Green Built Alliance is hosting a work-based learning intern from Nesbitt Discovery Academy for the spring semester of 2018. During this time, students are tasked with exploring the fields that interest them the most, and our intern is drawn to career paths related to sustainability. She will be sitting down with numerous members who agreed to have her visit their job site to learn more about their particular line of work.
Green Built Alliance intern Kathleen Jacobsen visited our members at Equinox, where she sat down with owner David Tuch.
GBA: What first peaked your interest in this career path?
David: I am a landscape architect. When I was in high school, I took a class in field ecology and I really enjoyed it because I got to be outside and do bird surveys. I also took an architecture class in high school as well which I really enjoyed too. As a student, I tried to find a way to combine those two subjects and I came across landscape architecture. I was also very focused on the environment so when I was in graduate school getting my landscape architecture degree, I was also getting a degree in conservation ecology and sustainable development. Putting landscape architecture and conservation ecology together led me to where I am today.
GBA: What is your specialty?
David: We are an environmental planning and design firm. One of the things that we do as our specialty is that we embed environmental science and ecology into our designs and planning solutions. So, if we’re working on a greenway project for example, we would address water quality and any habitat improvements. In our projects, we are known to improve the environment or habitat.
GBA: How is your work sustainable for the environment?
David: Our mission is to facilitate resource conservation and sustainable development. We want to make sure that we’re meeting our mission every year. What we do to meet our mission each year is that we look at our projects and we track and record how many streams we restored, how many miles of greenways we built to help people get out of their cars, and how many stormwater best management practices we implemented to address water quality. We track that to make sure we are fulfilling that mission.
The designs that we do help address pollutants in water and water quality. We do watershed plans to help identify where improvements can be made because of problem areas, and then we find solutions. We do a lot with stormwater, we do a lot with planning, and there are developments that we do. Because of that mix of developments with conservation, we’ll go in and identify all of the natural resources that are there and the primary conservation values we’ll set aside and develop in the areas that are disturbed or don’t have conservation values.
In everything that we do, we feel good about the fact that it contributes to sustainable design, but not all that we do is design. Some of what we do is inventory analysis so land and water can be permanently protected. We do two things: we work toward sustainable development, but at the same time, we do inventory analysis. We realize that not everything can be protected and not everything can be set aside because we need places to live and work. But in those scenarios, we’re employing the skill sets for sustainable development when we can. For those things that can be protected, we work to protect those.
GBA: How many projects or designs do you do each year?
David: A lot of what we do is planning and a lot of what we do is design. We have three different groups and in a design group alone, we have about 25 different projects. So out of those, half of them will lead to construction at some point. Some of them are planning documents that should lead to construction in the future but those are master planning projects. So, then we have construction documents which are the detailed plans that are usually developed right before a project gets built. Half of what we do is construction designs in the design portion of what we do here.
GBA: How much of a difference have you made since the start of your company?
David: We have recorded some of our impacts that we have made to our community such as sustainable planning and design on 82 institutional, commercial and residential properties. We have done 78 greenway and park planning projects on over 5,510 acres of land and 360 miles of greenways, multimodal corridors and trails including 16.95 miles built. Another impact we have made is that we have done conservation easement planning for 50 projects, helping to protect 13,030 acres of land. Also, we have done watershed planning over 1,615 square miles in 25 different watersheds ranging in size from 2 to 183 square miles in urban and rural areas. Those are just a few of our accomplishments and we are very proud of them.
GBA: Why are you passionate about teaching our community about what you do?
David: We have to show people that there are other options. A lot of people don’t understand that there are better ways we can do residential developments. I think that it is a responsibility that we all have to make sure people understand that there are different ways and that there are better ways. Traditional developers don’t like to hear it because it can question their bottom line, but we have to be able to educate them as well as the general public that they can do something better for the environment and make just as much money or more. So, education in the community is critically important for that.
Same thing with greenways, we go into some communities where people don’t understand the benefits of greenways and most people just think of it as a paved trail. But that paved trail provides access to communities that might not have access to recreational facilities. Everyone can go for a walk and most people know how to ride a bike. It’s important to have a place where you can get exercise when we know that there is a health crisis in our country because people aren’t getting outside enough and interacting with the natural environment. Those are the types of things that we want to share with people, so they can have the option of getting outside by just building a greenway for health benefits, the economic benefits and for the environmental benefits as well. Education is critical and talking to the community is critical, because if we’re not sharing our information, then they won’t know the opportunities that are out there.
GBA: What makes your company stand out?
David: Our mission and the way we embed environmental science and ecology into our planning and design solutions is a very unique thing. As a small business, we excel at communicating with our clients and with our sub-consultants in a collaborative way. A lot of people talk about collaboration and a lot of people talk about effective communication, but not a lot of people can actually do it. Communication and collaboration is something we have excelled at, so when you combine our ability to relate and communicate with our clients and the fact that we have this environmental approach, it’s what makes us quite unique.
GBA: Why are you members of the Green Built Alliance?
David: When I first heard about it, it was known as the WNC Green Building Council and I thought it was a great thing for the community. I was really interested because I wanted to make sure that everyone knew that green building is not just about buildings themselves. There is a lot that goes into a building such as the walls, roofs, structure, landscape, etc. One can have the most sustainable building but only have a paved foundation, and so the Green Built Alliance gives us the opportunity to teach the importance of landscape around a building. I also wanted to join because other companies could be represented as well and they are! The Green Built Alliance provides the directory each year and the articles are great. The Green Built Alliance magazine is one of the very few publications that we put an advertisement in because it is a great resource for the community.
GBA: Why are you passionate about green building and the work of the Green Built Alliance?
David: I think the Green Built Alliance is an amazing resource because it can connect people with the local businesses that provide sustainability. I think the educational aspect of the Green Built Alliance is awesome as well and I have participated in teaching classes in the past. A lot of what the Green Built Alliance does is educate and inform our community, which is very important and helpful.