2021 Sustainability Symposium

star Worth 5 GBCI CE and 5 AIA LU|HSW

Fri, 9/17/2021


Looking for the 2022 Call for Proposals? Learn more here!

Did you miss the 2022 Symposium? Watch it on demand! Click the link below

Event Details & Registration



Event Schedule

Friday, 09/17/2021 - 9:00am to 2:00pm 

  • 9:00 am Keynote with Donnel Baird, CEO of BlocPower
  • 10:30 am Concurrent Sessions 1 & 2
    • Operationalizing the Whole Life Cycle Carbon Approach
    • Climate Activism Through Design
  • 11:45 am Concurrent Sessions 3 & 4
    • Health in Resilient Housing
    • Diverse Voices for Change – Women Architects in a Quest for Regenerative Design
  • 1:00 pm Lunchtime chat
    • Breakout room chats to get to know your fellow attendees

Meet the 2021 Symposium keynote!

Donnel Baird, Founder of BlocPower

donnel baird headshot small

BlocPower, a clean tech startup based in New York City, develops portfolios of clean energy retrofit opportunities in underserved communities and connects those opportunities to investors seeking social, environmental, and financial returns. Baird is a graduate of Duke University and Columbia Business School, where he received the Board of Overseers Fellowship and investment from the Lang Fund for Entrepreneurial Initiatives. He was a political and community organizer and managed a national initiative to leverage American Reinvestment and Recovery Act energy efficiency investments in underserved communities.

Symposium Sessions

Thank you to everyone who submitted a session related to health, energy, and/or climate resilience in the built environment. This year's sessions are:

Diverse Voices for Change – Women Architects in a Quest for Regenerative Design
In this session, a group of women architects from different backgrounds will take a critical look at individual certification standards to advocate for a more holistic way of thinking. With the proliferation of so many new standards, it is important to find opportunities for synergies between them so that they can enhance one another.


  • Ilka Cassidy, Holzraum System LLC
  • Kelly Moynihan, HPZS
  • Christina Aßmann, Syracuse University
  • Kristie Broussard, Re:Vision Architecture
  • Sangeetha Sambandam, WRT (moderator)


Operationalizing the Whole Life Cycle Carbon Approach
This session discusses the measurement and tracking of embodied carbon in existing and new structures. It also highlights new carbon-reducing policies that can support our communities’ long-term health and resilience.


  • Rahman Azari, Penn State University
  • Cecilia Freeman, EwingCole
  • Daphne More, Daphne More AIA LLC
  • Esther Obonyo, Penn State University and Carbon Leadership Forum (moderator)


Health in Resilient Housing
COVID19 demonstrates that a resilient built environment must include healthy housing. This session shares cutting-edge research and an innovative vision for resilient buildings that empower healthier lifestyles.


  • Emma Raymont, MaGrann Associates
  • Ashish Mayer, Grimm and Parker Architecture
  • Jon Jensen, MaGrann Associates (moderator)


Climate Activism Through Design
In this session, you will learn from the experiences of leaders who are tackling climate change from a variety of perspectives: engaging with clients and contractors to achieve deeply sustainable solutions, working with legislators to change code requirements, collaborating with communities to ensure all stakeholder voices are heard, and developing novel curricula to educate the next generation of designers.


  • Tya Winn, Community Design Collaborative / Design as Protest
  • Angela Iraldi, Re:Vision Architecture
  • Janki Vyas, AIA Philadelphia COTE / KARMA co/lab
  • Brian Smiley, HOK

Thank You to Our Sponsors

Presenting & Founding



Interested in sponsoring this year's conference? Learn more about sponsorship opportunities here or contact Pat Ma, at pma@greenbuildingunited.org

Symposium Committee 

Nick Aster | Shane Clark | Pat Coleman | Adam Cutler | Kate Flint | Alex Grella | Michele Halsell | Angela Iraldi | Patrick Isaac |  Bissy Larsson | David Lemons | Brendan McGrath | Mark Sanderson | Matt Thomas

Other Sessions

Due to covid-19 the 2021 Sustainability Symposium was scaled back and presented virtually. Accepted sessions that were not included in the main event are listed below. Many were presented as individual events. See event dates and links to video replays below, where applicable.

Understanding Philadelphia's Residential Energy Burden
This session will feature the findings from The Office of Sustainability’s energy burden focus groups held with 60 Philadelphians to inform the development of equitable energy policy.


  • Cheyenne Flores, City of Philadelphia, Office of Sustainability
  • Charles Lanier, Hunting Park Neighborhood Action Center 
  • Christine Knapp, Director, City of Philadelphia, Office of Sustainability (moderator)

What Good Could Look Like (presented on 11/9/2021, replay included in USGBC subscription)
As part of an update to the region’s long-range plan, DVRPC developed exploratory scenarios for Greater Philadelphia. This session will explore these “alternate futures” and examine a Living Future scenario.


  • Brett Fusco, Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission
  • Kendra Nelson, Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission
  • Christopher Lee, JacobsWyper Architects
  • Amy Cornelius, GreenBeams (moderator)


Beyond Passive House – Equitable Decarbonization
As a collective of holistic-thinking Passive House Consultants, Passive to POSITIVE will share how we incorporate embodied carbon awareness into our work advising clients on a multitude of Passive House projects.


  • Michael Hindle, Passive to POSITIVE
  • Esther Park, Passive to POSITIVE
  • Christina Abmann, Passive to POSITIVE


The Consequences of Sustainability Without Systemic Change (presented on 12/2/2021 in conjunction with Delaware Community Council event, replay not yet available)
The session will outline some of the underlying racial, economic, and historical factors that act as built-in constraints to transformative change in the sustainability arena.


  • Jeffrey Richardson, Imani Energy, Inc.


Healthy Building - Healthy People, Engineering Well-Being in the Built Environment (presented on 11/18/2021, replay included in USGBC subscription)
This presentation will explore how the intersection of health, equity, and environmental sustainability creates a new project framework that is focused on the overall well-being of the users.


  • Andrew Horning, Bala Consulting Engineers
  • Matthew Ezold, Bala Consulting Engineers


Communicating successes to bolster organizational support
Perspectives from the City of Philadelphia, the University of Pennsylvania, and sustainability consultant Samantha Wittchen on how communicating successes helps bolster organization support for sustainability initiatives.


  • Madeline Schuh, The City of Philadelphia
  • Samantha Wittchen, iSpring
  • Nina Morris, The University of Pennsylvania
  • Dominic McGraw, The City of Philadelphia (moderator)


Retrocommissioning: The Lever to Building Tune-Up Success (presented on 11/3/2021, replay not yet available)
Building science and PECO engineering experts discuss how retro-commissioning can provide both energy and non-energy benefits to building owners in Philadelphia facing Building Tune-Up requirements in the coming months.


  • Mary Alcaraz, Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia
  • Hadas Webb, Cimetrics, Inc.,
  • Agbesi Akpedonu, PECO Energy Efficiency Solutions
  • Jeff Byers, PECO (moderator)


Diversifying a Diversity Organization - How Professional Women in Construction is pumping up the pipeline (being presented in Spring of 2022)
Professional Women in Construction supports, advances, and connects women throughout the AEC industry. Hear how they are pumping up the program to diversify their organization so you can too.


  • Maki San Miguel Paulson, Verde Architecture Consulting LLC
  • Amee Farrell, Kaplin Stewart Meloff Reiter & Stein
  • Tyra Redus, Skanska USA Building Inc.

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