Green Design 

Green Building Center NY/NJ with Jason Kliwinski

welcome to green building matters thepodcast that matters for green buildingprofessionals learn inside in greenbuildings as we interview today'sexperts in lead and well we'll learnfrom their career paths war stories andall things green because green buildingmatters and now our host and yes he hasevery lead and well credentialhere's Charlie cicchetti hi everyonewelcome to the next episode of the greenbuilding matters podcastI'm your host Charlie cicchetti we'vegot another lead fellow on today with uscoming to us from the New York NewJersey areaJason kolinsky Jason welcome to thepodcastnice to be here thank you well I knowwe've run into each other on theeducation frontgbes is the US GBC education partner andso is one of the two entities thatyou're heavily involved with so we'regonna get into that I know you love toteach I know you do some magicprofessional work but I always like tostart Jason you know where'd you go upand where'd you go to school well I liketo tell folks that I'm a Jersey tomatoesso I I was born in born in Trenton NewJersey and I grew up in a little suburbof Pennington New Jersey not too farawaywent to school secondary school ValleyRegional Public Schools I went to apublic school system then I went tocollege at the New Jersey Institute ofTechnology up in Newark so I didn't gotoo far from home nice and you knowthat's sort of where I got my start andyou know you're gonna bachelors inarchitecture so did you know you wantedto be an architectdid someone inspire you on the way toguide you to architecture how'd thatcome about well I knew when I graduatedhigh school like unlike most kids Iactually knew what I was going to go tocollege for nice and that was because myhigh school had a very unique program ithad a four-year architecture program somy fourth year of architecture classesin high school was actually my firstyear of college creditshould I get a real I get a real headstart in that sense no absolutely that'shopeful there's more and more of thoseprograms out there theyyou have an aha moment aboutsustainability so maybe you're goingdown the architecture path but but whendid you kinda really be like mansustainability that's what I really wantto make a career out of you know whathonestly didn't dawn on me until I wasin college in about my second year ofschool we had one class out of fiveyears on sustainability and greenbuilding and it was called buildingperformance it was taught by herb balesmy professor at the time and it reallyfocused on passive strategies passivesolarpassive ventilation and that's whatpiqued my interest in it and I thoughtyou know why aren't there any otherclasses in this subject being taught andfrom that point on I was kind of hookedand then there was just a series ofevents the in nineteen is so my secondyear at college was 1990 1992 the KyotoProtocol got signed you know 19 I think1998 after I graduated the US GreenBuilding Council formed and then in 2000the LEED rating system rolled out sothere was just the series of events thathappened I was sort of in the rightplace at the right time and and Ithought you know this is really the waythat we should be thinking aboutarchitecture and the built environmentand the planet and that was it that wasit for me Wow and yeah in the year 2000is when those first LEED projects werecertified and it looks like you knowfrom looking at your profile you wereinvolved with some early 2000s leadprojects even the Microsoft School offuture and then several leave forschools projects so right place righttime there to get that early leadexperience yeah I couldn't plan that ifI tried you know and when lead came outI saw it as a way of being a real goodorganizational structure to talk topeople about green building when Igraduated college in 1995 I reallywanted sustainability and green buildingto be part of what I did but when I talkto people about itI just got blank stares and so I sort oftook the gorilla approach I did as muchas I could when I could where I couldyou know and back in the early 90s and2000's finding products and systems wasvery hard but when lead came out itcreated this structure and this processthat didn't exist before and that'sreally been the power of it over thelast I'd say 15 years deafand you mentioned one of your professorswas probably a mentor there while youwere in college but to anyone else havean early influence maybe open a door foryou along the way well I'd say that highschool teacher mr. Clayton who was myarchitecture teacher certainly pointedme in the direction of architecture notnecessarily green building right but myfirst real job was with a very smallfirm in Newark not far from where I wentto college for a company called VFGibson architects and David Gibson who Istill associate and to work with to thisday okay really gave me a platform andsome significant projects to exploresustainability and high-performancedesign in and it's always good to givethose shout outs to those that helped usalong the way and influenced this andand again maybe open the door let's talka little bit about you know what you'redoing today and you know you've got acouple roles right I mean you lead adesign firm and you also have the GreenBuilding Center there in the New Jerseyarea so can you tell us a little bitabout your your two companies and justfill in some blanks there sure so youknow going the conventionalarchitectural practice route I did myinternship for three and a half yearseventually got my license and I workedfor other architects for about 18 yearsworked my way up from you know lowlyintern to the director of sustainabilityat several firms nice and as part ofthat process we had we had big clientswho were coming to us asking us to dowork on their houses and my firm didn'tdo residential so you know I went to theCEO of the firm and I said you mind if Istart my own little residential practiceto cater to these clients I don't wantto send them to another architect and sodesigns for life my architectural firmwas really born from that yet and westarted creating you know sustainableresidential projects for these existingclients and that continued on as I wasworking for for various firms and thenwhen I left we had started the GreenBuilding Center which was really meantto take things to a whole nother levelnot just practice architecture butreally practice this idea of integratedproject delivery which as you know whena green building in particularyou know bringing in all thestakeholders early and throughout theprocess is sort of the core ofintegrated project delivery but theconventional practice of architecturedoesn't do that it's very specialized asour most professions related to thebuilding industry hmm so the sinnershome model was to really create thisintegrative project experience forclients where we brought ownersengineers architects contractors productsuppliers together under one roof I loveit and that's where I've gotten to knowyou on that education front to the greenbuilding center but I want to ask aresidential question see my expertiseJason is on the commercial building sideyou're unique because you havecommercial you have schools and then youalso have the residential you know if Iwere gonna build a new home today areyou a fan of LEED for homes a livingbuilding passive house a combination ofwhat would you suggest to someonesetting out to build that that long-termhome well I am kind of unique in thatI'm a bit of a throwback to the masterarchitect concept I don't specialize inany one building type I do all of themand I do all of them actively todaywhich is really nice for the variety butfor a home project I would stillrecommend that folks follow the lead forhomes leave for home rating system evenif it's just as a guideline even if youdon't intend to certify because it'sstill a very powerful organizationaltool and a process that you can followstart to finish to achieve very highlevel results now if you want to go tothe next level and talk about passivehouse or Living Building Challenge youknow then you're talking about somethingthat's net zero energy nuts or a waternuts or a waste you're certainly goingto want to look at something like LivingBuilding Challenge or passive house forthat level but passive house I've lookedat passive house and I have to tell youwhile I like it it's focused on energyit's not holistic like lead is sureand/or Living Building Challenge andthat's the one issue I have with thingslike that that have blinders on and onlylook at one one real aspect ofsustainability so you knowsustainability is about integration andand not being so highly specialized yeahthanks thanks for giving us someresidential experience there masterarchitect I love that phrase sowhat are some of your proudestachievements today it's okay to lookback on the the highlight reel and youknow what stands out to your elitefellow you've got your own firm you'vestarted this Green Building Center and Idon't know what are some of yourproudest achievements well you knowgoing back even before that I would saybeing one of the first in my family togo to college and to pay my own waythrough it has kind of put me where I amso that was that was not easy and I wasone of those kids who worked throughcollege to pay for it so that was anaccomplishment you know getting mylicense as an architect was much harderthan getting my lead accreditation butcertainly being you know one of thefirst lead a piece in the country elitefellow and having the opportunity towork on some of the great projects I'vebeen able to but with some of the firmsI've been at the Microsoft School thefuture you mentioned which was a newground up LEED Gold certified highschool Thomas Edison State Collegepreservation and addition right next tothe State House in Trenton a projectthat we did with the University ofMonterrey in Mexico for a new academiccenter with world-famous architect AdeleAndo was was pretty cool and just thewhole creation of the Green BuildingCenter and really realizing this conceptof integrated project delivery in aphysical company process and entity Ithink is something that's quite uniquein the market ya know it's fantastic inin I'm way too you know going off tocollege there and and having to makeyour own way and then becoming alicensed architect and early early leada doctor and and then for those thatdon't know me no lead fellow you have tohave really been contributing to thisindustry this green building movementfor over ten years so it's quite themark yeah Jason let's talk about todaywhat's keeping you busy today well I Isplit my time today between three thingsthe practice of architecture in multiplemarket sectors the educational componentwhere we do workshops and seminars forboth public and private entities and asan adjunct at universities and the theGreen Building consulting where we'reyou know bringing a whole suite of leadservices including commissioning andenergy modeling and indoor air qualityassessment to the table some of the moreeven avant-garde stuff and that isis really pushing towards triple netzero net zero energy water and wastewhich of course is the core of theLiving Building Challenge triple netzero no I love itand I'll tell us a little bit on theteaching side we'll get to more of theprojects but I think you've gotta knowme a little bit I love to teach but Ijust think it's great you're teachingthese college classes what do you see inI don't know if you know about 40% ofthose signed up for a LEED exam rightnow are in high school or college soyeah I think you had that influence justthat high school teacher pushing youtowards architecture so what are yousaying with the college classes thesedays do we actually have lead as part ofthe class name or is it overallsustainability like what's being taughtout there right now well I haven't seentoo many universities that actively usedthe word lead in their curriculum andcontent sure and I think that's part ofhaving to be sort of product agnostic ifyou will that's from but when you lookat the content of the courses they'rebased on lead you know they almostfollow the the lead structure verbatimin many cases right so you're gettingprepped for the LEED Green Associatetest and most college students today inthe design field they want and they'redemanding the education to be able to goout and take the LEED Green Associatetest before they even graduate collegeknow it's a differentiator it really isa career boost and you know a lot ofarchitecture is required it too you knowwe work with you know firms like hok andPerkins will and others and they requirenot just to leave finish it but let'smove on I take a LEED AP B D plus C sothey can't start they're coming out ofcollege so alright let's talk a littlebit more on just you know there's what'sgoing on today and you've mentioned Ithink you mentioned wellness a littlebit you said air quality so what's yourtake on the wellness real estatemovement well fit well how's thataffecting your business well if you weregonna ask me where sustainability isgoing next and what the next big thingis well that would be the answer so thewhole health and wellness movement insustainability has exploded and in partthat's because we now have some researchto back up some of the claims aroundhealth and wellness you know when itcomes to stuff like theylighting and ventilation and non-toxicproducts the transformation of that intoproductivity reduced absenteeism reducedmedical bills and the cost implicationsof that for employers is really startingto be understood in the last I'll saythree years relatively new than it everhas and and certainly with the creationof the well building standard which cameout of good old New York City you knowthat that has taken it to a whole notherlevelin terms of actually documenting andcertifying those effortsya know that was what I was going to askyou next but yeah you heard it here theWellness movement it's it's happeningit's just a different conversation helpme with this one but I understand whenlead was young and you were in it earlyyou know just the lack of education heyif a contractor saw it was a leadproject they just add a bunch of moneyto the budget and they just didn't knowmaybe that's happening now with well andthe well building standard but I justthink everyone needs to get up to speedquickly and it doesn't have to be ascostly and we're just having differentconversations right it's not savingkilowatt hours on a power bill and beingless of an impact to the environmentlike lead great program now it's likeJason said productivity presenteeismabsenteeism being reduced so we justhave to get a lot of education out therein the marketplace right it's just it'sjust too new right now well well todayis where lead was in 2002 Johnson so butbut the difference is that well which ofcourse is now owned by GBC I the sameorganization that manages lead has 15years of lead history and lead trialsand errors to springboard from it's notstarting where lead started from there'sthis whole ground of knowledge base thatexists as a platform that it's startingwith so it's got a huge advantage justin terms of where it can get to and howquickly you can get there as opposed tothe time is taken for stuff like leadand the lead concepts to burn in rightnow that's a good point so you know wewe suggest you get your well ap you stayon front with what's changing but it isever changing sometimes Jason I as themessengers as the consultants or theteachers it's ever-changing so don'tshoot the messenger but you got to keepraising the barwe'd version four and lead version 4.1 anew version well that's why there'salways new workshops and new things tolearn that's one of the exciting thingsabout what we do and it's one of thefrustrating things about yeah you'reright what I love to teach workshops andyou've helped a lot of people alsopassed their professional credentialexams they lead exams but is there acertain topic you really like to teachjust curious uh well you know I thinkthis one of the things that we're seeinga lot of requests for today becausethere is such a knowledge base nowaround lead is there's a lot of peoplewho want more technical workshops andmore in-depth workshops that the moregeneral Green Associate type traininghas really almost become automated andonline and I know you guys offer a lotof online courses for that and so a lotof the demand in the marketplace now isfrom professionals who have been in thebusiness and maybe worked on a leadproject or two or they're activelyworking on them and they want to reallydive deep into the technologies and thesystems and the strategies and that goesfor well also you know the people whoare jumping on the well bandwagon earlyare probably the lead ApS and the leadfellows who have been in the businessfor a while and they already know andbuy into all of the the metrics behindmy wellness is a prime thing to targetno I second thatso what we're hearing as educators justso everyone listening knows is there's aneed for more 301 level advanced a 401level mastery like it's okay to gettechnical and sharpen these skills it'snot just what is lead and how might Iuse it it's now let's really truly getdown to some special case uses and thetechnical side of itself it's good tohear there's a need for that but you andI also have agreed that it's very laborintensive it's it's quite a lot of workto put together that curriculum and dofull-day workshops and and those aretypically maybe in-person so just asecond while you're staying there and Ithink we just have to stay on it we'retrying to do more blended learning wherewe have some live and some recorded butwe just got to continue to serve theindustry and that seems to be a goodcombo what I'm doing a lot more oflately is I'm doing in-person webinarsfor a small live group with a largergroup onlinethis thing it like that that's realsmart I like that so we talked about theWellness movement we both agree that'skind of what's happening now and in thenear future that is the next chapter thegreen building movement but so far inyour career Jason if you were to talkabout yourself what's your specialtywhat's your gift what do you thinkyou're best at I would say my specialtyand gift is probably understandingsynergies you know that in my line ofwork you've gotta meet a budget and aschedule and how do you build acost-effective green building you know Ialways tell people that unless youreally understand the cost benefits andthe synergies between the interaction ofsystems and components and technologiesit's really hard to do thatcost-effectively so that's one thing theother thing is I take a really practicalapproach I know that there is a budgetand a schedule and regardless of howgreen I want that building to be it'snot gonna happen it's not gonna getrealized unless I can meet thoseconstraints so you know I understand thebig picture in the vision and Iunderstand the synergies of how to getthere on a practical budget I'd saythat's probably my biggest skill setthat's great and that's so important yougotta bring everybody together and keepthem focused on the prize and so whereall the win when wins are what are somepro tips that help you stay productivehelp you stay successful any routines orrituals well yeah I have developed somerituals over my lifetime one of them isnetworking constantly so you know I'vegot regular groups and networks that Igo to on a regular basis I've got aTuesday morning meeting and a Thursdaymorning meeting every week that I go toand I drag myself out of bed early inthe morning to do nice likewise in theevenings there's evening eventssporadically that I make it a point togo to but but more than that one of thethings I tried to do and I think you youprobably do the same with your group isto really put yourself out there as athought leader in in the marketplace insustainability and that means you knowteaching workshops broadcasting thoseworkshops doing things like this podcastgetting the word out about what you'redoing if it's a newsletter or somethingso that people can see and hear thesuccess stories and that by defaults youknow makes you the expert in the roomand where people want to go becausethey've seen something from youand that's the latest and greatest ohthat's good man that's really good thatwhole thought leader mentality is reallywhat I focused on in the last I'd sayfive to seven years of building rightand you don't you know it's it's youneed the confidence you know so you canspread the word and and teach everythingyou know and I think that's what you doa good job of but I love networkingCastelli so many times in business we wego get some nice new work a new projectand then we shift all of our focus therebut we forget to keep networking keepdoing business development keep feedingthe Machine now you never know whoyou're gonna meet and and grow yourinfluence too so yeah and that's itsounds like oh that's not worknetworking but you know as you know whenyou're working on projects all day andparticularly intense projects you knowto take time to go to a meeting in themorning or to an event the afternoon orevening is hard to fit that in yeah witheverything else going on oh yeah verydifficult but sounds like you don't missit so great job manwell I'm a fan of the bucket lists Jasonwhat are one or two things on yourbucket list personal work adventure justcurious well I talk to things on my listone is to really take some time andtravel the world you know I've beenfortunate in my line of work to go toplaces mostly for business and be ableto extend that into a little bit of avacation but I've never had the time toreally just go for the sake of going tosee places and be places and I have along list of places I want to go see sotraveling the world is probably numberone on my list on a personal scale Ireally want to I want to walk the talk Iwant to live in a truly sustainableoff-grid home which we are just in theprocess of initiating now coolthat's very excited maybe you gottapractice way of reaching and I love itlet's talk about books I don't know ifyou listen to books or read books youknow hard copy but you know is there abook or two you'd recommend well it'sgonna sound bad but I don't really readbooks much I just don't have time toread books I don't I don't make the timeI should say I read a lot of articlesthese days but earlier in my career andnot that long agothere are some key books that I wouldrecommend that if you have not readthese books these are sort of thefoundation for the perspective onsustainability that I think everybodyneeds and and I'll just rattle a few offcradle to cradle by Bill McDonough andmister Brahm guard natural capitalismgreen to gold biomimicry and our choiceby Al Gore those would be my top fivebooks that if those books haven't beenread you don't truly understand thesustainability movement all right and weaccept that challenge I'll be puttingthe links to those books and the podcastshow notes no I I too you know read somearticles Alissa's podcast I wish I hadmore time to to read more books I hateto admit that I don't but you know it'sone of those where there's only so muchtime of the day and it sounds likeyou're learning from those you'renetworking with that's another reason toput yourself out there is is to learnfrom other people and their stories andwhat's going on in their world they'repart of the industry so I love it I'malso learning from the project you knowone of the things about my educationalside is everything that I teach is basedon hands-on experience and so we'redoing a project right now which is thefirst off-grid residential project thatI've done you know I've done net zeroenergy projects I've done lead projectsI've done projects that were designedaround health and wellness but I've notactually done a project that was bothfocused on health and wellness and trulyoff-grid so you know and I'm learning alot it's just starting construction nowya know that's gonna be great practicefor for your off-grid home one day andyou're right that's the best kind oflearning is the in the trenches thatthat's sweat that's sweat equity and theproblem-solving along the way well yeahI mean it's been fascinating to kind oflearn more about your story just thefinal couple questions here is there anyadvice you wish you to have a littleearly in your career and then any wordsof encouragement for someone jumpinginto this movement well in terms of whatI wish I had earlier is I wish there hadbeen more green building education inlike my college and an earlyprofessional career I think that's atotally different world today so I thinkthat's beensolved for the most part not entirelyand I highly suggest that folks try andget as much hands-on experience as theycan whether it's volunteering for anorganization doing an internship at anorganization you know the way you reallylearn this stuff is by doing and thatgoes for a lot of things in life but Ilearned the most by working on projectsand trying to problem-solve and andtrying to figure out how to reallyintegrate sustainability into what wewere doing in a practical way that Icould sell to to clients and not havethem blink and the other thing is alwayslooking out for what's the next way youknow I was fortunate to be at the rightspot at the right time when lead cameout you know now we see the next wavewith well which we're all starting to toreally get on board and ride and there'sgonna be another one you know there'sgonna be another innovation and I thinkit's gonna be honestly it's going to bein products and renewables that you'regonna see the next big wave that'sawesome agree with everything you'resaying there so keep your head up soyou're catching that wave you know don'tbe too head down on any one thing butyou know Jason again Congrats onbusinesses your lead fellow and justeverything you've done and look forwardto working on more education togetherand you're supposed to thank you forbeing on the green building matterspodcast of Charlie thanks for having meit's been a pleasure as alwaysthank you for listening to this episodewith the Green Building managed projectsat GBS comm our mission is to advancethe green building movement throughbest-in-class education andencouragement remember you can go togbes comm slash podcast for any notesand links that we mentioned in today'sepisode and you can actually see theother episodes that have already beenrecorded with our amazing yes pleasetell your friends about this podcasttell your colleagues and if you reallyenjoyed it leave a positive review oniTunes thank you so much and we'll seeyou on next week's episode[Music]

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Green Building Matters Podcast

Jason Kliwinski is a Certified Sustainable Building Advisor (CSBA) 2014, LEED Fellow, Licensed Architect, NJ, NY, PA, LEED AP BD+C, LEED AP O+M, and LEED Faculty.  Additionally, Jason is the Co-Founder of USGBC-NJ Chapter founded in 2002.


Jason Kliwinski – Commitment & Contributions Jason grew up in Jersey and knew he wanted to be an architect in high school. His high school had an architecture program and his senior year he earned college credit. Jason currently specializes in Sustainable Design, LEED, State and Federal Energy incentives and Grants, Carbon Neutrality planning & design, Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy systems design, and implementation.  


Aha Moment and Mentors In Jason’s second year of college, he took the only class offered on sustainability.  The class focused on passive energy and this peaked his interest. Jason’s high school architecture teacher Mr. Clayton was his first major influencer.  During his first real job, David Gibson gave him a platform and some significant projects to explore sustainability in high performance design.

“When LEED came out, I saw it as a way to be a real good organization structure to talk to people about green buildings.” –Jason Kliwinski


Advice and Words of Encouragement Jason wishes there would have been more green building education in his college years and early in his career.  He highly suggests that anyone in the field get as much hands-on experience as they can. He encourages everyone to always look out for the next wave in green buildings.

“The way you really learn this stuff is by doing it.” –Jason Kliwinski


Proudest Achievements & Favorite Books Jason Kliwinski was the first in his family to go to college and pay for it all. He is also proud of getting his architect license, being an early LEED adopter, and a LEED fellow. Another proud achievement is the creation of the Green Building Center.

“If you haven’t read these 5 books you don’t really know the sustainability movement.” –Jason Kliwinski


Jason suggests the following books: Cradle to Cradle:  Remaking the Way We Make Things by Bill McDonough and Michael Braungart

Natural Capitalism by Paul Hawken

The Green to Gold Business Playbook: How to Implement Sustainability Practices for Bottom-Line Results in Every Business Function by Daniel C. Esty and P.J. Simmons

Biomimicry in Architecture by Michael Pawlyn

Our Choice by Al Gore

To hear more about Jason’s journey, download and listen to the episode!


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