The Happy Engineer Podcast

073: How to Go Green and Advance Your Career Credentials in Sustainability & LEED with Charlie Cichetti

What does it really look like to “go green” in your industry?

How is sustainability changing the landscape of the work you do every day? More importantly, how are the trends going to change what that looks like over the next decade?

In this episode, discover how leadership in energy and environmental design goes beyond the four walls of construction and civil engineering with CEO of Green Building Education Services, Charlie Cichetti.

Charlie is one of the world’s leading experts in green buildings and sustainability, and has supported over 150,000 leaders in advancing their credentials and practice in the industry.

We cover important trends in healthy buildings after the pandemic and everyone needs to know if you work in an office building, and have a debate around the merit of certifications and credentials as the pathway to career advancement.

And don’t miss the challenge for you in the episode debrief.

So press play and let’s chat… because every engineering leader needs to look at what green will mean for your career!

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Previous Episode 072: Make Winning a Lifestyle and Stop Settling for a Runner-Up Mindset with James Reid




Career Development with and beyond Credentials

I get a lot of questions from my clients, at various levels, about types of continuous training and credential certifications available for them.

Going after credentials at the right moment can be huge for your career.

Based on my experience with my clients, what I have noticed though is that it is very rare that credential or a certification is the actual gap between where you’re at in your career and where you want to be next. 

Don’t take this the wrong way, I am not against credentials. 

Whether it’s an MBA, a PhD, or a lead sustainability certification in green buildings, I absolutely believe that targeted knowledge in the right areas is part of your career development journey. 

So, when is the right time for you? 

For the first thing, I wanna encourage you not to think about it purely in a milestone way. 

I want you to think about ongoing education and credentials in an evergreen way. 

It’s something that you’re always in pursuit of. And always considering and looking to invest in those things before you need it.

Now, here’s the most important second point I would give you. 

If you’re going to pursue that credential, match it with an experience and an opportunity where you can implement it, receive mentorship and coaching, and actually build a competency, a skill set, a practiced skill set in that area as you build the knowledge.

The biggest failure mode that I’ve witnessed, is that people go out and pursue credentials as a parallel path to their career. 

They land the letters. But they never actually practice and use what they’re doing except in side projects for the sake of earning that credential in the first place, and then you don’t have the real experience to go along with it.

Get somebody in your life who can help you understand what you need to focus on. 

Knowledge that is not implemented has no power. 

Get into action with it, or you’re not going to create value in your career.

Your Bucket List

Let’s pick up right where Charlie left off in the podcast.

At the finish line, he asked about your bucket list. I love bucket lists! 

Why do I love the bucket list so much?

It comes back to a really important truth, which is the idea that desire is the starting point of all achievement. Napoleon Hill is famous for saying it, and it’s true. 

So why do a bucket list? It’s not just to be crazy and throw these wild ideas on a piece of paper. 

It’s to stoke the flame of desire in your heart.

Here’s the truth. Lots of you have been burned by desires that were never met in your life. 

Why I mean by this is that because you had a dream that didn’t come true, your subconscious interpreted that as it’s best not to dream or want something in the first place.

The fear of failure or the pain of a desire unfulfilled can hurt when you really want something and then you don’t get it.

But so often we then become numb to getting in touch with that part of us that deeply desires things. 

Desire is a natural part of your humanity, and when you get in touch with that deep burning desire inside you to go achieve something more, whether that’s a better relationship with a loved one or a spouse, maybe that’s a bigger and better career by whatever measure you define that as. 

It might be better in the sense of impact and products that you’re excited about or better balance. 

Coming back to the bucket list, the reason I love it so much is because it opens up this childlike spirit to go and want something again. 

So here’s what I would love for you to do.

Grab a piece of paper and write 10 things that are on your bucket.

Then, look at that list and just imagine how great it would be to have those in your life. 

No expectations, no judgments, no pressure, no timeline. 

The only purpose to write them down is to practice getting in touch with the feeling and the energy of desire.

That’s it. 

We do this exercise in an even bigger way in my coaching program for engineering. 

And I can’t tell you how many times someone has come back to me and said how powerful it was for them to stretch back into this place of deep, authentic desire. 

So take some time and build your bucket list. 

By the way, share one or two of those desires on our Facebook group: The Happy Engineer community

Go there, and let’s connect!

Keep crushing comfort, Create courage, and if you need help along the way, reach out to us at the Oasis of Courage. That’s what we’re here for. We specialize in helping engineering leaders to get to that next level and to do it in a way where you don’t sacrifice your balance and you don’t suffer burnout. And I’d love to show you how we do it.



Charlie has more than 16 years of experience in commercial construction, real estate development, project management, and LEED consulting. He has directed multi-million dollar office, warehouse, specialty, and condo construction projects. Prior to being a LEED Consultant and Trainer, his background started as a General Contractor and transitioned to Real Estate when he worked for Opus Corporation, a $2.2B leading commercial real estate and design-build developer. Opus was an early leader within the LEED movement, and he gained invaluable experience from an Owner’s perspective.

Since transitioning into the Green Building Industry, Charlie has worked on over 60 million SF of LEED, ENERGY STAR, and Cx/RCx projects for clients ranging from SL Green, JP Morgan, Morgan Stanley, to the Army Corp of Engineers and various School Systems. Project types include Class A Office, Medical, Hotel, School, Stadium, and Convention Center. Mr. Cichetti was one of the first professionals to hold all of the LEED credentials. He is also a sought-after trainer and speaker on green building topics and the host of the Green Building Matters Podcast.





Please note the full transcript is 90-95% accuracy. Reference the podcast audio to confirm exact quotations.

[00:00:00] Zach White: Charlie, awesome to have you here. Thanks for making time to be with me and the happy engineers out there. Welcome to the show, man. 

[00:00:07] Charlie Cichetti: Zach, you know, I love podcasts and I’m glad we’re growing our relationship here. Thanks for having me on. 

Expand to Read Full Transcript

[00:00:13] Zach White: It’s a pleasure. And yeah, just shameless plug for Charlie’s amazing podcast, Green Building Matters.

[00:00:19] Go check that out after this. But Charlie, I think if you’re open to it, there’s so much about your own story, things I wanna dig into. But you’re also one of the global leaders when it comes to the green building industry, and I’d love to. Geek out and, and actually dive right into that and just tap into that expertise for a minute.

[00:00:37] And of course, the, you know, the environmental and, and civil engineers are gonna know more of this than people like myself who come from the mechanical, engineering world. But I wanna ask the kind of ignorant question, if you’re willing to help me out, set the stage here. So green buildings, everything, all the acronyms that come with it, lead and u s gbc and all of this.

[00:00:58] just kind of give us the terms, Let’s define the terms for a second when we talk about a green building. Like what are the critical elements that we need to understand? To actually wrap our heads around this space and what’s so important. what makes a green building green? Charlie . 

[00:01:14] Charlie Cichetti: Oh, that, You know what I, I’m glad you’re asking it this way, cuz sometimes I don’t get asked this.

[00:01:19] Let’s go back, keep it simple. So we have our upper ground rules here. You know, a green building. I think most people at first think it’s energy efficient. Well that’s definitely part of it. Sure. You know, maybe we built the building. If it’s a new building outta some eco-friendly materials, maybe we save water in the restrooms, Maybe we put a white roof on top of the building to reflect light and shed heat. You know, maybe we’re, we have bike racks outside, maybe we have solar panels on the side, so, A green building can be any of all those things, right? I think a green building, in my opinion, definitely needs to focus on energy efficiency, water efficiency first, but then there’s so many other things we could do and that’s where a program, Zach like lead came out 22 years ago and I said, Hey, you know what?

[00:02:01] To really get a lead certification, you have to do prerequisites. No points for it. Okay? At least these minimum. save more energy than the current energy code you would’ve built to in that city. You have to save a certain amount of water in the restrooms. You have to do some things. So, Okay. So green buildings though, I think, It’s about how can this building be less of an impact on the environment that is in the highest level?

[00:02:25] Simplest of terms, a program like lead, which stands for leadership and energy and environmental design. That does come from the US Green Building Council, a 5 0 1 Cun nonprofit. It’s a very entrepreneurial nonprofit based in Washington DC and they’ve just kind of helped create and speed up this overall green building movement.

[00:02:45] Zach White: I love that. Um, One thing that connects in my mind when you talk about this is the idea of lean, lean manufacturing and the Toyota Way, and everybody got into the tools and the specific application of fives or Kanban or whatever, but there was the, there’s the heart behind lean. so you mentioned a couple prerequisites and must haves that come with the certifications, but what’s the actual intention and, and the heart behind green building?

[00:03:14] Charlie Cichetti: Sure. lean construction, right? It’s all about waste and efficiency and I love it. think the heart behind green buildings, because maybe later we’ll talk healthy buildings, green buildings, again, what’s my building’s impact on the environment. There’s other programs, there’s lead, there’s other programs around the world in different countries, but the lead has one out.

[00:03:33] you know, I think. It really started to force us to design, build, and later operate buildings differently. And so the US Green Building Council actually started in 1993, and the first lead buildings weren’t certified until the year of 2000. I didn’t get into lead until about 2005. I was working for a very large real estate developer, and luckily they were an early adopter of lead, and that’s where I cut my teeth on just the whole concept of.

[00:04:02] Charlie Cichetti: Green buildings doing better, what you normally would’ve done, code, minimum, et cetera. but I, I think really where it came from is it’s time to transform. This has to happen and, and kudos to those that really started this movement. We’re gonna have to design, build, and later operate buildings differently so that they’re less impact on the environment.

[00:04:21] This has popped in my head as you’re describing it, Charlie, and maybe you have insight to this, maybe not, but if I zoom out from green buildings from just a moment and talk about sustainability and environmental impact as a whole, where does. You know, construction and a green building rank in your mind at least, or maybe if you have any data to support this versus other areas of environmental impact and sustainability that are being pursued globally right now.

[00:04:48] Zach White: So you think about agriculture as a big one, or we think about, the actual production of energy as a, as a big one. Like what, where does green buildings fit, and is there any, hey, this is, it’s huge. That’s why it’s getting so much more attention now. I dunno, what’s your thought 

[00:05:04] Charlie Cichetti: on that?

[00:05:04] Yeah. You know, buildings, the scientists say account for 39% of our global greenhouse gas emissions, so, That’s a lot, you know, to build ’em and then to run ’em. So buildings and, and homes and you know, kind of the built environment.

[00:05:20] and so that’s why it’s just needed this focus, right? It’s so important. Now there are other things you alluded to, right? There’s renewables, there’s going all electric with our buildings. There’s definitely even some legislation getting passed just where, Corporates Fortune 100, Fortune 500 have to start to be transparent and be like, Hey, here’s our impact in, in our operations and supply chain.

[00:05:42] but I’d say 39% of global greenhouse gas emissions the studies have showed for many years, are related to buildings in the United States, construction. $10 trillion I believe. it’s a tremendous amount of our gdp and so just know that there, we might need to fact check that, but I’m pretty sure that is close to the number.

[00:06:05] there’s a lot happening in and around here. So if you, you were to go to the biggest impacts, Gosh, if we made that better and less impact on the environment, we followed some rules here and everyone got it and they were educated. I think we can make some pretty big change. That is, that’s 

[00:06:22] Zach White: a huge number.

[00:06:23] so full disclosure, I have not fact checked the 10 trillion either, but like 39%, that’s a, that’s bigger than I expected, Charlie. It’s actually really exciting to me, and I know so many engineering leaders that I talk to now in regardless of industry, whether they come from a construction, Architecture, civil background or not, are, passionate and invested in sustainability in a new way, in a bigger way than they’ve ever been before.

[00:06:48] Zach White: And so I hope people are excited just to hear that like there’s a real chance to move the needle in the work that you are spearheading here with green buildings. So 

[00:06:59] Charlie Cichetti: that said, Oh, go ahead. I think US GDP is about 20 trillion And we’ll have to look exactly, but it might only be about 1 trillion a year in construction.

[00:07:09] I, I, I apologize. I don’t have that number, but my point is that’s all right. It is a big part of this. Yeah. It, it, 

[00:07:15] Zach White: it doesn’t matter if it starts with a t it’s a huge factor. Yeah. And I think, of course, the fun part about having an engineering leader as a, a listener, today’s they can go do their homework and check us, and that’s all right.

[00:07:26] So post in our, our channels, what the numbers are folks, but. Charlie, tell me for you then, there’s a clear impetus for why this is a space that the work matters. So what are the headwinds, what are the challenges right now that you’re seeing in getting people to embrace and adopt green building best practices and lead?

[00:07:48] Charlie Cichetti: You know, I’ve been doing this about 15, 16 years and, uh, and, and, and I really did start with those kind of premier projects, so I, I was kind of fortunate to have early adopters of lead. What should we do? So I think in the simplest term terms, it’s not someone that asks, What do we have to do? What’s the local mandate?

[00:08:08] I’m gonna get fined, I’m gonna get penalized. What should we do, . And so I think those are the better clients for me and my consulting firm and our education company. Sure. yeah, I mean, headwinds, you know, my dad asks me this sometimes Zach is, Hey, depending on who’s in office, does that affect your green building companies?

[00:08:23] Charlie and I said, Well, so many of the mandates are now state and city, and even just corporate sustainability mandates. So there’s, there’s so much that’s baked in While maybe, the federal legislation may change over 48. An office. Like, there’s so much that’s already like, we’re gonna do it for these reasons, and now you have to do it.

[00:08:44] You know, I, I live here in Atlanta, Georgia, and some of the small towns are in Atlanta. If you’re building a building over 25,000 feet, you have to do lead or equal. Right? That’s nice to see, even in a small town here in Georgia. So I think the headwinds for a while had been, just not having the federal government always lined up with some of these carbon goals.

[00:09:03] I think the coming outta the pandemic a little bit, there was a shift in focus to healthy buildings, not just green buildings. What’s the difference? That was a lot of people were asking The short answer on that is green buildings are less impact on the environment. Healthy buildings, Hey, what’s my impact on the people inside of the building or the home or the school or the church day to day?

[00:09:24] Charlie Cichetti: Is this a healthy place to be? It’s more about that personal kind of health and productivity than impact on the environment. That’s the main difference here. We could talk about. Yeah, that’s interesting. but yeah, I think the headwinds are, you know, still needs to make good business sense if you’re really gonna make some big change.

[00:09:39] So we oftentimes have to calculate some paybacks, or, Hey, this is gonna give you a market advantage, or it does line up with your corporate sustainability goals. Sometimes you gotta remind a client that too. Here’s where it helps with your other stakeholders. Even though we know it’s right for the environment, sometimes this does have cost to it, and we have to show those paybacks.

[00:09:58] This still makes good business. 

[00:10:00] Yeah. So those economics, what’s. What’s the number one driver of, ROI or payback from an organizational lens? If we just put a pure, financial lens on a green building decision, what are those? Economics? 

[00:10:15] Charlie Cichetti: So we gonna work in of existing buildings. Like I love going to New York City and greening up a 30 year old, four year old building.

[00:10:22] And so those ones, it’s deep retrofits. Those could be a little bit longer paybacks, but even. Major energy saving projects, usually two to four year paybacks on a new construction lead project. On a new construction lead project. oftentimes it’s, only 1% premium for your lead and commissioning and energy modeling.

[00:10:42] Just the things to really go for, and if you’ve baked in some green attributes. And then that payback can be, one to three years depending on, on the project size. So I’d say, so oftentimes these, these paybacks have gotten down to the two or three year mark. Now I’m not talking about a very sophisticated system that’s gonna have longer paybacks, but just normal green building best practices.

[00:11:05] A lot of our clients won’t even look at it unless it’s a two year payback. So, you know, picture, uh, a large office building that just hasn’t changed out its toilets and urinals since the 19. If we go in and do a retrofit, next thing you know, you’re going from three and a half gallon this to 1.28 gallon toilet there.

[00:11:23] That’s a very quick payback. Wow. Sometimes less than six months just in your water and your sewer savings. So, so I think the overall paybacks for the mainstream good green initiatives, man, they’re pretty solid now. Renewables can be a little longer. I’m in Georgia. If I put extra solar panels on my house, it could be a seven year payback, maybe on my house, but I think that would be the exception with some of the renewable projects.

[00:11:48] Just normal, good green projects. Pretty quick paybacks line by line. 

[00:11:53] Zach White: That’s really good. I mean, I’m thinking back to my engineering days at Whirlpool and big capital projects that we would do in product development. A three year payback, was like a, a threshold. If you cross, then it was a no go.

[00:12:06] But a two year payback was like green light, man. That’s a project we would take all day. So I love that. just to know it’s actually. Much sense on the economic side, plus the actual benefit to the corporate values and the impact that it has on the people who are in it. And let’s circle back to this healthy buildings comment really quick.

[00:12:26] I know we don’t have time to go into all the details of that, but it’s really interesting given the time we’re just coming out of, you know, recording this. late August of 2022. I certainly can’t say that the pandemic is over, but at least the most challenging months or years for most people are in the past.

[00:12:42] And yeah, it’s, I’m just curious, you know, are there practices there that are now becoming standard and, and even part of the lead or, or similar types of requirements or what’s that? 

[00:12:55] I feel the pandemic’s in the rear view, obviously C’S still hopping around, but it has made anyone that has a facility of any kind, even our own personal homes, which for some of us right, maybe hybrid work, work from home, Some it’s, Hey, what’s my air quality like here?

[00:13:11] Charlie Cichetti: What’s my filter? So it’s, brought a lot of awareness as. Healthy buildings. Healthy homes. So, there were two programs before the Pandemic that dealt with healthy buildings. One’s called, well, it’s actually not an acronym, like Lead just Means Wellness Real Estate, a Healthy Building Well and Fit Well, F I T W E L.

[00:13:30] Only one L on that one. Fit That’s a CDC backed research program. So there’s there. Before the Pandemics Act, there was two programs. How do I get my building certified as a healthy building well or fit? Well, two great programs. My company’s educated about each. We also do the consulting and engineering work for each very good programs.

[00:13:51] Pandemic hits and then it’s like, Holy cow, my phone’s ringing. Charlie, how do I get my occupants back to my building? You know, I’m trying to get these tenants back, big office building and some major market here in the us and, and we’re like, Look, we, we need to do a healthy building certification that’s gonna boost someone’s confidence to prove, you know, hey, a third party looked at it and this is a healthy space.

[00:14:10] During the pandemic, what happened is each of those programs that you can get a full plaque for, like a lead. Came out with a seal kind of a quicker win, and it was all about pandemic response and so, Okay, Filtration air test.

[00:14:25] Policy on even hand washing stations and, and you know, what kind of cleaning chemicals do we use? And really going through a whole, slew of what should we do for a pandemic response. And so if you walk into a building you see a seal sticker that says, Well, health safety. That means that it has been approved.

[00:14:46] It’s got an excellent pandemic response program. It’s a healthier building. But if you see a plaque that says, Well certified, that means they went through the full gamut and they really have designed and built that as a healthy building. Healthy systems, healthy space. Two great opportunities here.

[00:15:02] Well, there’s the seal, which is more pandemic response. There’s the full plaque, Well, or fit well, and that’s more like lead, which is a very comprehensive program, third party reviewed. but that’s what we experienced, kind of coming outta the pandemic. But what’s changed? What’s stuck, I should say? Internet of things for kinda, uh, what we call wellness thermostats. Well stats just real time. I a Q and I’m sure a lot of your engineers are probably specifying this out, not just co2, not just temperature, but. Particulate matter. PM 2.5 pm 10. Carbon monoxide for Malda Height. Yes. Total chemicals.

[00:15:40] Total boc. So real time I eq instead of maybe having someone come in periodically to manually test. Definitely increasing our air changes during those seasons when we can bring in more fresh air, Of course. But still balance that, right Zach? With energy savings. So does it fight a little bit? Sure. Always has.

[00:15:59] Right? Energy saving. And air quality. But I’d say, i o t devices for real time. I eq better filtration. And then just, it really looked at our janitorial programs. Do we do green cleaning? If we haven’t, man, it’s time to finally take a look here. think during the pandemic with a lot of buildings just bleached to everything and that’s bad , right?

[00:16:20] So it’s like, ok, let’s get back to regularly scheduled programming here and. It takes 

[00:16:26] video1696398453: me 

[00:16:27] Zach White: back to, what was the movie? My, My Big Fat Greek wedding with the Windex. Right. Did everything with Windex. Oh, oh Char. There’s so much in here in the, the technical stuff. I’d love to explore, but before I, 

[00:16:40] Charlie Cichetti: Oh man. Go ahead, please.

[00:16:42] All right. I fact check it. It was bothering me. The global construction gdp, not US Global construction is $10 trillion every year. Okay. Okay. So I, It’s, There you go. 

[00:16:52] Zach White: Perfect. All right, So, global construction. 10 trillion of global GB annually.

[00:16:58] Wow. Still a huge number tease, man. You can’t, I can’t even wrap my head around trillion, Charlie. That’s such a big number. so before I ask you about the future of this space in some of the things with what your companies are doing, will you take us back to what actually ignited your personal passion for this?

[00:17:16] So you mentioned basically you’ve been in the, the world of green buildings since its inception, and you were doing real estate at the time, it sounds like, tell us. The fire Ignite that this was a space you wanted to get actively involved in and ultimately become one of the world’s leaders in this space.

[00:17:34] Where’d it begin? 

[00:17:35] yeah, my background real quick. Georgia Tech, I grew up in a small town in the North Georgia Mountains. Even though my mom’s from Oregon, my dad’s from New York, kind of was around construction on my dad’s side of the family, but just got into construction, real estate and then green buildings.

[00:17:48] Charlie Cichetti: It goes back to Opus Corporation, who was that early adopter of lead family owned $2.2 billion a year in new development. Company that just, they got it everything they were building in the two thousands, which was early lead. I was really learning all about these programs and I’m like, gosh, this is fantastic.

[00:18:06] 2008 happened, happened to all of us and uh, even though it was a great, company, I thought I’d be there a while. I had the entrepreneurial itch and sometimes you need a kick in the behind and. I got laid off, uh, with 2000 other people and then went ahead and started my first company and started my entrepreneurial career in all things green building.

[00:18:25] Charlie Cichetti: So I knew construction Zach wasn’t gonna be the same. And so for me, 2008, my wife and I bought our first house together in January. We had our first son, Blake, in June. In November, got laid off. Went back to work the next day with the construction company I had also worked with. And then next thing you know, we started our green building, consulting and training firm just a few months after that.

[00:18:44] So I always knew I wanted to, be an entrepreneur later. I figured out I wanted to be kind of a, green building. entrepreneur and, and as they say, the rest is history. So, really built up our consulting and engineering firm. New buildings, existing buildings, quite a bit of online education.

[00:19:02] You’ve seen that. just really enjoying everything we’re doing in the screen building movement. Yeah. there’s 200,000 lead professionals in the world that have passed that Lead Green Associate or lead AP specialty or old school legacy exam, but there’s only about 360 that are called lead fellows and I’m one of the youngest lead fellows in the world.

[00:19:23] So there you go. There’s the little brag. Yes. Well deserved Just, just love, uh, love this movement. And so, 

[00:19:30] Zach White: I mean, first of all, anybody who hasn’t checked out, Charlie’s, full stats, like go, go look him up. There’s a lot more he could have said here, but, sustainability and environmental, concern in general, loving and caring.

[00:19:44] It’s, it’s kind of hip, it’s cool to be green, right? It has been for a while, but, Everybody picks up that from somewhere. And I’m curious for you, especially in a real estate, being a world that’s pretty cutthroat and it’s, you know, a lot of people in real estate could care less about green buildings. So who or what actually planted that value in you of really caring?

[00:20:05] about doing this the right way for a sustainable future? 

[00:20:09] I’d have to give credit to my mom from Oregon. I mean, I just remember the early days of visiting her family on that, on the West Coast and just even how they just did recycling. So much earlier than any other state, stuff like that.

[00:20:21] Charlie Cichetti: And, uh, then I grew up in the North Georgia Mountains, which there wasn’t a lot to do as a teenager growing up there. You pretty much do outdoor activities, you know, in this small mountain town and where I came out to the big city of Atlanta to go to school at Georgia Tech. So I think just being close to nature, just an appreciation for my parents about being resourceful, that that definitely must have stuck with me, you know?

[00:20:42] Then I get into my college years, my early career in construction. At that time didn’t know any better, building some concrete super structures with a great company. And then, Opus, I think when Opus was the early adopter and I saw this $2.2 billion a year company saying, and they’re privately held at the time, right?

[00:21:00] They. They’re saying, Look, this is the way to do it. This is the future. And so I think I connected those two. Definitely knew. Um, and then, you know, as a dad, I’ve got three boys. I think once you have kids too, um, it’s not for everybody. For the, when you do, I think it’s like, man, what, what is, what am I leaving for them in their future?

[00:21:19] Not just hopefully a little inheritance, but like, you know, can I make this place a little bit better for them? So I think it was a combination of those three 

[00:21:26] Zach White: things. I think that’s really powerful. We’ll, we’ll say a special thank you to your mom for planting the seed. Yeah. Resourcefulness and sustainability in you.

[00:21:35] And, if she could see, and if any of us could see the full impact of the work that you’ve done rippling through the world and through that $10 trillion industry annually. That’s, that’s awesome, Charlie. So thank you. Let’s talk about the work your company’s doing. You mentioned it earlier that, consulting and training certifying folks in all these different aspects of lead and the various programs.

[00:21:59] And if I saw correctly on your website, it’s over 150,000 clients have worked with you and your organizations to gain those, you know, various, credentials. And we chatted before we hit record today about just how important that work. And not just changing the industry and the future of our world, but for the individual careers of these engineers and leaders who are stepping into those training programs.

[00:22:26] So maybe first tell us about Green Building Education Services and what you do, but then the kind of perspective you have around the importance. Of these credentials and the education involved? 

[00:22:39] Charlie Cichetti: Yeah, so g green Building education Services was actually started in late 2007 when this whole lead movement, credentials lead AP leader, credit professionals, just kinda really getting ramped up And yeah, you fast forward over these years, we’ve helped 150,000 people around the world.

[00:22:57] just get a little confidence, get a little encouragement, get some letters after a name that you need to use it, right? It’s not just about those letters, but now I have a little confidence to go into that next meeting and talk about green buildings. Maybe what would it take to work on a lead project or now there’s the, Well AP, just as one other example, the healthy building.

[00:23:16] Charlie Cichetti: Now, well, a credit professional, that credential. But, I guess the highlight for me is I never knew I’d like to teach as much as I do. I, I mean, I love doing a one day crash course, seven, eight hours. Me give you all the secret tips, Here’s what you need to know to pass the exam. cuz it’s, it’s nerve-wracking to have to study.

[00:23:33] Maybe, especially if you’ve already been a professional for a little while, right? Sure, sure. I definitely admire high school and college students coming out, taking their elite exams to really be competitive in the marketplace. It’s amazing. But I think if you haven’t taken, a computer based exam, That that really, you know, this is gonna help your career here in some way.

[00:23:51] It’s a little intimidating. So, you know, one of our kind of unwritten core values that our education company, we have a whole team around Zach, just an incredible team, is encouragement. It’s like, Hey, Zach, you got this. We’ve helped a lot of people pass this exam. Watch out for this. You know, Hey, do you learn best by reading?

[00:24:07] Here’s a searchable study guide. Read that. Do you learn best by listening? Here’s some MP3s, but no matter what, take the practice test. They’re just like the real exam. I think just in. everybody needs a little more encouragement. So I think that’s been one of our secret success as an online education company.

[00:24:22] We do in person classes as. But that reach, is nothing better than earlier this year. I went to the Greenbuild conference in Europe, and it was in Munich. talked about a lot of fun traveling, more post pandemic, and people are coming up to me, Zach hugging my neck. I’ve never met in my life saying, Hey, I love your podcast.

[00:24:40] I love your webinars. You know, you’ve helped me with my credential that helped me do this in my career. That’s pretty fulfilling. Oh 

[00:24:48] Zach White: man. So you don’t know this, but I’ll tell you now that the one word that I anchor my life’s legacy around is encouragement. And my company name is Oasis of Courage for a reason.

[00:25:01] And for those who’ve worked with us, you know, know more about the history there. I won’t go into all of it now, but. Makes me so happy to hear that Encouragment is part of what you all do. you touched on this and I think it’s good. Anybody who’s listened to me or has, coached with me knows, one of the things I say a lot is that knowledge is not power.

[00:25:22] Yeah. We only got half the story when we heard that quote that knowledge is power because knowledge by itself is not power. you, you can learn a lot of things. and have no power if you don’t use the knowledge. And you mentioned it as well, and it’s not uncommon for me to tell my clients that you do not have a certification problem or I need another degree.

[00:25:45] You’ve already got your PhD and your MBA and your, It’s like you’ve got enough letters. We need to implement what you know. But at the same time, there’s places where it’s essential. To close a gap around a credential to open doors in your career. And I just wanna hear your experience with this. Maybe you can give, you know that engineering leader listening, some advice about when is the right time to say I need a credential versus, you know, now you’re just, Kind of addicted to knowledge and then once you get a credential, how do you actually create value from it?

[00:26:21] How do you use that to advance? 

[00:26:24] Charlie Cichetti: Love it. Great. Just discussion around this. Because out of all those lead professionals, we’ve helped train, not everyone actually gets to work on a lead project. So we actually have a separate, what we call project immersion class, where it’s like, Hey, if you’ve not really worked on a project, we’re gonna assign you.

[00:26:41] We’re gonna put you on a project and literally show you under the hood how this is gonna work. So, you’re right, we’re really good at what do you need to know to pass the exam, and then when you come over, Now what are those skills and templates and hey, here’s how you would run a meeting if you’re on a green building project.

[00:26:57] So it’s even for sending theaters like us that have been doing this a long time, we realize there is this need for the the hands on side of it too. Now, if you’re just studying for the credential, I might not want you to take the hands on yet, So just know, I think there is an opportunity here. for project immersion, kind of a master class on it, So I’m agreeing with you, but yeah, credentials.

[00:27:17] I mean, I took my first lead AP way back, it was called the. New construction version 2.2 exam way NICE in 2008. and then in 2009 in my world, they came out with the lead green associate. The lead ga, which is a hundred questions, multiple choice, high level, where does this fit into green? And then you have your specialties.

[00:27:38] Some of your listeners might be more existing buildings lead, APO plus M, operations and maintenance. Some are new construction, some are interiors or special. So now there’s lots of credentials and I definitely encourage everybody to pass at least a lead green associate, get that foundational green building credential.

[00:27:55] think there’s other certificates out there. I actually would say some certificates should get a little more credit than, maybe even just all the credentials. Now, this might be counterintuitive. I built up an education company about credentials, right? But we’re about to roll out, for example, Certificates, one’s called ESG Data Analyst.

[00:28:14] We think there’s this huge need for more ESG job titles. Who better than us to put out a 10 week course? But it’s gonna be hands on. It’s just gonna be a little bit of the 1 0 1, but it’s gonna be a lot more of the 3 0 1. How do I really do the work If 4 0 1 is, how do I master it? So, I’m trying to say, I’m validating everything you’re saying.

[00:28:35] there is a need to pass some closed book exams and get credentials, but we strategically are gonna also offer more of the hands on how the heck do I go do it and how do I get better at it. I think also it has a lot to do with trade organizations. I’m a big fan of, uh, way back a GC associated general contractors.

[00:28:55] Charlie Cichetti: Okay. Beaumont Building Owners and Manager Association. A lot of your members probably have members of Ashray, right? Just lean into your trade organizations for the young professional networks, if that’s, you. Definitely volunteer even on the education committee to help pick what education’s gonna come through, your local chapter and that membership, so you have a say and what they’re gonna throw resources at, and the experts they’re gonna even bring in to get you exposed to.

[00:29:21] And so volunteer on some c. Obviously great for networking. so I, I am a big fan of education. Yes. Degrees, credentials, and certificates. But I think I would try to answer it simply saying, you don’t have to have all the credentials in the world get the credentials that, that really, if someone’s looking at your, you know, your business card or something, it’s like, Oh, wow, they, I, I recognize that credential.

[00:29:46] Right. , I think for lead, I’ve been fortunate, like a lot of people understand there’s a lead AP. And then, you know, if you do a certificate, Tell people about it. I don’t know all the certificates, but I would get the word out as Here’s why I did that. Here’s what I got out of it, and I’d suggest you do it too and think that’s something that we need to see more of.

[00:30:05] Cuz there’s probably fantastic education out there that finally does shift to the hands on side of things. 

[00:30:11] Well, there’s two things I wanna just put a little exclamation point behind. And also, for the engineering leader listening to this who’s not in, civil or construction or architecture, maybe they’re a software developer and they’re feeling like this conversation has nothing to do with them.

[00:30:25] Zach White: This absolutely relates, and these two points you highlighted, one. practice, like actually practicing the skill and the knowledge. I just had this conversation with an engineering director, earlier this week, Charlie, with. how sports, you know, you practice 80% of the time and you play 20% of the time, but then in engineering you go to school and practice a hundred percent of the time for years, and then you get your first job and all you do is play

[00:30:58] There’s no more practice. It’s like you learn everything in game. and that’s why the failures hurt so much more cuz you don’t actually get that chance to go take batting practice, you know, or the whatever the proverbial practice time would be. So I love that your organization is providing that.

[00:31:14] And my challenge to every engineering leader listening is like, where can you go get some practice? don’t just get the letters after your name. Go get some reps, go actually get in an environment where you can practice this so that when you. have game day in your career. You’re not stumbling over doing it for the first time.

[00:31:35] So, I mean, I don’t know if you have anything else you’d add to that, but that’s such an important point. 

[00:31:39] Charlie Cichetti: Man, what a great, uh, analogy. No, uh, and, and I think, you know, try not to wait. There are places you hear volunteer, or even if you’re at a firm and you’re not assigned to the lead projects, you know what?

[00:31:52] Go ask your colleague who, who is like, Hey, I’m, I’m caught up on some other stuff, man. I just got a few questions. Can I look at your scorecard? Can I, pick your brain on that? So just don’t wait for it to be assigned to you. Don’t wait for the reps to be assigned to you is all I add to what you just said, but fantastic 

[00:32:08] Zach White: analogy.

[00:32:09] Yeah, it’s so good. So good. And then the second piece is, you know, wherever you’re at in engineering, if you’re again, in a totally different discipline, go find out what are those, equivalent trade organizations and committees and member groups that you can be a part of because. maybe these specific ones Charlie mentioned don’t apply to you if you’re in software, for example, but there is a whole world that you can plug into, get networked with, et cetera.

[00:32:32] So again, don’t think this only applies to one kind of engineering. This is for all of us. So, go take action on that. Charlie, tell us about the future. there’s so much in terms of. Where things are headed. And I’m just curious if there were one or two things that excites you the most about the future of green buildings and either the technology involved or the trends around the requirements, or just what do you see coming that actually lights you up?

[00:32:56] I. 

[00:32:57] Uh, we talked a lot about healthy buildings. I’ll just double down though to make sure, hey, you know a little bit about healthy buildings, even post pandemic. What’s gonna stick? How is it gonna affect your design? If someone’s asking you, Hey, is this a healthier design than you used to do?

[00:33:09] Charlie Cichetti: So check out those programs well and fit well. But, but healthy buildings, those devices, iot t the Wellness, ther. That’s definitely here to stay. I’d say, um, you know, with mandates it’s about transparency, but it’s also about electrifying our buildings to get ready for all those renewables from the grid.

[00:33:28] But I’m excited about two additional things, the shift from operating carbon. Zach to embodied carbon. So operating carbon is how energy efficient is the building. Still a lot of work to do there. That’s a lot of what we do say with lead and doing an energy model for a building or a tenant space that’s not been built yet.

[00:33:45] So we still need to be more energy efficient. Luckily, there’s a lot of mandates to do that and reduce our carbon for the operating side of things. But the shift is happening where it’s not just operating carbon, but it’s really a focus on embodied carbon and embodied carbon’s, not just the materials.

[00:34:00] Well, that’s a big part of it. Timber frame structures are better, Low carbon con concrete is needed. But how about the entire supply chain? And, and even one of the technology tools we’ve built is how do you green up your construction site and your construction phase, and how much of an impact is the, even during construction and body carbon impact.

[00:34:19] So I think there’s a shift from operating carbon. To embody carbon. We have to keep an eye on. I’ll challenge your listeners with that. And then one more. Uh, digital twins. I think it’s very important to be able to take Revit files from the designers, not just the architects, but the MEP teams in structural and create a digital twin.

[00:34:39] So I can right click on this light and there’s 247 of that light in this building. The quantities are there. We don’t have to count. Like there’s a lot of meta. Coming out of a good designed Revit file. I dunno if you know this, yes. 90% of construction projects over $5 million in value.

[00:34:57] They actually are drawn in Revit, so we can get that metadata and we can use it during other phases of design and construction. So we’re starting to do more there with those digital twins. But then what about an asbu? What if we come in and 3D scan the building or the systems and we preserve some tribal knowledge?

[00:35:14] Here’s how to run that, building the right way. you know, you can design the Tesla. But if you don’t run it like a test, it’s gonna be pretty terrible. Yeah. So there’s that handoff, that gap too, that knowledge transfer. And so one thing we’re taking a stab at Zach, is using digital twins plus our education company to hand off.

[00:35:34] Here’s how to run this building energy efficiently. 

[00:35:38] Zach White: That’s exciting. I first got exposed to Revit when I was working with the KitchenAid brand at Whirlpool Corporation, and we had one of the architects ask us for a Revit file for a KitchenAid stand mixer, so he could put it on the. Commercial kitchen counter of the buildings that they were doing for a, uh, a huge education facility that was gonna have a bunch of mixers, and we kind of stood there with a blank face and stared at like, What are you talking about,

[00:36:04] What, what is a Revit file? I remember I had no clue at that time what it was like. Can can you take. Pro engineer CAD is that, and he’s like, No, that’s not what we’re talking about. . 

[00:36:14] Charlie Cichetti: But man, and that’s a digital twin. You can make a digital twin of the stand mixer. You can make a digital twin of a building and, and how do we use it?

[00:36:22] What information’s in there? I love it. 

[00:36:23] Zach White: Yeah. Super cool man. Well, Charlie, again, so many places we could go, but this has been tremendous. And before we wrap today, can you just tell the engineering leaders out there, where can they get plugged in with you? All the incredible work that you’re doing with green buildings?

[00:36:38] where’s the best place to find more? 

[00:36:41] Charlie Cichetti: Man. Thanks. I’ve enjoyed our conversation a lot. It’s, uh, you asked me some questions I hadn’t heard in a long time, but, but LinkedIn I think would be best. I’m active on there. So if anybody has a question, a follow up, If you need to pass a lead exam or you’re going in to take your test in a couple days and you need a couple secret tips, I’ll shoot you some confidence there and some tips.

[00:37:00] But, uh, just, just LinkedIn, Charlie Chick Ketty, C I c H E T T. 

[00:37:05] Zach White: Awesome. And I cannot recommend highly enough if you do need support in this space to reach out to Charlie and his team at GBEs and we’ll put all the links in the show notes. take action on that. Don’t delay it. You’re gonna be in a, in good hands, as you heard.

[00:37:19] Very encouraging team at, uh, GBEs. So Charlie, I’m really excited to hear your thoughts on this last question. , we always end here, great coaching, and I know you in education and training and as a coach yourself, do this all the time. But we know that great questions come before, great answers, questions, lead, answers, follow.

[00:37:43] And you know, the engineering leader who’s been listening to this is looking for better answers in their life. Maybe it’s career advancement and growth, things going on in their world. What would be for you the best question that you would lead somebody with coming outta this chat today? 

[00:37:58] Charlie Cichetti: I’ll give you a super quick fun one and then I’ll give you a direct one.

[00:38:01] So first, what’s on your bucket list? That’s something I really love to talk to people about. Hey, what’s just an experience, a trip? Just who knows what’s on your bucket list. But I would ask this question. also, I would say, What do you want for this season? See, time is measured in two ways. Kronos and Chiros, and Kronos could be.

[00:38:22] Hours, days, weeks, months, years, pronos. That’s what we’re all used to, but chiros is seasons. a season of opportunity. A season could be a month, could be the next three months, could be like six months. But what do you want for this next season? 

[00:38:38] Zach White: That’s awesome. Really. Powerful concept. In thinking about time differently, we could have a whole nother episode, just so kairos time.

[00:38:49] Oh, Charlie, thank you for taking us there. What a powerful question. I can’t thank you enough for the time today, both Kronos and Kairos, uh, that you’ve dedicated to me and to the listeners. Just sharing tremendous knowledge. And, and Charlie, I wanna just acknowledge you for the impact that you are having and we’ll continue to have in the world and leaving that legacy your boys and for all of us, who wanna enjoy a greener future.

[00:39:12] So thank you so much for that, and it’s been an awesome pleasure to meet you and spend the time together today. Thank you.