Webinar: Traditional Sustainability Planning is Broken

When: Tuesday, July 18, 2017 · 11:00 AM PDT  / 2:00 PM EDT
Duration: 40 Mins.

View Recording


Most higher education institutions have been doing some form of Climate Action Planning or Utility Master Planning for at least a decade. While many of these plans contain aggressive GHG and energy reduction targets, most institutions are not on track to meet their stated objectives.

Why is traditional planning broken? What lessons can higher ed. learn from other industries to leverage their existing infrastructure, purchasing power and intellectual assets to chart a new course for the 21st Century?

Borrowing from the concepts of agile software development, Dave Karlsgodt, Principal at Fovea and host of the Campus Energy and Sustainability Podcast shares lessons learned from dozens of higher ed. and corporate campuses in North America. How can you speed up your planning efforts to yield meaningful action instead of another 200-page glossy report?


David Karlsgodt  Principal at Fovea

David Karlsgodt  Principal at Fovea

Andrew Marsh,  BAS Expert, BuildPulse    

Andrew Marsh,  BAS Expert, BuildPulse



$30,000 + for a parking space - Eye popping rule of thumb


Over the past week, I’ve had numerous conversations where this “rule-of-thumb” kept popping up:

1 newly constructed parking space = $30,000 or more

While on most days I work from a home office, I am a regular user of the park-and-ride near my house as I venture into downtown Seattle for the occasional meeting. More than once have I lamented the lack of parking as I circled the lot like a vulture just so I could ride a bus. At a basic level, the concept of “park-and-ride” seems totally logical — the best of both suburbia and city life. With each circle of the overflowing lot and each spiral up the parking garage, I feel pangs of annoyance at the lack of a home for my single-occupant vehicle.

But,  as someone that works on energy infrastructure and financial models, this number, $30,000 / parking spot is pretty staggering.  As Alan Durning from the Sightline Institute puts it:

“Our car storage spaces are worth more than our cars.”

I’m left with more questions:

  • Is this really the best use of our public funds?
  • This is just parking, what about the roads?

Others have written eloquently on this topic before me (list of links below.)

2016 AASHE Sustainability Officers Retreat at the University of British Columbia, Okanagan


I am writing an open letter of thanks to the organizers of the AASHE Sustainability Officers Retreat: Leith Sharp, Aurora Winslade, Leanne Bilodeau, Daita Serghi and Matt Lynch. This retreat took place in July on the beautiful campus of the University of British Columbia, Okanagan in Kelowna, BC.

I attended as both a sponsor and a retreat participant. The format allowed me to learn, share and collaborate with some of the leading minds in higher ed. sustainability. The 3-day event was filled with opportunities for deeper discussion and human interaction. It was a refreshing approach compared to the typical networking “speed-dating” experience of most conferences. The days were filled with a great mix of presentations and interactive workshops. The evenings included a more causal social atmosphere which included ample opportunity for longer, personal conversations. It was truly one of the best retreat experiences I had.
Leith Sharp presented much of the retreat content which provided participants with a groundbreaking framework for how large organizations make decisions and navigate change. She clearly articulated why, too often, good ideas get stuck in the management-driven hierarchy of our institutions. She outlined the skills and short-comings of the two major “operating systems” that exist in organizations.

1) The “Command and Control Operating System” (CCOS) or traditional management structure where there are silos of responsibility.
2) The “Adaptive Operating System” (AOS) which exists in smaller groups, committees, or grow organically in organization out of a need for change.

Leith was clear to point out that both organization structures are critical for a functioning organization. CCOS can scale and keep a massive organization stable, mission focused and financially solvent for the long-haul. It is very risk and change averse. AOS provides the catalyst for change and often runs head-long into the ridged structures of the CCOS. That said, AOS is typically short-lived and very difficult to scale.

Leith’s message was not that one operating system was better than another, but rather that Sustainability Leaders should understand these structures exist and how to leverage the strengths of both systems to affect, positive, mission-driven change with an organization. Simply providing a “lexicon” or clear description of how these systems work and where, how and why good ideas get stuck, can go a long way to helping leaders affect positive change. Leith has created this content under the Creative Commons 3.0 license. I look forward to working with other conference attendees on contributing to this body of work as we collectively work to promote positive, sustainable change in higher ed.

– Dave Karlsgodt


Population Trends of the top 101 cities in the US

After reading the Seattle Times article,  “U.S. Census: Seattle now fourth for growth among 50 biggest U.S. cities” by: Gene Balk, I was curious to understand the various trends in other major US cities.  I pulled down the census data cited in Balk’s article and created the following data “vignette” to better understand the numbers.  A few things jumped out at me:

A few cities in the Midwest Rust Belt are continuing a longer-term trend of slow to negative growth.

Detroit continues to “lead” the pack with an annual “growth” rate of -1%.  Toledo, Cleveland, Buffalo, and St. Louis are all clearly shrinking with rates between -0.5% and -0.2%

Detroit continues to “lead” the pack with an annual “growth” rate of -1%.

Toledo, Cleveland, Buffalo, and St. Louis are all clearly shrinking with rates between -0.5% and -0.2%

  • Detroit continues to “lead” the pack with an annual “growth” rate of -1%.
  • Toledo, Cleveland, Buffalo, and St. Louis are all clearly shrinking with rates between -0.5% and -0.2%
  • Cincinnati seems to have bucked this trend with a modest 0.1% growth rate.
  • Chicago & Milwaukee did shrink from 2014-2015, but still grew slightly this decade.

Oil drilling gateways Baton Rouge, LA & Anchorage, AK have bumpy growth patterns.

  • New Orleans seems to have escaped the impacts of a volatile oil market as it picks up the 8th fastest growing city on the list. Keep in mind, however that the Big Easy lost over a 250,000 people after hurricane Katrina, and is still much smaller than its highs in the 20th century.

The global trend of urbanization is alive and well in these numbers.

  •  Only 7 of the 101 cities have been shrinking this decade. More interesting is that 16 of the 101 cities added more population than all of the shrinking cities combined (-58,000.)  This includes the Rust Belt city of Columbus, Ohio which added over 59,000 people.

If you see other interesting trends, please comment and I can update this article accordingly.