At Green Building Alliance, we are so thankful for our members and supporters of our cause. If you are not yet a member of GBA, please consider joining our community. Here, we spotlight some of our members, partners and supporters:
Spotlight on: Lars Lange
Supervisor, West Bethlehem Township | Attorney, The Law Office of Lars Lange
When did you first get involved with Green Building Alliance? I have been aware of GBA for many years, but became more of a regular in 2018.
What are some of your favorite GBA activities or experiences so far? Clearly the Emerald Evening gala, the Sustainability Leadership Lab, and Inspire Speakers Series are highlights.
What value do you gain out of being a GBA member? I am a huge fan because GBA is the perfect mix of brains, approachability and fun. I learn every time that I attend a GBA event, and also get to meet leaders in the industry. Someday, I hope to achieve some certifications and also develop a more active legal practice in this field. I’m still trying to figure out exactly how to grow into the industry – I have experience in biomass entrepreneurship (as a German native, I have worked with German and Austrian companies in the biomass sector) and mining engineering, and am considering a future as a patent attorney.
What is an interesting green building project you’re looking forward to? Our community, Marianna, is a blighted former coal mining community and has many problems. One of the most alarming was that the largest building in town, an early 1900s hardware store, has been on the verge of collapse. I was able to purchase the building at a bargain price and have been working to first save the roof with old roofing slate I found. Soon thereafter I’ll have renovate the interior, insulate the building and incorporate smart energy and utility solutions. I am also salvaging an old house and will use many of the materials in the store, and thanks to some connections through GBA, I’m pretty sure that I will use hemp for the insulation. The final use of the building is still up in the air: maybe a law office, craft brewery tasting room, historical center, hostel… or some combination of all of the above!
Spotlight on: LeAnna Nieratko
General Manager, Erie Food Co-op
Tell us about the Erie Food Co-op: The Erie Food Co-op is a community owned, democratically controlled grocery store in Erie, Pennsylvania. Through our elected Board of Directors and over 7,000 member-owners, we create a product policy that meets the needs of the community focusing on local products, special dietary needs, affordability and ethically sourced foods and goods. One of the cornerstones of our practices is environmental awareness. We strive to participate in programs and initiatives that reduce our negative impact on the environment including installing rain gardens, upgrading our lighting systems, reducing plastic packaging and participating in the Green Building Alliance.
How and when did the Co-op become involved with Green Building Alliance? We joined the Green Building Alliance as a part of the Erie 2030 initiative in 2020. Even at the height of the pandemic we wanted to be sure we didn’t lose focus on our priorities.
What inspires you to work with the Erie 2030 District? As a community owned organization, we thrive when our community is healthy. Getting the opportunity to work with other organizations who have the same goals helps us lift up, encourage and share resources with one another; hopefully setting a blueprint for other organizations in our community to follow suit.
What is an interesting green building project you are looking forward to? We are opening a second location in downtown Erie and recently had an opportunity to bring some folks from GBA into the building for a tour. As we progress in this project, we’re finding a lot of opportunities to embrace more energy efficient practices and take on other exciting initiatives like solar paneling and more energy efficient refrigeration.
What value do you get out of your GBA membership? We have really appreciated the opportunity for education around a variety of topics on energy efficiency. It helps us strengthen our current plans and make future plans for efficiency.
Spotlight on: Alicia and Riccardy Volcy
Alicia Volcy, Owner and Founder of Studio Volcy
Riccardy Volcy, Project Engineer & BIM Coordinator with Continental Building Company
When and how did you first get involved with GBA?
Riccardy: While working at Perkins Eastman Architects I joined the company’s green committee where I got introduced to some of the work that the GBA was working on around the 2030 challenge.
Alicia: It’s really hard to pin-point one milestone event that got me connected, because it feels like the GBA has consistently been recommended to me as a resource and they’ve been so supportive throughout my career. One event that stands out was the Inspire Speakers Series. I was initially invited to the event by a GBA board member, who was nudging me to be a speaker for the following year. Riccardy also gave me a pretty big push to do it! It turned out to be one of my most memorable speaking events to-date.
Tell us about some of your upcoming projects:
Riccardy: I just completed the North Shore Champions’ garage designed by Strada Architecture and currently working on the Elmhurst Innovation Center on Technology Drive. Those projects are great but I’m most excited to see the completion of phase one for Rhythm Square!
Alicia: One of my most exciting upcoming projects is RHYTHM SQUARE, a mixed-use development in the heart of the Hill’s Cultural District. The project is centrally located on the historic Centre Avenue corridor, making it a prime location for economic development, urban living and entertainment. RHYTHM SQUARE is all about elevating the cultural vibrancy of the Hill District and providing the perfect kickstart for Hill District residents, small businesses and budding entrepreneurs.
The development will include over 14,000 square feet of commercial space including retail shops, artist studios and 27 apartments with a mix of market rate and affordable housing units. Site features include an outdoor plaza, wall and street murals and public art installations. As we work on the project’s design, sustainability has been a consistent point of discussion. While we haven’t committed to a specific rating system, we’re committed to providing healthy spaces for the Hill District community. We are also working closely with GBA and the community to identify the right sustainability partners and consultants for the project.
What are some of your favorite activities or experiences with GBA so far?
Riccardy: The Pittsburgh Living Future Collaborative meetings have been a breath of fresh air and since I no longer work with a design firm, the group consistently introduces me to sustainable projects in and outside of Pittsburgh. For example, The new Pikes Peak Summit Complex, in Colorado.
Alicia: I’m always amazed by the GBA’s Emerald Evening. Let’s be honest here, some Galas can be really boring, but the GBA does such a great job with choosing locations, food and experiences that are out of the box.
What value do you gain out of being a GBA member?
Riccardy: The GBA challenges its members to do more for the climate, the city, community, and the homes where its members reside. In doing so, it provides examples and steps that can be taken to be successful.
Alicia: The GBA is full of resources surrounding sustainability as a whole and not just green building. Their commitment to educate the community about equity and injustice is really appreciated because they are key components to building communities that are truly sustainable.
What is something you are looking forward to in 2022?
Riccardy: I currently serve as Treasurer for NOMA Pittsburgh. The organization has hosted its annual Project Pipeline Architecture camp for youth since 2017. COVID-19 caused the camp to switch to a virtual platform in 2019 and 2020. I have my fingers crossed in hopes that we can return to an in-person camp in 2022.
Alicia: I’m really looking forward to breaking ground on Phase 1 of Rhythm Square. It’s been in the works for a couple of years and I think it’s something the community could really benefit from. I’m also looking forward to the Grand Opening of the Best of the Batch Foundation Clubhouse. The project is a new 33,000 square foot addition that will feature a new gymnasium, dance studio, cyber cafe, activity rooms, STEAM lab and study spaces for youth in Homestead, PA. Studio Volcy is the interior design consultant for the project.
Spotlight on: Angela Garcia
Executive Director, Global Links
Tell us about Global Links and the work you do: Global Links is a Pittsburgh-based non-profit organization dedicated to supporting health improvement initiatives in communities lacking resources at home and abroad. For 30+ years, Global Links has been collaborating with partners to improve health for vulnerable populations by sharing surplus rescued from the US healthcare system to support health programs globally and locally. Global Links works with hospitals, seniorcare facilities, physicians’ practices, businesses, universities and consumers to rescue over 250 tons of surplus ranging from filing cabinets and waiting room chairs to hospital or dorm beds to wheelchairs.
When and how did you first get involved with GBA? I was introduced to GBA over 10 years ago when Global Links was looking to buy a new building to consolidate our operations under one roof. We knew we needed help exploring options for remodeling and building materials so we joined GBA to access the network of experts specializing in sustainable built environments and learning opportunities for our staff. We have been members ever since!
What are some of your favorite activities or experiences with GBA so far? I love the insider tours of sustainable buildings around our city, but my favorite was the tour and workshop on the solar array on Mill 19 at Hazelwood Green. As a native Pittsburgher who grew up across the river from the site, touring the repurposed steel factory framework was emotional, but made me extremely proud of the innovation and grit showcased in the repurposed site. I also absolutely love the annual Women+ in Green spring breakfast event – nothing beats it when it comes to networking, affirmation and education! But then there’s the Inspire Speakers Series, Happy Hours, and Emerald Evenings!
What value do you gain out of being a GBA member? I’ve met an entire group of multi-disciplinary professionals that share my passion for doing what’s right by our planet and our limited resources! Whether we are working on facility upgrades, improving our operational efficiencies, or simply socializing, GBA membership never fails to restore my hope for the future and fuel creative thinking.
What is something you are looking forward to or a project you’re excited about? We have several large projects to tackle in the next few years from replacing our 38,000 square foot lower roof (we replaced our upper roof and installed a solar array in 2019); retrofitting all lighting in and on our property; and remodeling the glass entrance and building lobby! We are exploring options to add more solar, while also looking at how we improve our parking lots and landscaping. It is a bit daunting to think about for a non-profit organization, but at the same time, we have thousands of annual visitors and volunteers from across the region that we have an opportunity to educate on any improvements we make by highlighting sustainability in action!
Spotlight on: Dr. Chuck Herring
Director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion at South Fayette Township School District
How did you first become involved with GBA’s Green & Healthy Schools Academy? I became involved in the Green & Healthy Schools Academy in 2015 or 2016. I was asked to participate as a cohort lead from my district. The principal of our 3rd – 5th-grade building, the STEAM teacher, and I were to attend every session of the two-year cohort. Additionally, there were 8 classroom teachers who attended every other month. We had a large contingent of folks who were able to absorb the information and culture of the program, bring their experiences back to our school, and help infuse them into our culture of well-being, inclusion, and belonging.
What is your favorite activity or memory from GBA’s Green & Healthy Schools Academy or the School Sustainability Culture Program? I have several favorite memories from participating in the GHSA. My first was being exposed to the writings of David Orr. His essay on Slow Knowledge (which can be found in his book The Nature of Design) gave me another framework to look at technological advancements through the lens of questioning whether newer and faster always better. I also loved learning about environmental handprints and footprints from Dr. Greg Norris and meeting and experiencing everything that Dr. John Francis, the PlanetWalker, had to share.
Tell us about your experience as a guest emcee for GBA’s Inspire Speakers Series Storytelling events? Being a guest emcee for GBA’s Inspire Speakers Series events is an honor. Having the opportunity to have a first-row seat to watch and hear dynamic speakers share poignant, funny, powerful experiences whose lessons can be used by almost everyone who hears them.
What value do you get out of being involved with GBA? Being involved in the GBA is super-valuable because of the things we learn about supporting the environment, how supporting the environment connects with our mental, physical and emotional health, and how it teaches us how we can make changes to help improve the living conditions for all living things on the planet.
Tell us about some exciting projects you’re working on: One thing I am really excited about is working with GBA to support the Greater Pittsburgh region to build a program to bring teachers of color (TOCs) into our area to support all students through the Operation Teacher (of Color) Irrigation System (OTIS). Schools with a lack of TOCs sometimes have blind spots when it comes to cultures of well-being, belonging, and inclusion. Through their Green and Healthy Schools initiative, GBA will support the program by working with schools that want to participate in the OTIS program to help prepare them to receive the students who will be working in their districts.
Spotlight on: Nate Tovornik
Senior Marketing Manager, Oxford Development Company
When and how did you first get involved with GBA? Not too long after I joined Oxford Development, I had the opportunity to get my LEED Green Associate credential which was aided (and made easier) by GBA’s exam prep course. Following that I joined as a full member.
What are some of your favorite activities or experiences with GBA so far? Project tours are always fun, and the green building kayak tour a few years ago was an excellent way to see the city!
What is something you are looking forward to in 2022? Benchmarking! I’m in the beginning stages of loading the 13 million square feet of managed commercial space into Portfolio Manager (which I got a good understanding of from a GBA course!) to start to get an idea of the energy usage of our buildings beyond the ones we have committed to the 2030 District. I’m also excited to be part of our sustainability committee working to put together our first sustainability/DEI report.
What value do you gain out of being a GBA member? Classes, courses, and continuing education. GBA makes it easy to maintain accreditations and have the ability to grow your knowledge across the sustainability spectrum.
Spotlight on: Dr. Aurora Sharrard
Sustainability Director, University of Pittsburgh
What inspired you to become a Lifetime Member of GBA? We created the Lifetime Member designation in 2017 as part of a giving circle that provides devoted, larger scale individual support of GBA’s efforts to create a sustainable future for everyone. I was honored when Jack Mascaro was the first person to see the benefit of the program, becoming GBA’s first Lifetime Member. When I transitioned from being GBA’s Executive Director in mid-2018, becoming a Lifetime Member seemed like the obvious way to demonstrate my permanent commitment to GBA and its work. I made a commitment to provide GBA with the monetary component of Lifetime Membership over 5 years, which made it fiscally accessible as well.
As GBA’s former executive director and long-time employee, what value do you get out of remaining involved through a membership? It’s no secret that I am and always have been a fan of GBA’s educational, technical assistance, and leadership efforts. Being a GBA member ensures I stay in the know about the very many GBA events and programs, while also ensuring I can help my colleagues at the University of Pittsburgh stay on the cutting edge of green building industry and sustainable community practices and happenings.
What is a favorite memory or activity from your time as a member and supporter of GBA? I worked at GBA for over 11 years, so have so many amazing memories. As we all know, building projects take a long time, so some of my favorites are ribbon cutting events or award ceremonies where project teams were finally recognized for work that had happened over a long period of time. One specific event that still makes me smile was the David L. Lawrence Building Performance Case Study (2011) breakfast event on the exhibit hall floor where we summarized the quantitative and qualitative benefits of Pittsburgh’s largest certified green building project (at the time); right at the end, the curtains automatically opened, bathing the entire breakfast and presentation in the gloriously free daylight we had been extolling. Also, GBA’s 25th Anniversary Emerald Evening in Fall 2018 where the organization celebrated 25 green buildings for 25 years of regional impact was a special night acknowledging the true breadth and depth of teams required to make truly demonstrable positive regional impact.
What is a sustainability project you’re working on now that you’re excited about? Over the past several months, we’ve been working on Pitt’s first Climate Action Plan (PittCAP), charting the University’s journey to carbon neutrality by 2037. We developed the first PittCAP entirely in the pandemic, which offered unique university community engagement opportunities and challenges. Also, the PittCAP addresses so many things I’m passionate about, including existing and new building efficiency and performance, local renewable energy, academic collaborations, equitable action, the social cost of carbon, community benefits, and using campus as a living laboratory. Look for it to be released in 2022, but the University has already announced and been implementing many components for years in partnership with GBA and many GBA members and stakeholders.
Thank you so much to these members and many others for the important work they do in our community! We hope you enjoyed learning about the projects that excite them.
If you are not yet a GBA member, we hope you join us. If you would like to learn more about our Lifetime Membership program or want to discuss the right level for you, reach out to GBA’s Megan Zeigler.