that. John Shegerian: Yeah. Carlie Bullock-Jones: And so we had several sort of higher education and government clients that wanted to pursue that so several of the principals at the firm said, “You seem to talk about this environmental LEED stuff at lunch – are you interested in working on these projects?” and that became a fulltime job. So about eight years ago, I started Ecoworks Studio, which focused full-time on green building consulting, so we get to work with all kinds of other architects, project donors, contractors – you name it – to build environmentally friendly buildings. John Shegerian: And for our listeners and viewers, if they want to find you, Carlie, or they want to learn more about Ecoworks, they can go to www.Ecoworks-Studio.com. Carlie Bullock-Jones: Yes. John Shegerian: So talk about that journey. You started Ecoworks. How is it going, and what do your clients look like? Carlie Bullock-Jones: It’s great. I would say, early on in those years – I guess about 15, 16 years ago – we were working on primarily office type facilities and greening those. Over the course of the 15 or 16 years since LEED has been born, I think a lot of the architects have gotten down the LEED rating system and applying that to an office. John Shegerian: Right. Carlie Bullock-Jones: And how I am here at the Green Sports Alliance is over this journey I have been working on applying LEED and green building to atypical building types. So building types like the Atlanta Falcons stadium, that we’re working on, where you have thousands of people coming in and out and it’s not regularly used like an office, right? John Shegerian: Right. Carlie Bullock-Jones: Like an office is regula0,r all the time. John Shegerian: Consistent. Carlie Bullock-Jones: Consistent. John Shegerian: That is a surge deal. Carlie Bullock-Jones: Exactly. John Shegerian: Surge and then empty. Carlie Bullock-Jones: We call them “surge facilities.” Right. John Shegerian: Surge facilities. Carlie Bullock-Jones: So we went to the USGBC, and started asking, why are these arenas and stadiums not pursuing – all of them – platinum and higher levels of sustainability? Is there a reason? So they’re all pursuing perhaps some level, but I believe they’re all sort of hitting some of the similar barriers – perhaps – that it’s hard to maybe fit the LEED rating system around that because it has been based so much on an office building, so we were here to talk a little bit about that, and we are hopefully going to have sort of a case study that will come out of that. John Shegerian: Is this your first year here? Carlie Bullock-Jones: This is my third year. John Shegerian: Third year. Carlie Bullock-Jones: Yes. John Shegerian: So you have been involved with GSA for quite some time. Carlie Bullock-Jones: Yes. John Shegerian: That is exciting. And the Atlanta Falcons stadium – is that your first big public stadium or you have done others? Carlie Bullock-Jones: I have done convention centers and arenas – or I should say other types of surge facilities – but this is the first time we’ve ventured into the sports area. John Shegerian: And do people still hire you to just do their homes still, too? Carlie Bullock-Jones: I have only focused on commercial. John Shegerian: It’s only commercial. Carlie Bullock-Jones: Our company is whole – that’s a fair question. So – yeah. John Shegerian: OK. That’s interesting. And today when you were speaking about it what is the audience most interested in when you are speaking on this topic? Carlie Bullock-Jones: So, what we were actually talking about is benchmarking. John Shegerian: Ah. Carlie Bullock-Jones: So it’s hard to really benchmark energy waste and water for these types of facilities. Again, because they are not regularly used, there has not been sort of a clearinghouse of data so far like Energy Star. John Shegerian: Right. Carlie Bullock-Jones: That has like how do we compare this facility to others. John Shegerian: Right. Carlie Bullock-Jones: So the discussion has been to move towards transparency, and a lot more of these types of venues sharing their information about energy waste and water so that others here, like at the conference, can begin to benchmark where should my hockey arena be? Where should my football pro-sports facility be in terms of energy? Where is the baseline? Where is the point of departure? John Shegerian: So interesting. Carlie Bullock-Jones: So it has been a little bit challenging to find some of that information. So we are starting to really make some movement – I think – at this year’s conference on what we can do to get everybody on the same page, because I think everybody is starting at a different starting point or starting line. John Shegerian: Is this and do you do redevelopments also? Would you take a stadium and do a retrofit also? Carlie Bullock-Jones: We would but primarily we’ve only been focusing on new constructions. Yeah. John Shegerian: Because of the such a high-profile nature of the Atlanta Falcons stadium. Carlie Bullock-Jones: Right. John Shegerian: Is coming to GSA and speaking not only great in terms of raising the visibility of Ecoworks Studio but also a chance for you to network with other? Carlie Bullock-Jones: Absolutely. It’s been a lot of fun. And I think the size of the conference is nice. Sometimes I go to these green building conferences that are 20,000 people and it’s a little overwhelming and exhausting, and this is a nice – this is a good group. But it’s great to see them grow every year. I think we were about 400 the first year I went and now they’re about 700. John Shegerian: Right. Carlie Bullock-Jones: So it’s good growth. John Shegerian: It’s growth every year. Carlie Bullock-Jones: Good growth. Yeah. John Shegerian: Talk about the growth of your company. Has it been a straight line or is it straight plateau and then grow? How does it look? Carlie Bullock-Jones: That is a good question too. So, actually, I left the architecture firm I was working for in 2007, which as everyone may remember was about the time everything – yeah – and so people thought I was a bit nuts for doing that. There was not much growth those first few years, but I was able to keep my head above water. John Shegerian: Right. Carlie Bullock-Jones: And so I guess we have been growing more so in the last three or four years. John Shegerian: Got you. Carlie Bullock-Jones: And it has been steady, so that’s good. John Shegerian: And how big is the firm now in terms of people? Carlie Bullock-Jones: For us, it’s only six people, but that’s big for us. John Shegerian: That’s big. Carlie Bullock-Jones: Yeah. John Shegerian: That’s big. Good for you. Carlie Bullock-Jones: Especially when I started by just myself in 2007, right? John Shegerian: Exactly. That’s huge. Carlie Bullock-Jones: I would say, “We are 80 percent women,” and I don’t know if that is a coincidence or not, but of course, some of the dialogue here at the conference has been women in sports and so. John Shegerian: I think that’s a big – well, I think three or four great trends are coming together here. There are headlines and there are trend lines. Carlie Bullock-Jones: Right. John Shegerian: Headline – women are here to stay. Carlie Bullock-Jones: Right. John Shegerian: And trend line – women are here to stay. And that lean-in generation. Carlie Bullock-Jones: Yes. We were talking about that. John Shegerian: It’s really here. And it’s here, and in force. And I’ll tell you what, so is sustainability and so is sports. Carlie Bullock-Jones: Right. John Shegerian: So it makes a lot of sense, because so many of the leaders that I have been interviewing the last two days here are women. Carlie Bullock-Jones: Right. John Shegerian: Chief sustainability officers, CEOs, like you, founders of companies, entrepreneurs. Carlie Bullock-Jones: Right. And what excites me – I guess – about this platform is that it is such a mix of people. Sports fans. It’s a great platform to get this message out about green building and sustainability. John Shegerian: Oh my gosh. Carlie Bullock-Jones: For people that work in the building. But those that just visit the building then can take that back to their homes and start with just basic things like recycling. And if they did it at the game, why not take it home? John Shegerian: Talk a little bit about the Atlanta Falcons stadium. How many years in planning and building is a project like that for you from the beginning to the end? Carlie Bullock-Jones: For us – I know for some folks on the project it’s like a decade. Or eight by then. John Shegerian: Yeah. Carlie Bullock-Jones: But for us it’s about four years. John Shegerian: Four years. Carlie Bullock-Jones: From early. The nice part is that we were involved from the very beginning. John Shegerian: That’s great. Carlie Bullock-Jones: Prior to the site sort of even being selected which is what you want, right? John Shegerian: Right. Carlie Bullock-Jones: Not “here you go.” So we work all through the design process and the construction process, and it will open in March of 2017. John Shegerian: Wow. Carlie Bullock-Jones: But the irony is because it’s so far out people think, “Oh. Have you broken ground on it?” and so we joke that we have a stage right now in every phase of the project. People say, “I thought it was under construction. You’re still under design?” and we’re like, “Yes.” So to get these things built and open on time you have to plan ahead but also continue to be designing. So it’s been a fantastic project. John Shegerian: Any final thoughts that you want to share with our listeners and our viewers about what you do and about your thoughts about sports and Ecoworks Studio and the GSA? Carlie Bullock-Jones: I would say there are a lot of great topics going on here at the conference and at the summit. Sometimes that can be overwhelming to go home and – I would say, pick one or two things that really resonate really in your heart with you and take that and do it really well. John Shegerian: You recommend this conference to others? Carlie Bullock-Jones: Absolutely. John Shegerian: That’s great. Well, Carlie Bullock-Jones, we thank you for joining us today. Carlie Bullock-Jones: Thank you for your time. John Shegerian: And for our listeners and viewers that want to find Carlie and her great studio, go to www.Ecoworks-Studio.com. To find the Green Sports Alliance, please go to www.GreenSportsAlliance.org. Carlie Bullock-Jones, thank you for making the world a better place and a greener place. You are truly living proof that Green Is Good. Thank you so much.