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Posted: March 01, 2010

2010 Sustainability Champion: Shahnaz Jaffari

Iran native grew up in land where buildings have stood the test of time

Mike Cote

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A native of Iran, Shahnaz Jaffari has studied structures in the Middle East that are 2,500 years old. Stretching the lifespan of buildings to a century doesn't sound unusual to her.
Jaffari, RMMI's sustainability director for the Rocky Mountain Masonry Institute, has worked for five years to change how architects look at construction practices.

The nonprofit trade association represents more than 110 companies throughout Colorado, Wyoming, Montana and Idaho.

"We need to build buildings that will be our cultural heritage for the next generation just like the previous generation built their buildings for us," said Jaffari, one of six winners of the 2010 Sustainability Champion Award.

The awards are a program of the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment and the Colorado Environmental Partnership partnered, Connected Organizations for a Responsible Economy (CORE), and ColoradoBiz. The program is sponsored by PAETEC, a New York-based telecom company that delivers data and voice services in 84 metro markets including Denver.

Here's how the Jaffari measured up according several metrics considered by the judges:

Environment: Jaffari recently chaired the Service Life Subgroup for the development of the first International Green Construction Code. The average age of nonresidential buildings in the U.S. is about 25 years. Jaffari's team has developed a draft that calls for a minimum of 60 years for all buildings following this code and extra credits for buildings designed to last 100 and 200 years. Construction of new buildings and demolishing old ones accounts for 40 percent of raw materials and 30 percent of waste output in the U.S. each year.

Economy: The code initiatives would dramatically reduce the operating costs of buildings and in turn reduce demand for fossil fuels and clean water.

Society: Jaffari worked closely with a team from the Environmental Protection Agency on draft language that calls for buildings to be within walking distance to schools, offices, banks, cultural centers and shopping.

Innovation: Jaffari directed a regional task force of the U.S. Green Building Council on revisions to the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design standards. New credits would award points for water conservation, materials conservation, passive design and innovation in energy savings.

Education: Jaffari teaches seminars on LEED and green building to architects and engineers in the Denver area.

Jaffari's U.S. Green Building Council task force was originally charged with coming with with suggestions for the region. But once she had a group of experts mobilized, she decided to see if the group would be willing to take it a step further.

"I had a very diverse awesome group of about 15 people who were experts in different areas," she said. "I suggested to them: ‘Our task is to define what credits in our region are important, but what do you think about going beyond that and looking at the whole LEED and see if we can propose our ideas, whatever they are, to the LEED steering committee while we are gathering here as a group?' And everybody said, ‘Oh, that's awesome.'"

The committee prepared two reports, one that encompassed what they were asked to do and one that examined the entire scope of LEED certification, Jaffari said. The suggestions are being considered for the 2011 revisions to LEED.

"We proposed 33 changed and new credits for LEED that included passive design, durability of building materials, things like embodied water, embodied energy, things that we thought could add value to LEED," she said.

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Mike Cote is the former editor of ColoradoBiz. E-mail him at mcote@cobizmag.com.

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