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Practicing What We Preach: Everyday Solutions for Living a Sustainable Lifestyle

We talk a lot about sustainability at a large scale; this typically includes large building projects or grid-level issues, like energy affordability and access to renewables. But how about the small-scale? What type of sustainability initiatives are people passionate about in their everyday lives?

To answer this question, Robb assembled a group of sustainability professionals from Steven Winter Associates and asked them to share some best practices for living a more sustainable lifestyle. Each guest responds with one topic they are passionate about and explains how they turned a common challenge into a sustainable solution.

Here’s the breakdown of topics by guest:

  • Maureen Mahle – Eliminating combustion and going all-electric [0:03:25]
  • Andrea Foss – Water conservation in toilets [0:24:15]
  • Robb Aldrich – Walkability and proximity to transit [0:41:10]
  • Gayathri Vijayakumar – Duct sealing  [0:59:00]

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Charlotte’s Web of Building Electrification Strategies …with Charlotte Matthews

It’s not every day we get to interview someone with such a diverse background of project experiences. Whether it was working for an architect, developer, construction manager, or tech startup, our guest for this episode has leveraged her passion and expertise as a sustainability professional to come up with some pretty impressive solutions for buildings.

On this episode, Robb and Kelly chat with Charlotte Matthews, Head of Affordable Electrification at Google. Charlotte reflects on her experience working for different firms as a sustainability professional and shares some of the challenges she faced when attempting to improve the operational efficiency of buildings. Throughout the episode, the group discusses why buildings don’t perform as expected, the importance of benchmarking and normalizing, and the impact of dynamic energy pricing.

This episode marks our first ever video podcast! Check it out on SWA’s YouTube page and let us know what you think.

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(ENCORE) ‘All-Access’ with Peter Stratton

First released in 2018, ‘All-Access’ is the perfect episode for those interested in learning more about accessibility compliance, especially as it pertains to building design, construction, and ownership. Before we dive into the original episode, we learn about a new term called “Inclusive Design” and how it differs from “Universal Design”.


There are approximately 57 million Americans living with disabilities in the United States; worldwide, people with disabilities make up 15% of our population. Given this information, we must do our part to ensure that people with disabilities have equal access to opportunities afforded to everyone – starting with equal access to buildings.

This week’s guest is a long-time accessibility expert who serves as the Managing Director of SWA’s Accessibility Services, Peter Stratton. Peter begins the episode with an overview of the existing accessibility requirements in the U.S. and highlights additional measures that should be taken to ensure inclusiveness for all. Join us to learn how we can foster a more accessible built environment through careful design and planning.  (more…)

Building Operations and Training with Jonathan Rodnite and Adam Romano

Ever wonder who is responsible for ensuring the performance of a building? Yes, designers and contractors can have a significant impact during construction, but once the building is complete, it’s the building operators and maintenance staff that have the greatest influence on the operational efficiency of large buildings. As a result, these boots on the ground professionals play a critical role in our fight against climate change.

On this episode, Kelly chats with Jonathan Rodnite and Adam Romano, two engineers who represent two interconnected and vital practices of building operations—maintenance and training. Both Jonathan and Adam share their perspectives on the importance of operator training, provide advice to listeners who may be interested in joining the workforce, and recount their favorite stories from the field.

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The Economics of Developing Sustainable Buildings with Christina McPike

If you’re like us, you want to hear from someone who not only talks the talk but walks the walk. Our guest for this episode is the perfect example of this: she has the experience of a developer and the expertise of a sustainability guru – a perspective that is hard to find.

Christina McPike is the Director of Energy and Sustainability at WinnCompanies, a 50-year-old multifamily housing owner, developer, and manager. Christina provides an insightful look into the energy market, and shares the trends, incentives, and opportunities that have stemmed from recent carbon mandates for buildings. She also describes the details of one of Winn’s most ambitious projects – an all-electric deep energy retrofit in Boston – and discusses the programs her team leveraged that made the project economical.

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Venting About Ventilation, Heat Pumps, and Net Zero with the Buildings+Beyond Team

Sometimes it’s good to vent. Well, if you ask a Passive House expert, it’s always good to vent. So, that’s exactly what we did for this episode.

Based on popular demand, the Buildings and Beyond team took a more informal approach to this month’s episode and gathered for a roundtable discussion. With a mix of backgrounds and expertise, we came to the table with a different topic and shared our thoughts, findings, and of course, did some venting…

Here are the topics we discussed:

  1. Kelly – Ventilation [3:05]
  2. Robb – Electrifying domestic water heating [18:45]
  3. Dylan – All-electric commercial kitchens [35:00]
  4. Alex – Backup power generation in a zero-carbon world [49:45]

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What Should a Degree in Sustainability Look Like? with Patrick Hossay

A degree in sustainability can mean many things. Sure, you can develop a focus, but how does an undergraduate program truly prepare you to become a professional in such a broad and complex topic? To learn more about what an undergraduate degree in sustainability should look like, we looked to Stockton University’s Patrick Hossay.

Patrick was recommended to us by various colleagues of ours who were fortunate enough to go through his sustainability program. Influenced by Patrick’s eclectic background, the program takes an interdisciplinary approach to education, requiring students to master a variety of topics that they may face as future sustainability professionals.

In addition to learning about Stockton’s unique degree program, Patrick and “Buildings and Beyond” host Robb take a trip down memory lane and share their experience as students. They also discuss the value of trades, which Patrick believes is being hampered by the growing belief that everyone “must” go to college.

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Designing the World’s First Passive House Car Dealership with Andrew Peel

The Passive House standard has been applied to some extraordinary building projects to date. From single family and high-rise residential to industrial and commercial buildings, building professionals have adopted the Passive House approach to improve occupant health and comfort, and reduce energy use (in some cases up to 90%!). That’s why when we heard about the world’s first certified Passive House car dealership, we knew we found our next podcast guest.

On this episode, Kelly chats with Andrew Peel from Peel Passive House Consulting to discuss one of his favorite (and most challenging) projects to date: a Passive House-certified Subaru dealership in Alberta, Canada.

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The Role of Heat Pumps in Low-Moderate Income Homes with Jon Harrod

The electrification of buildings is considered to be a primary strategy for reducing carbon emissions and kicking fossil fuels. Luckily, due to advancements in technology and carefully developed best practices, heat pumps may be a driving force in helping us to achieve our all-electric goals. But when do heat pumps make sense? As we know, there’s no one-size-fits-all application.

On this episode, Robb chats with Jon Harrod about the feasibility of heat pumps in low-moderate income homes. John shares some important factors to consider when evaluating heat pumps, such as construction type, geographic location, project financing, and more.

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A Framework for Equity and Buildings with Kathryn Wright

As building professionals and policymakers, it is our responsibility to integrate equity into our work. But how do we ensure equity is being addressed in a comprehensive manner? Fortunately, the Urban Sustainability Directors Network (USDN) has developed a framework for local government decision makers to serve as a guide for ensuring equity in the built environment.

On this episode, we had the pleasure of speaking with USDN’s Program Director for Building Energy, Kathryn Wright. Kathryn summarizes some of the concepts and practices highlighted in the framework and explains how her personal experiences drove her to improve equity in buildings.

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