What inspired you to create the Pathways to Green Schools Program in 2014?
KI: I was on the board for Green Building United when, the Delaware Sustainable Energy Utility came to us and asked us to create a program after hearing about our current work in schools. We wanted to do more with green schools so it prompted us to expand on our efforts to create the Delaware Pathways to Green School program.
Over the years the program has evolved and changed, what we developed the first year of the program is very different than what it looks like today. The first year we had to rely heavily on volunteers outside of the school systems to provide support to the schools and to guide then. As the program has grown, the schools have become their own support system – teaching each other lessons learned and best practices. It’s truly evolved a lot.
The Pathways to Green Schools Program has been running for 5 years now. How do you envision the program growing in the future and its impact?
KI: I’m really excited about the program and its future! I can see more and more schools joining the program, and continuing to engage more schools downstate. As the program continues to grow, we see more students becoming a part of the process, participating in the school energy audits, deciding what projects they want to work on, and getting engaged in the decision-making for their school program. It’s really thrilling and empowering to see the impact it continues to create.
We’ve seen the program branch off in so many different directions with a lot of new initiatives in new areas. For example, this year we will have some of our schools participate in the first annual Delaware Youth Environmental Summit! (DE YES!).
Why are you passionate about sustainability? Education?
KI: I have two kids so, not to sound cliché, but I truly feel that the children are our future. When I look at my kids I think about where they’re going to be in 10, 20, even 30 years – and how we’re leaving the world for them and their kids. My family loves being outdoors, and my kids are very fortunate that we have opportunities to experience nature and enjoy it. Not everybody has those opportunities, and the schools program allows us to educate kids about the environment, why it’s important to preserve it, and most importantly what they themselves can do to help!
What I find really exciting – and to be so important – is it’s not just teaching the kids. You teach the kids, and they go home and teach their parents and siblings. It creates a ripple effect of people teaching the entire community.
On a personal note, my kids attend two different schools and both of their schools participate in the program. My son is in 5th grade this year and he came home the other day, totally unprompted, and said, “Mom I was just told I’m part of the green team now. I get to go do the energy audit!”. Talk about a truly proud mom moment!
Can you please describe your current role and profession?
KI: I work for a construction company. I am our national sustainability leader and director of our practice group. I work with our project teams across the country supporting their sustainability efforts including: educating them about sustainability; teaching them best practices; and helping them inform their clients about sustainability. I also work internally on our own corporate policies and practices to be more sustainable as a construction company.
How does your association with Green Building United influence your role as Sustainability Leader? In what ways do you promote sustainability in your company?
KI: Green Building United is a great organization. The networking and opportunities to talk with other people that are in the same community is very beneficial. What I find totally fascinating about the sustainability world is that people are so open to sharing lessons learned – and I’m not saying just the good stuff. People are extremely open to sharing their learning experiences, even with those who may be considered their contemporaries or competition. Ultimately the sustainability community wants to move the entire industry forward and work together no matter what. Organizations such as Green Building United help break down a lot of barriers to work towards that common goal and create an environment for great collaboration.
In addition, Green Building United has a lot of great programs, events, and presentations that I’m able to learn from and bring back to my workplace and teach others.
Can you share any current projects you are working on that are positively impacting the Delaware region?
KI: We have a lot of projects right now. This might be a little further south than the Delaware region, but we just finished a really cool project for Washington College that’s going after a petal certification for net zero energy as part of the Living Building Challenge. We’re also working on several LEED projects, elementary schools, college and universities, hospitals, a green globes project, and more. It’s the full gamut from LEED to high performing buildings and Living Building Challenge certifications.
What do you believe is the role of professionals in the built environment, such as construction, in sustainability efforts? How do you recommend industry influencers and professionals to get involved?
KI: I think it’s our role to ask the right questions. We need to ask the questions and bring up the topic of sustainability. And not just sustainability, but health and wellness in the built environment as well. If those questions aren’t being asked, then they should be. As professionals we need to make sure we understand if those aren’t priorities, why aren’t they and how can we make them a priority in our buildings.
In terms of a contractor, while it may be a little too late for some sustainable features to be designed in, there are still opportunities to incorporate sustainability into the construction phase. Whether it’s recycling or other basic fundamentals, we can always make an effort – whether the client makes it a priority or not. Even more importantly, it’s asking those questions about sustainability up front so we are educating the client. I think clients rely on us as a resource and they are choosing us because they see us as the experts. So we want to be that guide through the building process and ask them questions that will make them think about and understand the value of sustainability.
Is there anything else you’d like to share?
KI: I’m definitely passionate about all of the work we’re doing for schools and I think that’s so important for sustainability. But I think the next big thing is health and wellness in the built environment – especially for schools. We should begin to really focus on how the way that we build our buildings impacts human health. We focus so much on the way that our buildings impact the environment – which is 100% really important – but the next step is thinking about how they are impacting the people in the building as well. For example, even thinking about where we put stairwells to encourage people to make the healthier choice and take the stairs instead of the elevator. Or putting more water filling stations around a building to encourage people to drink more water. Especially in schools where kids need to be nurtured to make healthier choices, we should consider how buildings are designed to boost health and wellness.
Kim Ilardi graduated from Mount Saint Mary's University with a degree in Business and a Concentration in Marketing. After graduation, Kim joined The Whiting-Turner Contracting Company, where she is currently the Director of Practice Groups, and their National Sustainability Leader. In 2004, Kim became a LEED Accredited Professional, one of the first within Whiting-Turner and became responsible for the coordination of Whiting-Turner's sustainability efforts. Kim was a founding member of the USGBC Maryland Chapter, and is a past Board Member and Treasurer. In 2009 She moved to Delaware and joined the Delaware Valley Green Building Community, were she has been an active member of the Board, Vice Chair, part of the Delaware Steering Committee, and Chair for the Delaware Green Schools Committee. Over the years, Kim has also worked with USGBC as a representative to the North East Corridor Regional Council, the Greenbuild Advisory Council, the Greenbuild Special Programs Working Group, the Greenbuild Programs Working Group, and the Greenbuild Education and Events Committee. In 2017, she achieved the WELL Accredited Professional designation. Kim is a Board Member for the Challenge Program, a non-profit organization whose mission is to provide vocational training for Delaware's at-risk youth to empower them with the confidence, skills and purpose needed to become productive members of society. Kim is a Founder and sits on the board of trustees for the Fund for Women and is their Grants Committee Vice Chair. Kim also enjoys coaching her daughter’s Odyssey of the Mind team.