Ask the Expert: Stephanie Carter
2020 Green Building Champion
Stephani Carter is this year’s winner of the Green Building Champion Award. The Green Building Champion Award recognizes a deserving individual for initiatives that demonstrate exceptional achievement in advocating for CaGBC’s core interests, programs, and priorities.
As the founder of EcoAmmo and a founding member of CaGBC’s Alberta Chapter, Stephani has had an immeasurable impact on green building in Alberta. Since 2006, EcoAmmo has assisted in over 216 LEED certifications with more on the way. Stephani is continually impacting the green building industry with her “lean and green” philosophy.
Hear more from 2020’s Green Building Champion, Stephani Carter.
Tell us about how you became involved in sustainability and your role today.
I grew up in a family that was aware of environmental issues. When I was 11, I was certified as an ‘Earth Caretaker’ by Strathcona County, but somehow a career as an environmental scientist didn’t hit my radar. My family was in architecture and construction, so I was drawn to design. Once in the industry, I saw all the waste and toxic materials as a moral obligation and as designers, we need to design and specify healthy environmentally friendly products. I found like-minded people and we formed the Alberta Chapter of the Canada Green Building Council. But volunteering was not enough. At one point I became so passionate about making a positive difference, I wanted every dollar I made to come only from sustainability initiatives but there was no company where I could do that (at the time) so I created one!
Can you explain the lean and green philosophy?
Since the beginning, the first question people have before adopting sustainable measures has been ‘how much will it cost?’. I founded EcoAmmo to find ways to make sustainability more accessible, less daunting and hopefully fun! Being in the ever-evolving world of green buildings, you have to constantly stay on top of the trends and continuously improve. This continuous improvement mindset and our drive to find ways to make sustainability accessible we found has a name – “Lean”. Lean is a way of thinking where we focus on value in the eyes of the customer and empower everyone to remove ‘waste’ in processes to deliver on that value. We fully embraced this concept not only in our operations but also on our projects. The foundation of the Integrated Project Delivery (IPD) method is lean thinking. As IPD facilitators we coach teams to focus on value in the customers’ eyes while removing waste in the design and construction process to deliver on that value. Clients get more of what they want for the budget they have. Our IPD process enables more clients to implement sustainability measures. We have had 13 IPD jobs (since 2015) and all of them are on budget (or below), ahead of schedule and include sustainability initiatives.
How does this approach make green building more accessible to clients?
Our experience with multiple net-zero energy projects has demonstrated that the more collaborative the project delivery method is, the more cost-effective the net-zero energy achievement will be. This is due to the nature of IPD allowing for early involvement of trade partners and client facility management among other key project partners. Conventional design-bid-build delivery methods compartmentalize meaningful trade involvement to after design is complete.
The IPD process takes advantage of the MacLeamy Curve, removing process barriers to pull as many changes as possible to the earliest phases of the project where they cost the least to implement. The very bureaucracy of other delivery methods constrains certain changes to construction (i.e. Change Orders) which is the most costly phase to implement changes.
Without early design involvement, often energy use is not accurate, and renewable systems are oversized based on rules of thumb or outdated information. All too often, the initial budgeting is too high for the client to afford net-zero energy and it is removed from the project scope even before it reaches actual market pricing at tender.
The focus of all IPD team members is to deliver more of what the client really wants for the budget they have. IPD project teams are trained and enabled to remove waste in all aspects of the project and the IPD process is set up to redirect those wasted funds to initiatives that add value in the eyes of the client. Sustainability initiatives are part of this value-add list.
Thinking on your experience with green buildings, is there a project of which you are most proud, and if so, why?
That is a hard question, each of our projects are special, each one has a unique story from a passionate owner who was willing to lead by example! Since I have to choose one, I would say the priMED Mosaic Centre because it formalized the ‘lean & green’ approach for us, and has inspired so many additional projects to use the IPD delivery model and attempt Net Zero Energy.
What other challenges/opportunities do you see the industry facing in the next 10 years?
In the next 10 years we have a BIG mountain to climb if we want to reach the GHG reduction goals set out by each municipality and meet our global GHG reduction goals. The City of Edmonton for example has calculated that by 2030, Edmonton proper will have to reduce emissions from all sectors by 81per cent. That is a huge undertaking, even just for the building sector but we (our industry peers and us) already know how to build carbon-neutral buildings, and using new processes like IPD, we know they can be built within budget and at market rates.
- We need more clients to understand that the ‘risky’ thing to do is build a conventional building today that in 10 years may have a carbon tax associated with its operations OR worse be required to rip out their mechanical system to replace it with a low-carbon solution.
- We need more clients to try the collaborative IPD delivery model to reduce the risk to them when implementing sustainability.
- We need governments to also update procurement processes to include collaborative trust-based project delivery methods like IPD.
- As industry peers, we need to share more so we can all exponentially improve together and accelerate our progress towards reaching GHG reduction goals.
- As an industry, we can’t lose site of all the other factors of sustainability even though we are focused on our carbon goals.
You were recently named Green Building Champion as part of CaGBC’s Leadership and Green Building Excellence Awards. What does it mean to you to be recognized in this way?
I know it’s cliché to say, but I’m incredibly honoured. To be recognized Nationally is a very high honour. Especially when there are so many amazing green building champions across Canada! I’m grateful for the recognition of the work we do at EcoAmmo, and the recognition for all the award recipients now and in the past. It brings awareness to this important cause we all share in the green building industry. The awareness is so important, as discussed earlier, and we have a lot of work to do over the next decade!