Alan Cogen award recipient Mark Norris to study green building rating systems

By Shelby Condit

Mark Norris is a sustainability associate at the Institute for Built Environment (IBE) at Colorado State University, a senior in the CSU construction management program, and an intern for the City of Fort Collins in the green buildings program of the sustainability services department.

Norris was recently awarded one of twelve summer internships as part of Alan Cogen’s $100,000 gift to the CSU Energy Institute, an effort to provide an opportunity for students pursuing careers in energy. The internship will be in addition to Norris’ current roles and will focus on a feasibility study of turn-key tools that are used to help CSU analyze and achieve energy and sustainability goals.

The Institute for Built Environment specializes in helping communities and organizations create healthy, thriving places through services that simplify and amplify sustainability solutions and is housed in Routt Hall at the CSU Fort Collins campus.

“CSU facilities is looking for a way to measure the performance of their buildings,” Norris said. The goal is for facilities to know which buildings deserve their attention from year to year. “They’re looking for a system or benchmark — some sort of platform.”

There are currently two main technology-based systems for measuring the efficiency of buildings. One is Arc, offered through the U.S. Green Buildings Council as a compliment to LEED certification. LEED is the current mainstream green building rating system. As an example, the Powerhouse has a Platinum LEED certification for its innovative design. The other system is BREEAM, a UK-based predecessor to LEED. Norris will be testing out these two different models to determine which is more effective, and then making recommendations to CSU facilities based on findings.

The study will be published as a feasibility report, which will aim to present a comparison of these models and has the potential to provide enough information for CSU to replace its existing systems.

Norris said determining the most effective way to measure sustainability has implications for the future of various organizations as many aren’t sure how their buildings are actually performing. “If there’s an easier way to achieve performance measurements for existing buildings, this could be it,” he said, speaking of determining which model will be more applicable to CSU’s needs.

Mark Norris is a sustainability associate at the Institute for Built Environment (IBE) and was awarded one of twelve summer internships as part of Alan Cogen’s $100,000 gift to the CSU Energy Institute.

The measurements of sustainability that Norris will focus on when comparing the two systems are water, energy, indoor air quality, occupant comfort, and waste management. “We’re likely to find some really good information about these two systems, which is really going to make all the difference for most potential users of [a rating] system,” he said, adding, “we’d love to see CSU use one of these systems for years to come if this can work.”

Working under the advisement of Brian Dunbar, executive director of IBE and LEED fellow, as well as senior project manager for IBE, Jen Schill, Norris said they provided the academic support needed to make this research and funding possible. “I wouldn’t have had the opportunity without them.”

Norris, who is originally from Columbus, Ohio and enjoys having a beer and enjoying the outdoors, hopes to have some answers by December — which is when he graduates. After that, he hopes to continue his involvement in sustainability in, “whatever shape or form that takes.”

Follow the IBE @IBEatColoState to stay up to date on this study and other green building initiatives.

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