Environmental Excellence Awards

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Each year, the Valley Forward Association recognizes environmentally sensitive projects throughout the Valley of the Sun that demonstrate a commitment to sustainability. VFA President Diane Brossart and Lori Singleton of Salt River Project review the 2011 award winners.

Ted Simons: For 31 years, environmentally sensitive buildings, projects and initiatives have been recognized by Valley Forward with its Environmental Excellence Awards. Valley Forward, in partnership with SRP, announced the 2011 award winners over the weekend. Here with a look at some of the winners is Diane Brossart, president of Valley Forward. And Lori Singleton of Salt River Project. Good to have you both here. Thanks for joining us on "Horizon." All right. Diane, what is Valley Forward?

Diane Brossart: Valley Forward is a 42-year-old environmental public interest group, primarily business based. Brings business and civic leaders together to convene dialogue on issues relating to the environment and sustainability and how we grow and hopefully that we grow in harmony with the natural environment.

Ted Simons: And how did these awards get started?

Diane Brossart: These awards were started in 1980, it started as a building and structures show, about the architectural design and eventually it grew to be just on sustainability and the categories got broader. And we started looking at things like public art and technology and education and now they're the academy awards of the environmental community.

Ted Simons: They certainly are. And SRP has been involved for how long now?

Lori Singleton: This was our 10th year as being the primary sponsor and it's a great way for us to be able to showcase what others in the valley are doing as it relates to sustainability.

Ted Simons: And as far as now judging the awards, who judges? How does that work?

Diane Brossart: We get an expert panel of judges with people who represent each of the award categories. Our lead judge was Christine Ten Eyck from Ten Eyck Landscape Architects and then we had a couple of architects and a couple of technology experts and so there's nine judges total so that you have an even -- you know, when you vote, so you get a clear winner and it took place over two days, we had over 130 entries this year. So there were a lot of entries.

Ted Simons: What are you looking for here? What is the criteria? What's given more weight than others?

Lori Singleton: I think the -- it depends on the project and whether it's technology or if architecture or if it's art. Each of the categories has specific criteria as it relates to that award. Each one is judged on the criteria for that.

Ted Simons: How many different categories do we have going here?

Diane Brossart: There are six broad based but 21 inside of that and really we're looking at what sets the bar, you know, what is the best in each category and for that honor, the best in each category, we give the first place, the Crescordia Award.

Ted Simons: Which means?

Diane Brossart: Which is a Greek term. You should know, Ted. You did a great job of emceeing the show this year. This is a test.

Ted Simons: You're right about that. I don't remember what "crescordia" means?

Diane Brossart: It means to grow in harmony. From this perspective, taking the built environment and marrying it with the natural environment and how does that look and how does it be sustainable for the long term.

Ted Simons: Before we get to the winners, are we seeing more entries, more folks, individuals, organizations, groups getting involved? At least in projects that would be recognized by Valley Forward?

Lori Singleton: Absolutely, each year we see more and more projects that are participating and each year, it just sets the bar as it relates to what others are doing and what they can do. That's one of the things we really want it look at. How can other organizations take what these projects have done and apply that to their own project?

Ted Simons: Let's look at the winners, the bigger, the President's Award. This is an interesting award because it's a road. And you wouldn't think environmental excellence would be awarded to a highway.

Diane Brossart: Intuitively, you won't compare a roadway project with an environmental award. However this project, U.S. 60 Gonzales Pass really exemplifies environmental stewardship it in so many ways. It's a highway broadening project from two to four lanes. They took painstaking care to protect and preserve the environment around the project and, in fact, they did a plant inventory and cactus salvage replanting plans were completed for all sorts of cacti and that's just amazing all by itself. They took 150,000 cubic yards of earth from failed slopes and replaced it to get the natural lay of the land and return it to its natural state.

Ted Simons: Did I see a tortoise crossing there?

Diane Brossart: You did. They had a tortoise crossing.

Ted Simons: Is it between Apache Junction and Boyce Thompson Arboretum? Where is this?

Lori Singleton: Yes on the way up to Superior.

Ted Simons: Ok, so when you're up there and think things are looking awful pretty, it's because you're on the Gonzales Pass.

Diane Brossart: So what it does is it has been a sustainable feature for the mining communities and small towns in that area and protects the Arizona wildlife at the same time, so it's a remarkable project.

Ted Simons: The next winner is the Intel Ocotillo Campus. This one was for General Environmental Stewardship?

Lori Singleton: They received a couple of awards. One was for their Environmental Stewardship as it relates to everything they do in their businesses on the Ocotillo Campus. One of the things we know that's important is engaging employees as you think of sustainability and they've done an outstanding job of engaging their employees and another thing they have done is they have a project that's the first in the world, and not too many of us can claim a project that's the first in the world, but that relates to their Ocotillo Campus and being the first company to receive a LEED Silver Award for a project that's already built. It took them about three years to really demonstrate and document all of their sustainable practices but obviously they did a great job and they're very happy about this award. As are all of us, we can give them a good round of applause for their efforts.

Ted Simons: Alright very good, let's keep it moving here, it's not just roads and buildings, but educational programs as well?

Diane Brossart: Educational programs have been at the heart and soul of Valley Forward since its inception in 1969, we need to create future stewards of the environment and we're all about teaching and mentoring. The city of Glendale has a wonderful program called Conservation and Sustainable Living and they're educating residents and businesses on ways to implement environmental practices. They have given away free at their environmental fairs 6300 devices like programmable thermostats and energy efficiency showerheads and all kinds of gadgets and they have Watt Watchers, which is a science based regionally focused energy education program for teachers that they're doing. They're doing a lot in terms of zeroscape, have you been down to the city hall?

Ted Simons: The tree thing?

Diane Brossart: They have a zeroscape garden with information with what's planted there and how it saves water and they're promoting energy and water conservation through that project as well.

Ted Simons: All right. And that's Glendale?

Diane Brossart: Glendale.

Ted Simons: And over in Phoenix, they were recognized for public art. What does that mean?

Lori Singleton: They have 150 public art projects that really are looking at promoting sustainability and some of the projects that they've done include the Arizona Falls, Sunnyslope Canal Demonstration, Highland Canal, and they actually were where this office of arts and culture was founded more than 25 years ago, and today, one of the interesting things about these public art projects, you typically have engineers working with artists working with landscape designers and when you think about that, you would not think the outcome would be what it is. But they've done a great job in creating projects that are showcasing public art in the city of Phoenix.

Ted Simons: We recognize that down here near the channel Eight studios and we some of those canals, the waterfall canals along Indian school and Scottsdale?

Lori Singleton: 56th Street. That's an SRP project.

Ted Simons: Great stuff.

Diane Brossart: Using art to create a sense of place and a gathering place for people is really important to creating vibrant livable cities. They definitely make an impact.

Ted Simons: We've gone from Glendale to Phoenix and now we're going to--

Diane Brossart: Let's go to Chandler.

Ted Simons: That city hall in Chandler that's a nice looking building.

Dana Wolfe Naimark: That is a spectacular building and I know that from having gone there a couple of times. It's wonderful. Work to LEED Gold Certification, LEED is Leadership and Energy in Environmental Design sort of standards and they well exceeded in their city hall project which includes office space, a public TV studio, much like this, art gallery and the council chambers is in there.

Ted Simons: Sure.

Diane Brossart: I had the pleasure -- they have a walkway there and I was at an outdoor meeting in the middle of the summer and you feel a breeze in the breezeway because they built a microclimate and some of the techniques in the buildings that they've instituted have really made a difference.

Ted Simons: And overall development in Downtown Chandler was recognized. They're doing things out there.

Diane Brossart: They really are. I was proud of Chandler. They have got a couple of Crescordias. Their downtown redevelopement where they're creating a walkable, viable, vibrant city.

Ted Simons: Now we've moving over to Scottsdale here, because the bridge gets a lot of conversation going. The Soleri bridge and the plaza was recognized too.

Lori Singleton: Yes, absolutely it was. It received two Crescordias in fact. One of the interesting things about this is there are two 60-foot pylons and they're tilted back from the bridge structure at a 10-degree angle and set exactly six inches apart for marking the precise times of the solstice each year. We'll have to be sure and be out there on the solstice. And another thing that's very interesting about this project, it was designed by Paulo Soleri and while he's been designing bridges for 60 years this was the first one that was commissioned and completed and he's actually 91 years old.

Ted Simons: Indeed.

Diane Brossart: He was at the grand opening for that project which Lori and I attended in the city of Scottsdale.

Ted Simons: It's good to see something he designed find fruition. White Tank Branch Library. A library. This thing is out in the desert, really kind of by itself.

Diane Brossart: It's kind of out there, but it's a magnificent building. Not only architecturally it's beautiful but it has a number of sustainable design features-energy efficiency, water conservation, passive solar, even the bases and drywall filters infiltrate 100 percent of the storm water back into the ground- it's beautiful. Makes me want to go out there. That's the thing about these projects and going to the awards program, really inspiring.

Ted Simons: And for those who just want to look for any excuse to go to Ikea, apparently, they were winners as well.

Lori Singleton: Yes they are. They are a great corporate citizen, as you think about all of the things they're doing at their facility in Tempe. They were actually the third Ikea project out of eight. Today there are eight completed solar projects and you can see the solar on the rooftop here. The solar helps to offset their energy usage at the facility and that's a pretty large array covering most of the rooftop. Some of the other things that Ikea does at the story is really encourage recycling and they allow ways for the community to bring in their bags and their bottles and their cans and their light bulbs to help recycle them and there's also a kiosk at the store that shows what the solar energy and how much it's producing because you can't see it when you're walking into the store.

Ted Simons: Sure. There are so many winners and we don't have enough time to get to all of them. It strikes me that last year, it seems like there were a lot of things going on and you kind of wonder, "What's going to happen next year? Will there be enough next year?" Does it surprise you sometimes that every year there's this much going on in the valley?

Diane Brossart: Not so surprised because I'm 20 years now at Valley Forward, but I'm always impressed by the difference in the projects and the uniqueness of them and the various different categories, the many project participants, that' is always inspiring to see.

Ted Simons: And U-Haul was recognized there and again, Ikea recognized and Macy's was recognized during the awards ceremony. Does that surprise you to see some of the bigger businesses getting on board?

Lori Singleton: Actually, it did. It was the first year that we'd seen so many of these businesses take away the top awards and a lot of times it's the cities and the municipalities but this year we really did see a tremendous effort by these businesses that are all looking at sustainability as they think about running their business every day.

Ted Simons: And for next year, we'll probably see something like the footbridge over Tempe Town Lake, that seems like it's a nice looking thing. But it's got to be environmentally sensitive.

Diane Brossart: The projects are evaluated on their environmental qualities, yes.

Ted Simons: So it's architecture and sensitivity.

Diane Brossart: Correct. I like that you're thinking ahead. You're looking at the valley now and you're about these. This is good.

Ted Simons: I am. I'm trying to be a forward thinker.

Diane Brossart: So we're doing our job.

Ted Simons: Yes. Alright, so next year we'll try to get you back with some more but it was really fascinating, it is inspiring to see. People look at the valley- Arizona has its problems and goodness knows we talk about them on the program but it's nice to see some good things happening out here.

Diane Brossart: We had 600 people come to the banquet.

Ted Simons: I heard that the host did a particularly fantastic job.

Dana Wolfe Naimark: We would like to invite him back next year.

Ted Simons: Really? I'll see if I can contact him. Good to have you both here. Thank you so much and congratulations again on a wonderful ceremony.

Diane Brossart:VFA President, Lori Singleton:Salt River Project

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