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This program is the fourth in the Materials Matter series of five continuing education sessions. Click here to return to the full series overview.

Just Do It: Strategies for Projects

Transforming firm culture, material reuse in Minnesota, project team perspectives and case studies

Session 4 presents frameworks for integrating knowledge of environmental and human health impacts from material substances into projects and studios. It explores strategies at play when materials decisions are driven by clients, rating-systems, firms, and even individual initiative. Case studies share lessons learned from on the ground experiences, and speakers candidly discuss the different perspectives and motivators of project team members.   

Date and time

Wednesday, May 5, 2021
10:00 am to 3:00 pm – break from 12 to 1:00

Continuing education

4.0 HSW LU Hours
4.0 GBCI credits applied for

Learning objectives

  1. Summarize project case studies which used healthy, sustainable materials and describe the challenges and opportunities of client-driven and architect-driven approaches. 
  2. Explain the different perspectives, pressures, and responsibilities of project team members related to materials transparency.
  3. Construct strategies for applying a materials matter approach to projects by understanding motivators for different project team members.
  4. Identify strategies at the individual level to constructively promote awareness of healthy materials selection among product representatives and colleagues.


Richard Graves, AIA
Richard Graves is the Director of the Center for Sustainable Building Research and an associate professor in the College of Design at the University of Minnesota. From 2012 to 2014, he was the Executive Director of the International Living Future Institute, leading the operations and strategic efforts around all of the Institute’s signature programs. His research focuses on regenerative design as a fundamentally new approach that must be required of architecture across scales (from the building to the neighborhood to the city) to achieve sustainable and resilient urban development in a dynamic world.

Rhys Whyte MacPherson
Rhys Whyte MacPherson is a senior associate at MSR. With a deep focus and commitment to human centered design with sustainability at his core, Rhys has touched a broad range of projects, including libraries, residential, cultural facilities, spaces for nonprofit organizations, and affordable housing.  He has a deep interest in data driven design, which focuses on the art and science of design along with a passion for exploring the balance between equity distribution within the affordable housing industry and critical thinking. His work has received multiple design awards, including an Urban Land Institute (ULI) Jack Kemp Excellence Award and has been a  guest lecturer at numerous national and international conferences.

Russell Philstrom, AIA
Russell Philstrom is a senior associate at Perkins and Will. As a multidisciplinary project architect, Russell specializes in high-performance building design, analytics, and advocacy. A member of Perkins and Will’s Living Design Leadership Council, he champions local and national sustainability and pro bono initiatives for the North Central region.  Russell is the firmwide program director for tracking project sustainability metrics related to the firms 2030 Commitment as well as its global operational carbon footprint.

Olivia Cashman
Olivia Cashman is a Construction and Demolition Waste Specialist with Hennepin County’s Environment and Energy Department where she works to promote reuse and recycling of construction and demolition waste and ensure proper disposal of hazardous building materials. Olivia coordinates the county’s recently developed deconstruction grant and pre-demolition inspection programs. Olivia has a Bachelor of Science in Environmental Science from the University of Minnesota and has prior work experience in environmental, health, and safety in manufacturing industries.

Jessie Houlihan
Jessie is president of Stahl. As an impact driven leader and the company’s “Visionary”, Jessie is fascinated with real estate development, design and construction and has focused on integrating and elevating these processes, enabling their partners to accomplish their broader goals while delivering an exceptional built product with sustained value and performance. Under her leadership Stahl has grown, diversified, realigned around deep core values and mission. Jessie earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Environmental Science, Policy and Management while also majoring in Journalism from the University of Minnesota. She serves on the Urban Land Institute of MN Executive Committee, and co-chaired the creation of the Resilient Communities Product Council. She is a member of the National Sustainable Development Council for the Urban Land Institute (ULI) of North America.

Melissa Wenzel
Melissa Wenzel has worked for the MN Pollution Control Agency for nearly 2 decades, and currently works for the agency within the Sustainable Materials Management program. She is the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency’s Built Environment Sustainability Administrator, and her current focus is on creating system-wide change within the building material management system. With key stakeholders across the state, Melissa is working to prevent C&D materials going to landfills by encouraging preservation, reuse, repair, and recycling of building materials. Previously, she was the state’s industrial stormwater program coordinator. Over the years, she coordinates project-specific sustainability efforts within the agency and as a volunteer, within her community.

Molly Flynn
Molly Flynn is an Environmental Health Specialist with Ramsey County. Molly graduated from the College of Saint Benedict with degrees in Environmental Studies and Business Management. After college, she worked with an environmental consulting firm completing environmental site investigations, and natural and cultural resource consultation. In her current role at the county, Molly is both a hazardous waste and pre-demolition inspector. Being an integrated component to the demolition process, Molly is working to raise awareness and facilitate more reuse of building materials in the hopes of diverting them from the landfill.

John Odeen
John has been a Project Manager / Estimator for the past 11 years for Ben Franklin Electric Co., a commercial and industrial electrical contractor in the Twin Cities area of Minnesota. Previously, he had spent 17 years as an estimator and project manager for a residential electrical contractor. He enjoys what he does and looks forward to the finished projects. Paul has been married for 43 years with three grown children and three grandchildren, and one more on the way. He loves spending time with his family and loves watching all sports, and participating in just a few.

Paul Hansen 
Paul started in construction right out of high school. His first few jobs were doing mainly “demo and grunt work”, until he found exterior siding. This then led him to the drywall world. He is currently employed at Stahl Construction as an Assistant Field Superintendent. Two projects that Paul says will always stand out to him from his career are the US Bank Stadium and the MSR build-out. Both jobs were very demanding, but in two completely different ways. Paul absolutely loves working with my hands, and mind, on small projects around the house to large stadiums that can hold 80,000 people.

Katie Rothenberg
Katie is the Managing Director for Paladino & Company. She has been executing sustainability initiatives in the built environment for over 12 years through the development of programs influencing portfolio management, operations, design/construction, and innovation. Katie is an expert on issues related to green building practices including material health, chemical transparency, portfolio-wide environmental programs, ESG and corporate reporting, and high-performance strategies. Her focus on value creation at both the asset and corporate level has led to programs including the development of the first mass timber project in VA to house HITT Contracting’s innovation lab, the formation of CSR programs, and the creation and subsequent implementation of one of the first LEED Volume programs in support of Wells Fargo’s 2020 sustainability targets.

Mary Dickinson, Assoc. AIA
Mary is and associate principal at Perkins and Will in Dallas. As Regional Sustainability Practice Leader, Mary has worked on over 5 million square feet of sustainable design projects, many of which have been 2030 compliant. She managed the creation and launch of the new Transparency Site with updated Precautionary List and is a member of the Sustainable Design Council and Research Board.



Contact Deanna Christiansen, Continuing Education Director

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