Leader of CSU’s Institute for the Built Environment honored for dedication to sustainable building

Brian Dunbar speaking at a podium with a screen behind him

When Brian Dunbar founded the Institute for the Built Environment at Colorado State University more than 25 years ago, sustainability and green building were not in the mainstream like they are today. Now, Dunbar’s leadership of IBE, his support of the next generation of sustainability professionals, and the Institute’s growth and success as a place for multidisciplinary collaboration have earned Dunbar a prestigious national recognition. He was selected to receive a 2022 Leadership Award from the U.S. Green Building Council, the non-profit organization that provides LEED certification and guidance for healthy, sustainable buildings worldwide.

Dunbar was recognized for his dedication to teaching and mentoring students and interns at CSU, “creating a legacy of passion for LEED and for the environment and sustainability,” the organization wrote in a news release. “Brian’s campus-based institute has served as a thought-leadership pipeline to ensure that the values of ‘People, Place, and Potential’ remain at the forefront of our global movement,” the release noted. With climate change and environmental disasters dominating headlines, Dunbar’s work through IBE has become even more critical.

“The award was a real surprise and quite an honor,” said Dunbar. “As I reflect on this recognition, I am immediately grateful for my great colleagues, our eager student interns, and being part of a leading sustainable university.”

A pioneering LEED Fellow

Brian Dunbar on a stage holding an award with the presenter
Brian Dunbar, right, receiving his Leadership Award in Washington D.C.

Dunbar has a long relationship with the USGBC, which named him one of the nation’s first LEED Fellows in 2012. In 2015, he was elected to the prestigious national Advisory Council for the organization, where he served a three-year term.

Educated and trained as an architect (Dunbar’s father and grandfather were Michigan-based architects), Dunbar’s career at CSU began in 1983 when he was hired as a tenure-track faculty member. Dunbar taught interior design in the Department of Art and Art History and the Department of Design and Merchandising, before moving to the Department of Construction Management after he developed an interest in sustainable building practices. IBE was supported early on by Dean Nancy Hartley in the CSU College of Applied Human Sciences (now Health and Human Sciences), who helped pull together funding to launch the institute in 1994.

Promoting sustainability

IBE provides grant- and fee-funded consulting for projects in several areas of sustainability including supporting healthy green buildings, providing custom programs and community engagement and facilitation, and conducting applied research. In 2012, Dunbar retired from his professor role to direct IBE full time.

IBE has guided many LEED certification construction projects at CSU, in the local community, and around the state including the Lory Student Center remodel and Fossil Ridge High School, one of the nation’s first LEED-certified high schools. With help from IBE, the city of Fort Collins Utilities Administration Building earned LEED Platinum certification. One of IBE’s most exciting partnerships was working on the LEED Platinum award for L’Avenir, a four-unit townhome in downtown Fort Collins that produces more energy than it uses.

The breadth of IBE’s work extends to community projects such as the environmental justice mapping tool it is developing with the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. IBE has guided the integration of healthy, green strategies and practices to schools across the nation and also helped the Foothills Mall redevelopment divert 76,000 tons of waste from the landfill.

Beyond the local impact, IBE has become an internationally known institute with projects around the world. Reflecting its dedication to research, IBE was named a Program of Research and Scholarly Excellence at CSU. IBE celebrated its 25th anniversary in 2019.

The cascading impact of the students who worked and studied at IBE has been immense, as Dunbar has mentored more than 100 students, many of whom have gone on to careers in green building and sustainability in various disciplines.

Dunbar was also recognized in 2017 as a College of Health and Human Sciences Legacies Project Honoree for his outstanding accomplishments.

About the U.S. Green Building Council

USGBC is committed to transforming how our buildings are designed, constructed, and operated through LEED, the world’s most widely used green building system with more than 100,000 buildings participating today, according to their website. LEED-certified buildings are proven to save money, improve efficiency, lower carbon emissions, and create healthier places for people. Dunbar received the leadership award at a luncheon in Washington D.C. on June 9.

The Institute for the Built Environment is part of CSU’s College of Health and Human Sciences.