Meet a Southfacer: Bonnie Casamassima, Commercial Sustainability Services Project Manager

Bonnie provides research, technical and administrative assistance for various programs and cross-team projects. As a LEED Green Associate, she works on LEED documentation, administration and consulting. She also serves as an Interior Design expert contributing to Southface’s holistic sustainability approach while supporting continued portfolio program development.

What brought you to Southface?

Shane Totten, Southface’s Commercial Sustainability Services director, asked me to join his team. Shane was my graduate school thesis advisor at SCAD, and knows my passion for sustainability and the built environment’s immense potential to positively impact holistic ecological wellbeing. Southface has a sound reputation driven by passionate people, so I was very excited to join the team and to get to work with Shane again.

What drives your passion for the built environment?

The fact that our built environments can actually positively impact our ecological and psychological wellbeing instead of simply doing less harm, and there are mounting examples proving it!

Imagine walking into a small dimly-lit black box, it has four walls, a floor and a ceiling, but no windows. How do you react when thinking of being in that space? Now imagine walking into a building designed around providing the psychologically and biologically restorative experience we feel when on a hike in the woods. Such a building could implement attributes including: daylight, the sound of a moving stream, access to direct views of our outdoor environment, fresh air, physical access to natural elements such as a vegetated roof and natural interior materials. How do you react when you imagine being in that built environment? In which of the two built environments are you more likely to embrace sustainability in your everyday life, feel energized, healthy, productive or less stressed? In which environment are you more likely to feel connected to our ecosystem at large and understand why you should even care to make thoughtful environmental choices in the first place?

What makes us feel, and in response act, so differently in these diverse spaces is what drives my passion for the built environment every day. How can we use this understanding and build on our existing successful efforts around energy and resource conservation? Considering we spend, conservatively, 90% of our lives indoors, we have a powerful potential to create change through our built environments!

My graduate thesis focused on Biophilic Design and was rooted in Environmental Psychology. Additionally, in my former role I was as an environmental behavioral consultant for education and workplace clients. Throughout those experiences and today, I am consistently energized by the ability we have to generate change with every environment we create. How can we continue to progress sustainability to move beyond simply sustaining and toward holistic regeneration? How can an integrative building process identify ways to make our built environments positively impact our natural resources, communities and the people our buildings are designed to support in the first place? Examples of successful holistic regenerative approaches, such as the Bertschi Living Building Science Wing, exist currently. I am passionate about advancing these ideas, which today are seen as innovative, to being standard practice when we create and maintain our built environments moving forward.

What do you enjoy most about your job?

My coworkers and our mission make me look forward to coming to work every day. There are so many brilliant minds and such a wide range of expertise under our roof. We are all working toward the same overarching goal, and that’s incredibly energizing to me.

How does Interior Design fit into green building?

Interior Designers are an essential element to regenerative design and its necessary integrated approach. They have a human-centric focus and understand that our buildings greatly impact our safety, behavior and holistic wellbeing. Interior Designers are involved in projects from an early stage and therefore are able to reinforce regenerative approaches through design.

What have you seen to be successful when moving beyond sustainability toward regenerative buildings?

Projects seeking a true regenerative impact must use an integrative approach from the very beginning through the entire project process. It’s impossible for one or two people to know everything about the built environment, so expertise must be drawn from all sectors of building professionals. An integrative approach must extend beyond construction completion and into long-term post-occupancy.

Bonnie enjoys making pottery in her spare time. Here is the beginnings of one of her creations.

Bonnie enjoys making pottery in her spare time. Here is the beginnings of one of her creations.

What do you like to do when you are not at work?
I volunteer as public relations director for Sustainable Design Collaborative:Atlanta, a passionate group of building industry professionals with diverse backgrounds. We create a pro-bono integrated building design solution for one sustainability and community-enriching organization each year. Our project partners use the solution to secure funding and implementation of their project. Two years ago SDC:A was fortunate to partner with The Lifecycle Building Center, an organization spearheaded by Southface Alum, Adam Deck. Please visit sdcatlanta.org to learn more.

I also enjoy anything to do with the outdoors, exploring aged structures, creating pottery, live music, hand-written letters, reading, furniture design, hugging animals and traveling.

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