USGBC Minnesota IMPACT 2017

Authored by Maureen Colburn, AIA, LEED AP BD+C, May 15, 2017

On May 3rd, USGBC Minnesota’s IMPACT 2017 conference gathered local sustainability leaders for a day of inspiration and knowledge sharing. In the opening keynote, U.S. Green Building Council President and CEO Mahesh Ramanujam set the stage for the day with his quote, “Health and wellness is a right and not a privilege.” Mr. Ramanujam emphasized the need for all of us to work locally to achieve the 17 Global Goals for Sustainable Development. Throughout the conference, I heard these themes mentioned again and again. Clearly, the Minnesota sustainable design community has embraced the concept of going beyond reducing the environmental impacts of our built environment to enhancing human occupants’ wellness and well-being.

Several LHBers attended the conference so I asked them, “Which IMPACT sessions inspired you?”

Becky Alexander, AIA, WELL AP:
Through a car analogy, the Internet of Comfort got me thinking differently about mechanical system efficiency. Current mechanical systems operate like a driver that looks only in the rearview mirror. Rather than foreseeing the upcoming obstacles, they respond only after conditions are already uncomfortable. By using a network of building sensors and a connection to historic and future weather data, building automation systems can proactively predict future need based on how each space reacts to different weather conditions. Along with improving occupant comfort, this predictive strategy can increase energy efficiency by 30-70%.

Becky Alexander (second from the left) speaking with some peers from HGA.

Rick Carter, FAIA, LEED Fellow:

  • Opening keynote, USGBC CEO Mahesh Ramanujam. Best quote: “Data is the new natural resource”.
  • Designing for Resilience by Connecting to Health presented by Nissa Tupper, MDH, and Eric Wojchik, Met Council.  Best quote: “The goal of resilience is to thrive”.
  • Building WELL in Minnesota: A Case Study of Nordic House, moderated by Becky Alexander with panelists: Stacee Demmer, LHB; Gordy Stofer, United Properties; Jed Field, RJM Construction; Betsy Vohs, Studio BV.  Extraordinary session!
  • Well-Being: the New Frontier presented by Melissa Jancourt, HGA; Amy Kalar, Cunningham Group; Nancy O’Brien, RSP. Check out the UN’s World Happiness Report.
  • Closing keynote, polar explorer and founder of the Steger Wilderness Center and Climate Generation, Will Steger. Amazing!

Rick (center) and Becky (left) speaking with Steve Thomas of Better Futures Minnesota, about their work deconstructing buildings and reusing the materials.

Kiiri Schoenberg, CID, LEED ID+C, IIDA:
I attended all three WELL presentations and was pleased at how they covered different aspects of the program, project experiences and approaches.  It is encouraging to hear of companies who are prioritizing wellness within their organizations, and seeking solutions with Design.  Not only does a WELL design process improve bottom line with attraction and retention of employees, but I think it ultimately serves to strengthen individuals, businesses and communities in more ways than can be measured.

Kiiri (center) speaking with peers.

In closing, Will Steger reminded us all that “the individual has lots of power.” Spending this day with the diverse individuals that make up Minnesota’s sustainability community reinforced to me that we are all local leaders that have both the responsibility and the ability to create global action.


For more information or to get involved with USGBC MN, contact:
Brent Suski
Project Manager, Community – Minnesota
U.S. Green Building Council
701 Washington Avenue N | Suite 200 | Minneapolis, MN 55401
Office: 612.328.9098 | Mobile: 763.464.8615 | Email:
Website: Bookmark Here | Subscribe:  MN Events/News | MN Green Schools Coalition


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