Jun 2019

Sustainability at Katerra, Pt. 1

Weaving Environmental Sustainability into the Fabric of Katerra
Ramana Koti, Building Performance Analyst & Jim Nicolow, Director of Sustainability

We often receive the question of what Katerra is doing with regards to environmental sustainability.

Our goals are quite ambitious as a quickly-growing global company, and so the answer is often evolving. In short: we’re doing a lot. 

Everyone who has joined the Katerra team has done so because they share a common vision on which the company was founded – to apply technology and systems to remove unnecessary time and inefficiencies from every step of the building process. Better buildings, delivered more quickly and predictably. 

Since joining Katerra, many of us have begun to recognize the ways in which a single, vertically-integrated company with control of the entire end-to-end building process has enormous potential for optimization of value, including sustainability. The mandate of sustainability is intrinsic to the ‘better’ in the vision for better and faster buildings.  

But we also realized that the opportunity - and the challenge - was to develop a new kind of approach to sustainability that works with Katerra’s unique integrated and technology-driven business model. Rather than establishing a siloed “sustainability” department, we could instead infuse a mindset of environmental intelligence horizontally across the company, threading it into every division and discipline. Each team, including design, engineering, manufacturing, software, technology R&D, construction, and materials, are all examining how to develop higher performance buildings and how to shrink Katerra’s collective environmental impact. 

 

Wil Srubar

Advanced Materials Technology R&D

What do you do at Katerra?

I am part of Katerra’s Advanced Materials  Technology R&D team that is based in Spokane, Washington. While most of the team is dedicated to the materials science and engineering of mass timber (i.e., CLT), my primary role focuses on developing novel, cement and concrete materials for Katerra. Since I also have a background in life cycle assessment (LCA), I have been working closely with Building Sciences to help automate the environmental accounting and labeling of our buildings. 

 

How does sustainability fit in?

Katerra is committed to environmental stewardship. Our sustainability story for mass timber is well understood and easily conveyed; however, the sustainability story for cement and concrete is less so. Cement production accounts for ~5-8% of all global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, and building material manufacture accounts for >11% of all GHG emissions in the U.S. These statistics drive my efforts to find ways to minimize embodied carbon in our cement and concrete materials through the use of alternative cementitious materials and new, emerging cement chemistries.  By working with cross-cutting teams in Building Sciences, Engineering, and Architecture, my work enables me to identify opportunities to reduce embodied carbon in cement, concrete, and other “hot-spot” materials to achieve our project and client goals related to environmental stewardship. 

Vishalakshi Subedar

Sustainability Analyst

What do you do at Katerra? 

I am a Sustainability Analyst while simultaneously heading the Senior Living Project vertical in Pune, India. My primary role is to create and support sustainability initiatives at Katerra.  Additionally, leading the delivery of design documentation submittals for Senior Living buildings using BIM has given me a deeper insight into how and where sustainability can make an impact on Katerra projects.

How does sustainability fit in?

Sustainability at Katerra is being interwoven into both Projects and Products. Daylight simulation on Katerra building products has helped design teams determine optimum window sizes. Light and shadow studies during concept design for projects have helped optimize building orientation in site planning. Studies for optimum levels of site lighting, calculating indoor and outdoor water usage, research on LEED credits for Katerra products, etc., are some of the other due diligence initiatives.