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My Green Building Journey with The Alliance Center

Written by Melissa Baldridge, member of The Alliance Center Board of Directors

I recently joined The Alliance Center’s Board of Directors, and I’m excited to lend my expertise as a green building expert. This isn’t the first time I’ve been involved with The Alliance Center, though. And in fact, The Alliance Center is the reason I even got into green building in the first place.

In the early 2000s, I was a freelance writer specializing in architecture, design and art, and while I collected some nice bylines, I was bored senseless writing about bathroom re-dos in Mapleton and 12,000-square-foot baronial ski castles in Beaver Creek. I was pretty clear that few people bothered to read my carefully crafted articles beyond skimming the pretty pics, and my stories certainly weren’t making a difference.

In late 2004, Historic Denver, asked me to write an article about a renovation near the mostly boarded-up Union Station. The project? The Otero Building formerly owned by Tattered Cover founder and Denver legend, Joyce Meskis. The building was called The Alliance Center, and Historic Denver would be one of the first 20 tenants there.

There were a number of news hooks for the project, and I interviewed John Powers, Janna Six and Dennis Fleming, the project manager. A board member for the Colorado Environmental Coalition, Powers had spent time in the Tattered Cover next door to the Otero building, seeing all these well-meaning but impecunious nonprofit groups scattered throughout the building, competing for the same donors and clueless about how to pool effort and resources.

In early January 2004, Powers started looking for permanent digs to bring all these groups under one roof. Meskis would sell the building to the newly formed Alliance for Sustainable Colorado (now The Alliance Center) for $4.625 million, with Powers putting down $250,000 and collateralizing his home for the construction loan. Powers and Six also bought the lot next door with the intention to raise another tower with rentable space.

The kicker for me was that the building was pursuing LEED certification, a relatively new green building certification starting to be used with new construction. But the Otero Building was older, built in 1908 with renovations in 1951. So, the LEED Existing Building Operations & Maintenance (EBOM) certification was a big deal, with only a handful of other projects in the country housing nonprofits and retrofitting to the LEED, above-code standard.

The article itself was a deep dive into the world of high-performance building – bricks and mortar that rode easier on the planet – and I burned through a couple of pages trying to (1) help my readers get their heads around green build, and (2) getting my own head around it. Beyond pretty pics and wind turbines in the sky, green building was cool, I was hooked, and I decided wanting to be a LEED professional someday.

Fast forward to 2008, and my partner was in an MBA program at Drexel University. She was also heading sustainability (aka “resource management”) on the supply chain for a food manufacturer. We knew we wanted to work with bricks and sticks. We both knew that sustainability was the bomb, our raison d’être, and yet we also saw how those good sustainability folks got patted on the head and sidelined in grownup real estate conversations.

So, we created a hybrid company we called GreenSpot Global, with both deep in-house sustainability expertise and real estate transactional capability. I got my first of about a dozen certifications – my LEED AP EBOM.

Since our official organization in January 2010, GreenSpot has been responsible for deal and project sourcing, sales, sustainability and financial analysis on property worth over $340 million. I’ve modeled, certified and audited over one million square feet of property. The National Green Building Standard named me a “Partner in Excellence” for innovation and excellence in green build, and the U.S. Green Building Council, Colorado named GreenSpot a “Top Green Dealmaker.”

Perhaps most importantly, we recrafted our mission four years ago to create and renovate regenerative property, spinning energy, carbon, water and waste meters backwards. From the hybrid nature of our business, I identified the “Four Steps to Higher Value for Green Build,” bridging both the wonky world of sustainability and the high-stakes game of real estate deal making.

And it all started because of one little assignment on The Alliance Center, which Janna Six says was one of the first write-ups the Alliance got.

Would I have found my way into my career-as-calling without The Alliance Center? Probably, but the Alliance was like a compass needle for me, fixing on my true north.

So, it’s fitting for me to be back here 15 years later, bringing what I’ve learned and will continue to learn as a board member, all because the center was a polestar for me when I was ready for more.

 

Click here to read the story that started it all!

Why I Support The Alliance Center

My name is Betsy Moszeter, and my primary position is as Chief Operating Officer of Green Alpha Advisors, LLC. I am also on the Board of Directors for The Alliance Center, because I’m a firm believer that all of my time must be devoted to creating a more sustainable economy that everyone can participate in equitably.

My vision for a sustainable future is one where we take advantage of the increasingly rapid pace of innovation to create solutions that de-risk us from our worst current problems. We need to apply economic growth quickly, and in the right areas to ensure solutions are deployed at a scale and speed commensurate with the problems we now face. I believe that a sustainable future will rest on four pillars:

  • massive productivity and efficiency gains that ensure we can create quality outputs from fewer inputs
  • the sourcing of materials nearly exclusively from waste-to-value practices instead of using primary geological sources as the majority of our inputs
  • all production and consumption powered by renewable energies
  • an economy driven by far more equitable ownership of these fantastic new means of production.

I work with and believe in The Alliance Center, because they are using their strengths to help Colorado and organizations around the country create a sustainable future. There are too many ways in which they are working toward a sustainable future to list here, so I’ll simply include a few of my favorites:

By renovating a warehouse that was initially built in 1908, and making it into one that is state-of-the-art LEED Platinum-certified, they have both saved a gem that beautifies downtown Denver and created a co-working space whose operations don’t contribute to the global systemic risks caused by an increasingly warmer climate, and resource scarcity.

In addition to the building itself, the fact that the tenants they support are all mission-aligned is incredibly impressive. There are amazing synergies being realized every day by putting mission-driven individuals and organizations in close proximity to each other, in a way that allows them to communicate throughout each day.

In addition, The Alliance Center’s programming is truly outstanding, on both the volume on which they’re executing over 300 events annually, that over 10,000 members of the community attend and the high quality ways in which they’re delivering critical inspiration and education centered on creating a sustainable future.

I’m also always amazed by how seriously The Alliance Center takes its responsibility to assist other organizations, to make their learning curves easier and shorter. One example of this is The Alliance Center’s Direct Current Microgrid Project. Not only is The Alliance Center doing the design, testing, and measurement to determine if microgrids are a more effective way to power an office space like theirs, they are also putting huge amounts of time and expertise into documenting everything they do along the way, so that they can publish a manual for other organizations to adopt the winning aspects of the process, while avoiding the pitfalls.

I’m proud to support The Alliance Center as we work toward a sustainable future. Will you join me in supporting the crucial work of this organization? Click here to support The Alliance Center.