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You may know Mick Dalrymple as one of the guys behind aka Green, the first-of-its-kind store that was a resource for green building materials and green education in Scottsdale.  I know Mick as a leader in the local green building community.  Coming from outside the building industry, Mick’s varied background has given him a wider perspective on what works and what doesn’t.  Besides his unique perspective, I also appreciate Mick’s deep knowledge of green building.  So many people now may go out and get a green building certification and call themselves experts while not really understanding the basics.  But Mick is one of those rare people who’s taken the time to cultivate a real expertise over time, to the point where he is now the go-to person for others who’ve long been in the industry.

Blooming Rock:
What is your background, what are some of the things you’ve been involved in with green building?

Mick Dalrymple: My experience is very diverse, including serving as a higher education lobbyist for the students of the Arizona University System, feature filmmaking and visual effects in Hollywood, producing or directing almost every form of film and video you can imagine (commercials, documentaries, educational videos, marketing videos, music videos, and television series), various roles on large and small IT and IT strategy projects, and then, of course, the last nine years in green building.

In 2001, I was producing commercials and had lost some of my enthusiasm for it. Despite feeling good about the occasional anti-smoking campaigns, the majority of projects related to driving more people into casinos or into buying lottery tickets left me a bit empty. They were creative and entertaining, but as a newly-minted father, I was looking for something with a more positive impact on the world that my daughter would inherit. After one particularly annoying experience launching toilets out of the second story window of a multi-million dollar home in order to hawk laxatives, I began looking for a change. At the same time, Dick Cheney’s Energy Task Force came out with what I considered to be a very regressive National Energy Plan that called for making us more dependent on fossil fuels. Coming from a military family and having a reasonable amount of international experience, I knew the Plan would be bad for our country and likely lead us into more overseas wars. My experience as a higher education lobbyist taught me that there were people who complained and people who worked on solutions. I did not want to be a complainer, so I started seeking out solutions, like solar. That led me to a Scottsdale Green Building meeting and everything followed like dominoes after that first eye-opening experience. It just made perfect sense. It fit so well with what I had learned as a kid about living with your environment by playing and building forts in the desert and at Sabino Creek outside of Tucson.

My green building experience includes helping to revise the Scottsdale Green Building checklist; put on the Green Building Expo for three years; form the Arizona Chapter of the USGBC (US Green Building Council); consult on LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) commercial and residential projects; assist manufacturers in identifying and  communicating how their products interface with LEED; teach green building workshops; retrofit my own home for 72% energy savings and for healthier indoor environmental quality; verify residential projects for certification under NAHB’s (National Association of Home Builders) green building program; serve on the national board of the USGBC and various local, regional and national committees; start Green Drinks locally; serve on the consensus committee to write the National Green Building Standard (ICC-700); produce the official Greenbuild 2009 marketing video, serve on the local steering committee for Greenbuild 2009 here in Phoenix, amongst other activities and projects.

Blooming Rock: What do you think are the best ways to make Phoenix more sustainable?

Mick Dalrymple: Such a long discussion. As far as the top priorities, I would say:

– Diversify our economy so that it is no longer dependent on building resorts and cheap houses to attract people here and then put them to work building resorts and cheap houses to attract more people here. It is inherently unsustainable economically, environmentally and from an urban planning and social standpoint. We have now experienced the cruel reality of the inevitable collapse, so let’s take the opportunity to diversify so that it never happens again.

– Water: Let’s accept that we live in a desert and start treating water like it is a valuable, life-providing resource.

– Urban Heat Island: I have believed for years that just by increasing the reflectivity of our pavement by 10-20% whenever a road or parking lot is paved or re-coated, we could probably actually measure a lowering of the night-time city temperatures within 5-10 years. Add cool roofs to our buildings, trees to our sidewalks and parking lots, permeable concrete, more rubberized asphalt, and shading devices to our buildings and we could really make an impact and eliminate problems like monsoon storms bypassing the Valley because it is too hot to rain in the city.

– Density: Walkable city. Dedicated bicycle routes. Mixed use projects. Get people out of their cars as much as possible.

          Blooming Rock: What are some of the misconceptions of green building?

          We have come a very long way in 10 years nationally and, to an extent, locally. The same misconceptions are out there, but the number of people holding them is smaller: They continue to be: a) that it is more expensive b) that it is some environmental, tie-dye thing c) that it is about expensive technology and finishes and d) that it is even necessary.

          Education and experience are the keys to dispelling myths. We have accomplished a lot of education and now more people have the actual experience of building green, but it has to be a continuous effort.

          Blooming Rock: How does design and our built environment effect the health of our city and our planet?

          Mick Dalrymple:
          It is hard to think of a facet of our city and our planet that they do not affect. Urban planning and the design of our buildings affect how we allocate time in our day (transit time vs. family and community time), our outdoor air quality, our indoor air quality, how we interact with each other, the temperature of and rainfall in our city, energy consumption, water consumption, materials consumption, waste streams, toxification of our environment, our economy, how we allocate public resources, our spirit and our sense of community. The lack of Colorado River water flowing into the Gulf of California is related to the design of our built environment. The oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico is indirectly and partially related to the design of our city. The impacts are endless as everything is interconnected. We like to think, as humans, that we don’t function by the same rules of interconnection as nature, but we do.

          Blooming Rock:
          Can you tell us why the retail component of aka Green went out of business?

          Mick Dalrymple: It was a business decision based upon many factors that I explain thoroughly on our blog. It was a very painful decision but, looking back, I am glad we bit the bullet and did it when we did.

          Blooming Rock: What are you future plans?

          Mick Dalrymple: I am exploring a handful of whole-focus opportunities for the future while simultaneously working on current client needs and finishing projects that were delayed because of Greenbuild. Over the last few months, I have finished the national marketing/educational video for the LEED for Homes program, helped Kitchell’s Estrella Mountain Ranch Marketplace earn the first LEED Gold in Arizona for a retail power center, verified several residential projects for NGBP  (National Green Building Program) green certification, continued to work on the Thunderbird Tower Restoration project, been teaching our Green In A Weekend course through Rio Salado, passed significant milestones on my personal energy retrofit, been working on the regional credits process for LEED 2012, earned energy auditor certification as a BPI Building Analyst Professional, continued to give lectures and presentations, and am helping develop green building job training curriculum for Maricopa Skill Center. I’ve got a couple of green building documentaries on my plate, as well.

          It’s all important work and I enjoy the concrete steps these projects represent in our journey toward sustainability. At the same time, every day is now critical in the climate change battle and so I feel an urgency to get one of these game-changer future opportunities under way. My daughter is turning 10 soon and I believe we are already experiencing a mild preview of the extreme weather that will dominate her and our future. People who think working in Hollywood is glamorous ask why I moved on. But in screenplay-speak, we are now at the end of the set-up in the first act of the most intense action-suspense movie anyone could imagine and, unfortunately, it’s real. We are all going to be the heroes or the villains in “managing that which is unavoidable and avoiding that which is unmanageable”, so we need to suit up and get in the game.


          While I was sad to hear that aka Green closed its doors, I know Mick will continue to push our city towards a sustainable future with his leadership and tireless energy.  I look forward to talking with Mick more here on the Blooming Rock blog.

          Photo Credit: a photo of pervious concrete from

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