A conversation with Scott Jones – August 3, 2005

Green Thirteen has been a series of questions intended to explore the journey of environmental thinking, from inspiration to education to action--with a dual-focus on both individual and community perspectives. These conversations were the result of a quest for creating a great awareness sought by Scott Kevin Jones, AIA, LEED( AP, who is with HOK Sport+Venue+Event. We are indebted to Jones for his desire and commitment to meeting with environmental leaders and interviewing them. Jones' journey is leading him to Minneapolis, Minn., where he will continue to pursue his passion for the environment while his wife, Leslie, completes her Ph.D., in psychology.

Interviewer: Dawn O'Malley is the USGBC Kansas City Chapter Communications Committee Chair and Marketing Director at Walter P. Moore Structural Engineers in Kansas City.

1 – What person influenced you most regarding environmental issues?

  • Professor David Block at Iowa State University taught a course on solar homes and environmental design. While it was a technology course he taught it more as a design studio working to prove that solar homes don't have to be cellars built into the ground with grass roofs. While taking his course, I was also working as a carpenter and coincidentally got to build one of his designs.
  • 2 – What event opened your eyes to environmental issues?

  • Growing up in rural Iowa I have always had a connection with nature. My playground as a child was a muddy creek on the Iowa River and an 80-year old dairy barn. In the spring of 2003 HOK-Corporate made a commitment to get 100 professionals LEED Accredited. During the day I was designing some of the most wasteful buildings on the planet and at night I was studying the LEED checklist of sustainable design concepts.
  • 3 – Name one habit or convenience you gave up for environmental reasons.

  • We gave up '72 degrees' and installed a digital thermostat in our house. When we are home we let the temperature stay as high as 80 degrees in the Summer and 65 in the Winter. During work hours when we are gone it floats another 5 degrees off of that. Once you have it set you never have to think about it again - you just get used to regulating your clothing with the weathe.
  • 4 – Name something you wish more people realized is harmful to the environment.

  • Gas powered lawn mowers are one of the biggest environmental polluters. I've read some staggering statistics. Mowers produce carbon monoxide, and we mow we are breathing in all that pollution. And ironically it's all done to create an illusion of a healthy green environment around our homes.
  • 5 – What is the most important thing you do personally to conserve natural resources?

  • Eating less meat. When you examine your "environmental footprint" you find that a diet of meat has a big impact due to the resources required to produce livestock as opposed to vegetables. But my wife and I made this change more to stay healthy and manage our weight more than for environmental reasons. I now weigh what I did in college, have more energy, and even stopped snoring (I'm told). Saving money and using fewer resources are just a side-benefits.
  • 6 – What alternative do you feel more people need to learn?

  • We do not need to be so dependent upon our car. We can make conscious decisions to live closer to work, carpool, or use the public transportation system.
  • 7 – What contribution are you uniquely able to make toward environmental causes?

  • As an architect working on large projects I can influence small changes which result in a big impact. Currently, I am working on the Berlin Arena in Germany. German regulations require many of the items on the LEED checklist, such as daylighting and operable windows in all office spaces. The project also features a green roof. Berlin has economic challenges like any major city today, so this shows that incorporating sustainable design comes more from a change in paradigm rather than financial feasibility.
  • 8 – What do you think is the next step for Kansas City as a community at the present time?

  • Kansas City and the surrounding communities need to educate the public on sustainable design and sustainable living. We are going to have to work together as a society to get things back on track. The government alone cannot do it. Designers and builders alone cannot drive this. It needs to come from the grass roots. Otherwise up-front costs will continue to drive decision making on public projects. We need to educate the voters so they can demand our legislators and administrators adopt a new yardstick of 'performance.' Everyone wants to save the planet, but it's hard to see the little things we can do to get there. Education is critical.
  • 9 – What change to your lifestyle or behavior was the hardest to adopt or maintain?

  • Carpooling to and from work with my wife has been a challenge, since we give up a lot of flexibility in our schedule. However, the sacrifice becomes a benefit since it reduces the opportunity to put in unplanned hours at work, gives us more time to talk and unwind BEFORE we get home, and eliminates the solitary commutes. It also cuts our gas consumption nearly as much as if we were to trade our 2002 Accord for a new hybrid.
  • 10 – What do you think Kansas City has done well?

  • Requiring LEED Silver for public buildings over 5,000 square feet is a move in the right direction. But LEED functions as more of an educational tool than a building code. I've been involved primarily with fast track and ultra-fast-track large scale projects where construction starts long before LEED certification can be confirmed. So we have to embrace the process, learn everything we can, and build on our collective knowledge at every opportunity.
  • 11 – What is your most successful green building project?

  • I am proud of initiating the Green 13 series for the chapter's newsletter. It gave me an opportunity to step outside of my comfort zone, meet talented people and act on my beliefs about sustainability. I am keeping my fingers crossed for the Berlin Arena, which could be the most sustainable stadium with which I have been involved.
  • 12 – What is a good example of environmental design in Kansas City?

  • Although I have only spent minimal time in the building, the Discovery Center is an amazing resource. I need to make time to go study the living systems and exhibits. This should be on everyone's 'short list' of places to take family and friends from out of town, especially those with kids. Hopefully the next generation will grow up believing sustainability is an assumption, not an alternative.
  • 13 – What is the biggest change you hope to see in society within your lifetime?

  • That the majority of people learn to see that we are all part of the human race, instead of focusing on political and geographic differences. How we treat each other and how we treat the environment are directly related. America has such great potential to lead the world in the right direction, but in the environment we haven't always set the right example. Planet Earth has enormous capacity to absorb our mistakes, but there is a limit, and some permanent damage has already been done. I believe the next 15 years are going to define whether we reacted in time or not. At that point I'll be 52 years old and hoping to live another 52 years without seeing bottled air selling in grocery stores alongside the bottled water.
  • Weblinks:

    Arena Am Ostbahnhof construction webcam - http://cityscope.homeip.net/arena/

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