" Sustainability should be second nature to our business practices and intent. " M3D strives to help others achieve this goal. That's our vocation and our expertise.

NYC + NJ Collaborative – looking to build a better Future

One of my favorite quotes is “If not us, who? If not now, when?”, by John F. Kennedy and I think it sums up why we are here.  “Who are we?” you ask.  We are mothers, fathers, daughters, brothers who are looking to build a better and healthier future.  We are individuals that see that we need to work and speak for others that don’t think they have the voice for change.  We are individuals that believe we can make a difference, that believe we do not have to stand alone, that believe trying to do something is much better than doing nothing at all.  We are a collaborative of individuals striving to push the envelope in our industry to build a better future.

Our story started, as I am sure many others around the country, by individuals that have a drive to look outside the lines, creative beings that see that things could be possible. We, East Coast city dwellers, want to have the green spaces, fresh air and a healthy environment to live in.  We like our habitat and it energizes us.  We are New Yorkers and we love our city, our State and our surrounding urban environments.  Others might want to shy away from Urban Living as it has negative connotations to some but to us this is home and we want to make it better.

Three individuals came together about two years ago, Jennifer Preston, Casey Cullen and Emilie Hagen to talk about how to push the LBC in NYC and New Jersy.  Around the same time, Rollie Jones and myself (Maya Camou) met to also talk about how we can push the Challenge in the Tri-State area.  To see how we can all build this, we reached out to the ILFI to find others in our community where we also found Lauren Yarmuth.  Our group started with 6 individuals that were dedicated to this vision. Jennifer Preston is an Associate at BKSK Architects LLP, she is an Architect with a Masters in Architecture and a LEED AP; Casey Cullen is a LEED AP, BC&D, and Sustainability Coordinator at the Willow School that is in the process of LBC Certification, she has a degree in Environmental Science and is in route to achieving a Masters in Sustainability in Urban Environments; Rollie Jones is a Certified Industrial Hygienist and Senior Project Manager with Environmental Connection, Inc., He is a Biologist with technical expertise in sustainability. Emilie Hagen is an Associate at Atelier Ten, she is an Architect and is the leader of the Environmental Design Practice there. Lauren Yarmuth, Principal at YR&G, she is consultant, teacher and a LEED Fellow; and  myself Maya Camou am Principal at M3D Consulting LLC, I am an Interior Designer with a Masters in Design Management and a LEED AP, BD&C.

All of us in our way were drawn to the Living Building Challenge because we see that it is the next level of what we, as an industry, need to develop in our built environments and infrastructure. We see the freedom of design, advocacy and social justice that the Challenge encourages. Over the years all of us have seen the changes happening in our natural environment, the over development of our surroundings without thought and understanding of repercussion of what we are doing.  All of us saw this in our own way and are here looking for ways to use our expertise to help make these healthier environments possible.

In October 2012 super storm Sandy hit the Tri-State area. It caused so much damage to our communities that a lot of families and businesses are still trying to recover.  The storm itself caused a lot of the devastation but the aftermath of the lack of proper infrastructure caused more chaos.  This aftermath brought on gas lines that had people waiting for hours, to having people stranded in buildings for days for lack of power that is caused by systems that are miles away.  These are a few events that were faced by our communities from this storm and others before it.  We foresee that more of these storms are coming and a new way of thinking, designing, building and developing needs to happen.  This collaborative believes that the Challenge is the next move to help bring on this culture change.  We look to helping in developing Living Buildings and Communities that could sustain themselves, that would not be affected by other failures that occur miles away.  We started growing our group by first establishing our social media network through Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest; then invited others to join us with this task we have taken on.  Our group has been growing to include others from all industries and expertise that can bring added voices to this collaborative.

We developed our groups’ vision and are growing to work more as a think-tank then event-planning. We foster thoughtful, provocative discussion and facilitate productive innovation for a more sustainable NYC + NJ. We will support and connect progressive solutions in the established sustainability community and seek out untapped, grass-roots organizations as research partners to further the goals and implementation of the Living Building Challenge. Our mission here at the Living Building Challenge Collaborative of NYC + NJ can be boiled down to one simple cause; to facilitate Living Buildings and communities within the five (5) boroughs and our surrounding urban environments. We are makers, creators, and innovators seeking to further activate a future living city. We face many challenges in this densely populated and built city.  Many of our colleagues in the building industry tell us they don’t think it can be done.  We have heard quite a few declarations; Net Zero energy is not feasible in the city; code requirements make meeting the Challenge requirements impossible; the real estate industry is not interested; the list goes on. This group believes it can be done and it energizes us when we hear it cannot be done.  We are ready to break down that barrier.  We will accomplish this by simply providing the facts.  Starting now, we will be researching and releasing on steady basis information explaining the potential obstacles and possibilities to implementing the Living Building Challenge in New York City; Regulations, technology, logistics and case studies will be discussed.  What we believe we will find is that the obstacles are minimal and negotiable via technology and creativity. We will be reviewing the Mayor’s Sandy initiative through the lens of the infrastructure scale of LBC and mapping the five boroughs to identify possible opportunity.  We will also be looking closely at the Challenge and seeing how to work with the ILFI to further enhance the Challenge to support urban environments here on the East Coast and help them be feasible.  These are the first few initiatives we hope to achieve as a Collaborative.  We know the past cannot be changed but the future is still in our power.  I hope you all will join us to take our future back.


Sustainability and Key Performance Indicators (KPIs)

http://csrmanual4food.files.wordpress.com/2013/03/csr-commitment_large.jpg When it comes to sustainability companies need to understand the Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) in their company that target certain subjects they are looking to develop and manage.  A KPI can be defined as providing the most important performance information that enables organizations or their stakeholders to understand whether the organization is on track or not. For example, your business has internal processes that have to work well if the company is to be successful. Companies with superior organizations and operations typically have high levels of variables such as employee satisfaction, product quality and employee training. To track these variables, you have to identify factors that influence them. Employee retention and length of service are KPIs for employee job satisfaction. Product returns and final production test pass rates are KPIs for product quality. Number of employees signed up for training is a KPI for training levels. When you track such KPIs and work to improve them, the performance of your business improves as well. The KPI report gives summary and detailed information on how well or poorly these areas perform. These reports come in many forms–from handwritten reports to very sophisticated computer generated reports with multiple charts and graphs. The best KPI report provides accurate data information and actionable feedback for the user.

Companies are starting to look at Sustainability and CSR policies which refer to long-term maintenance of responsibility, that have environmental, economic and social dimensions. These Sustainability KPIs are reflective of Sustainability areas of interest, and are grouped into subcategories, such as Recycling, Energy Resources, Waste Management, Water Quality, Soil Pollution, Air Quality, Purchasing Analysis and Community Service Initiatives. Sustainability KPIs provide quantifiable measurements of factors determined to be important for the successful implementation of Sustainability strategies and aid in Sustainability Management.

Three reasons for measuring performance are:

  •  * To learn and improve
  •  * To report externally and demonstrate compliance
  •  * To control and monitor people

The most useful KPIs relate to your company’s objectives. When you analyze your goals for the factors that determine success, you have an indication of where to find KPIs that show you how well your company is performing and meeting its targets. Implementing such a KPI system gives you immediate feedback on problems with your strategies and allows you to make quick adjustments when necessary.

It is said that what gets measured, gets done. KPIs help you to define and measure progress toward achieving your organizational objectives. They give all organizational members a clear picture of what is important and what they are required to do to accomplish set objectives. You can use KPIs to motivate your employees toward achieving organizational objectives. Used as benchmarks, They can help you compare organizational performance with rival organizations in the same sector.

There are no ready-made KPIs that fit to all organizations, because they vary from sector to sector and from organization to organization. Thus, deciding which KPIs to use is vital for effective analysis. As you can’t measure every activity or transaction that your business performs. To set appropriate KPIs, you must identify factors that are specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and timely, or SMART. This means that your KPIs must be directly identifiable to your business and its nature. They also must be easily calculated. The factors should be logically within your reach and, therefore, must be realistic and not idealistic. And finally, the factors should be achieved within a specified period.

KPIs can be implemented to any part of an organization but are key to transparency and accountability for programs and policies, as well as, work on helping to develop the image and branding of a company through CSR.


Aquaponics – How to for the class room and home application

As part of our mission to push sustainable thinking, we have been working with local schools to help them bring environmental education into the core curriculum and their school culture.  This year we are pushing small Aquaponic systems to class rooms and home environments.  Most NYC schools do not have the property to have outdoor gardens, as well as, most families that live in urban environments do not have outdoor spaces. Helping in the creation of these mini Aquaponic systems will give others the opportunity to grow herbs and vegetables and the understanding of ecosystem dependence from a small scale to the larger picture we are struggling with globally today. Here is a PDF file that will show what is needed to put a mini system together – M3D-Aquaponic-system-howto.

Why Aquaponics?

Aquaponics is a system for farming fish and plants together in a mutually beneficial cycle. Fish produce wastes that turn into nitrates and ammonia. These aren’t good for the fish if they build up too much, but they’re great fertilizer for plants. As the plants suck up these nutrients, they purify the water, which is good for the fish.

Fish are kept in large tanks and the plants are grown hydroponically; that is, without soil. They are planted in beds with a little gravel or clay and their roots hang down into the water. The water is cycled through the system, so that it collects the “waste” from the fish; then it’s pumped to the plant beds, where it is filtered naturally by the plants and can then be returned to the fish tanks. Unlike traditional farming methods, no chemical fertilizers are needed for the plants: they all come from the fish-waste. Once the system is set up, only a little extra water is needed to make up for evaporation, because the same water is constantly recycled.

Here are some topics that could be used with these mini systems:

* Ecosystem maintenance and dependency

*Recycling – water and other products

*Agriculture and healthy eating to other food related topics

*Science topics and experimentation with different plant growth cycles and different eco environments can be created in the classroom.

I see these kind of systems being used at a larger scale in our infrastructure to individual building design.  We need to start looking at how nature works and designing to create a harmonious ecosystem for our own surroundings.


Understanding ISO 26000 – Social Responsibility.

 Understanding ISO 26000 – Social Responsibility.

 The Environmental Sustainability industry is growing and moving into all sectors of our society.  As this movement grows so is the demand of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) from consumers and industry leaders.  This is where the development of ISO 26000 was created to aid industry in developing Sustainability Visions for their organizations.

What is ISO 26000?  The International Organization for Standardization (ISO), which has members of 163 nations as of 2010, created this standard to help push the implementation of socially responsible organizations.  The ISO 26000 is a voluntary standard and is not intended for certification of an organization but to be used as a tool for the creative design and development of programs and policies.

This standard is designed with 7 Clause Titles and 7 Core Subjects that need to be understood before analysis and program design development is started. The 7 Clauses aid in the understanding of Social Responsibility and strategies on implementation.  These are as follows:

1.      Scope: Guide to all types of organizations

2.      Terms & Definitions: Definitions of key terms

3.      Understanding Social Responsibility: Shows relationship between social responsibility and sustainable development.

4.      Principals of Social Responsibility: Accountability / Transparency / Ethical Behavior & Respect

5.      Recognizing social responsibility and Engaging stakeholders: Guidance on understanding relationships and an organizations influence

6.      Guidance on Core Subjects: Explains the core subject and associated issues

7.      Guidance on integration: Provides guidance on putting social responsibility into practice in an organization.

The ISO only developed standards for which there is a clear market requirement.  This is how the 7 Core Subjects areas were established.  Each subject should be looked into by an organization to have their social responsibility designed to aid in one or all these parts.  These subjects are subdivided into issues the organization can look into as well. The ISO sees that the following Core Subjects should be the focus of a sustainability vision of a company:

1.      Organizational Governance

2.      Human Rights – has 8 sub-issues that can be looked into

3.      Labor Practices – has 5 sub-issues that can be looked into

4.      The Environment – has 4 sub-issues that could be looked into

5.      Fair Operating Practices – has 5 sub-issues that could be looked into

6.      Consumer Issues – has 7 sub-issues that could be looked into

7.      Community Involvement and Development – has 7 sub-issues that could be looked into

An organization needs to recognize its social responsibility within its sphere of influence, and identifying and engaging with its stakeholders. This involves practices such as:


Ø  Making social responsibility integral to its policies, organizational culture, strategies and operations

Ø  Building internal competency for social responsibility

Ø  Undertaking internal and external communication on social responsibility

Ø  Regularly reviewing these actions and practices related to social responsibility


When looking at social responsibility an organization needs to look within its own walls to develop policies and standards that would help in true development of a sustainability vision. I would like to end with some more food for thought with a quote by Simon Mainwaring “If a brand genuinely wants to make a social contribution, it should start with who they are, not what they do. For only when a brand has defined itself and its core values can it identify causes or social responsibility initiatives that are in alignment with its authentic brand story.”