While the large windows capture the subtle stream of December
sun in Brian Dunbar’s office, tiles of recycled carpet decorate the
Optimizing and reflecting nature in buildings is one of the
goals of the Institute for the Built Environment at CSU.
“Our focus is to promote the notion that a building can ideally
enhance the natural environment,” said Dunbar, director of the IBE
and faculty member in construction management. “What we are
realizing is that buildings have a tremendous effect on the
environment, and often not a positive (one). Forty percent of the
energy generated in our country is used to heat, light, cool and
power our buildings.”
The institute promotes sustainability of the built environment
through a research-based, interdisciplinary approach.
“The IBE is comprised of students, faculty and practitioners in
the various disciplines of the built environment,” Dunbar said.
“(Such disciplines include) design, construction, engineering,
landscape architecture, historic preservation and facilities
The IBE carries out building research through various projects
and aims to discover an ideal built environment.
“Sustainable built environments are what we are aiming to
discover,” Dunbar said. “An ideal building would allow people to
perform to their greatest ability, is a pleasure to occupy and has
a positive effect on the environment.”
While the primary aim of the IBE is sustainability of the
environment, this is achieved by focusing on some key
“When we talk about sustainability of the environment in
general, we are talking about three different aspects, which are
referred to as the triple bottom line, i.e., ecology, human equity
and economy,” Dunbar said.
The sustainable building research projects performed by IBE
further incorporate issues of energy, health, culture, materials
“While the green building movement is rapidly growing, there is
a level of risk in applying new technology to buildings,” Dunbar
said. “(Hence), we tend to use and recommend emerging technologies
rather than innovate brand new concepts.”
There is a lot of emphasis on the material that is used to build
“Many of our buildings since the 1950s have been built with
matter that contains volatile organic compounds which create
unhealthy interiors,” Dunbar said. ” It is important to use
materials that don’t off-gas harmful substances.”
Environmental and economic costs are important.
“People are beginning to account for the environmental cost of
the building,” Dunbar said. “As we extract materials from nature,
we should be mindful of the overall costs to the environment as
well as the more tangible costs of materials and construction.”
Powering buildings with minimal energy expenditure is another
“Green buildings (either) use renewable energy or use fossil
fuels more effectively,” Dunbar said. “Our best buildings are built
with very little waste.”
Dunbar sites the Adam Joseph Lewis Center for Environmental
Studies building at Oberlin College in Ohio as a good example of a
building that uses innovative energy, material and water treatment
“The entire roof surface (of the building) is made up of solar
cells. On many days of the year, the building produces more
electricity than it uses,” Dunbar said. “Also, waste water from the
building is naturally cleaned and filtered and is used to water the
The IBE has helped to coordinate the design, construction and
material selection for green classrooms in Guggenheim Hall on the
It has also been researching the sustainable design and historic
preservation of an REI building in Denver and its impact on
The institute has been involved in helping the Poudre School
District to achieve green building certification for Fossil Ridge
High School, which is scheduled to open in August 2004.
Dunbar maintains a cautious yet optimistic outlook on the
environment’s health in future years.
“My hope is that more and more counties and people realize the
negative effects that our society has on the natural environment
and yet realize that there are many opportunities to have a more
positive effect on the natural environment,” Dunbar said.
John Mlade, a sustainable building graduate student at the
Department of Manufacturing Technology and Construction Management,
feels that the built environment has a significant role in
“The magnitude of impact the construction industry has on both
society and environment (is high),” Mlade said.
He also said that despite the emphasis on sustainability,
society still has a long way to go.
“Even with all these people doing good work, we are in
incredible peril,” Mlade said. “It is not just a feel-good, ‘I am
going to hug a tree’ type of thing. It is a healthy environment
that we are trying to create.”
Mlade said, however, that the current trend is toward
understanding the impending dangers to the environment.
“People are definitely increasingly realizing it,” he said.
“There are still a lot of people who don’t care to understand, but
those people are really getting harder to find.”
The solution is to start educating people at every level, Mlade
“We have to change social consumption and mass consumption. We
have to get the word out,” Mlade said. “Everybody wants a clean
house. This (planet) is our house.”
Kathi Delehoy, assistant vice president for Research and
Information Technology, said the IBE is one of the leading
authorities in sustainable environment at CSU.
“They have been a continuous force and influence on developing
interest in sustainable environment,” Delehoy said. “They generate
and provide a lot of information.”
Also, interdisciplinary research, like that carried out at the
IBE, has a very positive impact, Delehoy said.
“Interdisciplinary research is of increasing importance to
scientists and to sponsored agencies,” Delehoy said. “A number of
our sponsors want to share work across disciplines and across
institutions. There is recognition that it is very helpful.”