Written by Danner Doud-Martin

Danner and Haas Dean Harrison at waste audit
Danner and Haas Dean Harrison at waste audit

It is on the rare occasion that I get the chance to write from the personal voice and it is especially unusual that I share with the IBD community aspects of my “other job.”  In addition to my responsibilities as the Associate Director for the IBD program, I am also involved in sustainability and zero waste initiatives for Berkeley Haas. I have had the privilege of being the Lead of the Haas Green Team for over 6 years and the Staff Lead on the Chou Hall Zero Waste Initiative.

Connie and Kevin Chou Hall opened as the fourth building in the Haas School of Business campus in 2017.  The building was recently awarded the trifecta of U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) certifications; TRUE Zero Waste and LEED platinum certifications and WELL silver certification.  Chou Hall was designed for LEED and WELL certifications and therefore the process and certifications were managed by an outside professional consultant. TRUE on the other hand, was achieved over a two year process by a multidisciplinary team; including a small core of Haas and Berkeley undergrad and grad students, and campus and Haas staff. As a result of the TRUE certification, Chou Hall has been designated as the Greenest Academic Building in the country and has received a great deal of press and accolades.  There have also been a number of opportunities to showcase the building and the project via tours and presentations, including the most recent talk at the GreenBuild International Conference and Expo in Atlanta, Georgia.

What is GreenBuild:

At GreenBuild Conference in Atlanta with co-presenters
At GreenBuild Conference in Atlanta with co-presenters

GreenBuild is the largest annual event for green building professionals worldwide to learn and source cutting edge solutions to improve resilience, sustainability, and quality of life in our buildings, cities, and communities. Typically attended by the building industry — contractors, designers, architects, and vendors — this year there was a recognizable shift toward people interested in TRUE Zero Waste and zero waste practices.

What is TRUE Zero Waste?

TRUE Zero Waste is a third-party certification that focuses on the material created, used, and disposed of, in a building. In order to apply for a TRUE Zero Waste certification, there must be proof that the building diverts 90% of its materials to compost, recyclables and reusables (as opposed to landfill) for 12 consecutive months.  In addition to providing data on this diversion rate, there are 80 potential credits, each requiring supporting evidence and narratives. The number of successful credits obtained results in varying levels of certification (certified, bronze, silver, gold, and platinum).

Chou Hall is a Zero Waste building
Chou Hall is a Zero Waste building

TRUE Zero Waste and Chou Hall:

The significance of Chou Hall getting a TRUE Zero Waste platinum certification is multifaceted.  Not only is it the first academic building to achieve a TRUE Zero Waste certification, period, it also achieved the highest level, platinum, by getting 69 out of 70 credits that we applied.  What makes this extraordinary is that Chou Hall is a building where the stakeholders and building occupants (staff, faculty, students, guests) change every semester. The amount of continuous education and effort to instill a culture of zero waste exceeds most professional or commercial buildings.  This is one of the reasons that Haas has been invited to speak about the project. Another unique aspect of Chou Hall is the lack of landfill bins in the building. There are only compost and recycling bins, so if anyone brings in an item that needs to go to landfill, they need to pack it out. This model is similar to the camping philosophy of “leave no trace behind”. 

This model is only effective because of the strong partnerships and collaborations will all building stakeholders.  In addition to predominantly classroom and group space, Chou Hall as an impressive event space that is used extensively throughout the year and a cafe, Cafe Think, which is always bustling with customers.  The Chou Hall Zero Waste Initiative team worked with the cafe vendor, Stradavarius, and caterers to insure that all the items produced front-of-house are compostable or recyclable.  Because of the partnership with vendors, like Cafe Think, innovative and alternative solutions to waste options have made it possible for Haas to achieve platinum certification.

President Obama at the GreenBuild Conference
President Obama at the GreenBuild Conference

GreenBuild KeyNote Speaker:  President Obama 

A highlight of the conference was hearing from one of the keynote speakers, former President of the United States, Barack Obama.   President Obama shared his philosophy on many topics, including sustainability with the moderator, Mahesh Ramanujam, President of USGBC.  I especially appreciated his answer to the question posed by Ramanujam about his strategy of putting together his cabinet during his two terms in office. President Obama answered that he missed having the brightest and the best around him; people who were way smarter than him.  He shared that his job was to make sure these folks could convene together and that he was maximizing their talents. He called it a culture of integrity or “no jerk rule.” This made me think of our defining leadership principles and specifically, “confidence without attitude.”  Here are 5 take-aways from President Obama’s talk from author Sarah Kloeppe. https://www.buildings.com/news/industry-news/articleid/22152/title/greenbuild-takeaways-barack-obama-keynote

PPT Slide from GreenBuild Session called "Recycling: The Way Forward in Today’s Global Market"
PPT Slide from GreenBuild Session called “Recycling: The Way Forward in Today’s Global Market”

GreenBuild Insights

There were many take-aways from the various sessions, but one that I have been sharing since my return:  The American community needs to go back to glass. Glass is 100% recyclable, endlessly, with virtually no loss and recycled glass displaces virgin materials up to 95%.  Glass has a value and can be used in other products.

Chou Hall and the future of Zero Waste

The future of zero waste doesn’t end now that we have the certification.  Not only do we have to continue to show data proving that we are continuing to divert 90% or more of our materials to compost and recycling, we are working toward a more reusable culture at Haas.  This means focusing on eliminating single use items, even if they are compostable.

The next opportunity to present on the Chou Hall Zero Waste project will be in March at the NRC National Zero Waste Conference here in the Bay Area.

Click here to see the PPT for the GreenBuild Conference. https://docs.google.com/presentation/d/1-l3MPmXoqrORXM1F2IH78965kUFpW4ifgYl5Lh74kJc/edit#slide=id.p2

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