Monday, August 4, 2008

Annette Stelmack's Green Story

Immigrant parents, hard work, and frugality formed my character, a child put sustainablity into context.

I first learned about sustainability from my parents. Both of them emigrated from Germany after World War 2, my father when he was just 17. He arrived at Ellis Island with little more than a small suitcase and a sponsor (his aunt) in Colorado. I grew up with the mentality that you didn’t throw anything away. We used things until they fell apart.

That was not all my parents passed on to me. My father was a bricklayer and later moved into building homes, my mother was a seamstress. During the year I would work for my mother, who did work for interior designers, which is how I was introduced to the trade. During the summer I would get to spend some time with my father at his drafting table looking over blueprints or out at the jobsite mixing mortar, helping with the rough carpentry, hanging sheetrock, and painting. Between my father in the construction industry and my mother’s connection to design it was as if I were destined to be involved in making the home a more beautiful and nurturing place as an interior designer.

After years of focusing on my interior design career my son was born. This changed the way I looked at everything! In particular, it made me realize just how much waste there was in the world and in particular the building industry. I started recycling and doing all that I could at home, but it just wasn’t enough. I needed to do more to make the world a better and cleaner place, not only for my son but all children.

Shortly after this, in 1998, I attended EnvironDesign2. It was here that I was first experienced firsthand inspiring speakers such as Paul Hawken, Ray Anderson, Sim Van der Ryn, William McDonough, Michael Braungart and Bill Browning. This was a pivotal moment in my life -- I decided that this is what I had to do. I was so moved that I came home from the conference on a Sunday afternoon, sat at my computer and typed all of my notes right then and there. That weekend launched the formal greening of my career and it wasn’t long before Associates III, the firm that I was co-managing, had fully embraced green design too, going so far as to form teams to implement green in all we did companywide. I was so passionate about green that I ended up being on most of the internal task forces. After completing our book “Sustainable Residential Interiors” with my colleagues at Associates III, I knew it was time to focus exclusively on sustainability. I have recently started a sustainability consultant company - working with designers, architects, manufacturers, homeowners - supporting their green journey. I also volunteer for the USGBC CO Chapter chairing the Green School Advocacy committee and am the incoming chair for ASID’s National Sustainable Design Council. My next venture will be grassroots outreach programs for kids on green issues and environmental stewardship.

What does green building mean to me?
When I look at green building and design, at its core level it is about the synergy of the project team. The key to success, no matter the type of project or effort is having a common alignment of vision, mission and goals with sustainability as the primary focus.

--Annette Stellmack is the incoming chair of the sustainablility committee at the American Society of Interior Designers

No comments: