Discovering Innovative Solutions for Designing Net-Zero-Energy Buildings Today

  • Monday, September 09, 2013
  • 1:30 PM - 5:30 PM
  • Holiday Inn Mart Plaza, 350 West Mart Plaza, 14th Floor, Chicago, IL 60654


Visit the BuildingChicago conference website and choose the Monday Workshop registration item here:

Join the U.S. Green Building Council - Illinois Chapter and Greening the Heartland for a new half-day workshop, Discovering Innovative Solutions for Designing Net-Zero-Energy Buildings Today: An Immersive Prairie Lab Experience.

Joseph Clair, Michelle Halle Stern and Amy Coffman Phillips, Prairie Lab, LLC

Workshop Description:
The founding partners of Prairie Lab – an innovative professional education provider - present a facilitated brainstorming and problem-solving workshop in an innovative, immersive learning experience.   Participants will be presented with challenges within the sustainable design sphere, and facilitators will guide participants through a hands-on learning process to identify and select possible solutions to those challenges.  Through facilitated discussion and collaboration, participants then will work through the solutions to specifically apply them in context.  Attendees will learn skills and processes that form a critical foundation for successful integrative design.

Learning objectives:

  1. Participants will identify barriers to innovation in the traditional design process.
  2. Participants will understand the basic principles of biomimicry and learning from nature.
  3. Participants will be able to use basic analysis tools to identify constructability and maintainability issues.
  4. Participants will understand how to apply the principles and tools learned in a group setting to address a design problem.


  1. Attendees will participate in an ice-breaking exercise that will introduce the overall concept of the workshop: that our limited view in searching for solutions restricts performance and slows the adoption of effective strategies.
  2. Attendees will score the performance of traditional solutions using tools presented in the course and present their results.
  3. Attendees will break into teams and using information cards provided in the class, identify potential solutions for performance issues from ideas inspired by nature and present their results.
  4. Attendees will break into teams and create a maintenance plan for a solution and present their results.
  5. Attendees will break into teams and select a design problem, then evaluate a set of proposed solutions using all the tools presented in the course.

Michelle Halle Stern
has been a go-to green building expert since pioneering the first large design firm sustainability program in Chicago. She has a reputation as an outstanding educator, and dynamic speaker. Her background in architecture, engineering, and Environmental and Occupational Health Sciences gives her a unique understanding of complex systems and human health impacts of green design.  Michelle was named to the inaugural class of USGBC LEED Fellows and received the first Chapter Leader Award from USGBC Illinois Chapter.

Joseph F. Clair, P.E. leads the Center for Ecology in Economic Development, working to make neighborhoods more resilient, and is a founding partner of Prairie Lab, a professional development education experience.  Previously, he served as Director of Campus Energy and Sustainability for IIT and as Managing Engineer for the Chicago Public Schools, overseeing new building design and efficiency of existing buildings.  Joseph has also served as 2009 Chapter Chair and founding board member of USGBC-Illinois.

Amy Coffman Phillips founded The B-Collaborative, an education and design consultancy, to catalyze and facilitate naturally-inspired sustainable design projects. Their flagship product is the "Naturally Resilient" workshop for business and non-profit leaders looking to embed nature’s resilience strategies into their strategic planning initiatives. She is also a partner and adult educator at Prairie Lab, LLC, a professional development firm, and co-founder of Biomimicry Chicago, a local resource for naturally inspired sustainable design. Amy is an architect, MBA, and Certified Biomimicry Professional.

Visit the BuildingChicago conference website and choose the Monday Workshop registration item here:

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