S1E8: Scoring

Jun 10, 2021

Andy Keeton

VP Global Strategy

Between the Lines S1E8: Scoring

with Chris Pyke


Why will Scoring help save the planet?

On this week's episode of Between the Lines, we chat with Chris Pyke, Senior Vice President of Product at Arc, the company powering the platform behind the US Green Building Council’s LEED certification process.

And check out Chris's favorite commuting song on our exclusive commuter playlists on Spotify.

  • drivers license - Olivia Rodrigo


Episode Transcript

-(Intro) Commutifi presents Between the Lines with Andy Keeton each week we explore the challenging issues Transportation Demand Management professionals face on their journey to transition commuters from driving alone to more sustainable shared and active commuting habits. Be sure to subscribe to hear next week's episode and check out our exclusive commuter playlists on Spotify. This is Between the Lines with Andy Keeton.

-(Andy Keeton) Hi everyone, and welcome on board to Between the Lines. Thanks for being here today. Today we have a special guest coming in one of the partners of us here at communify on this episode we're talking to chris pike he's the senior vice president of product at arc which is the company powering the platform behind the u.s green business count green building council's leed certification process we're really excited to have you on today chris thanks for being here it's it's a privilege and i really appreciate we love working with you guys and i'm looking forward to our conversation awesome cool and so this is interesting to you know the tdm listeners out there why are we bringing in someone who's talking about lead scoring talking about uh you know green green building council what does that have to do with tdm it has a lot to do with tdm we're going to get into that but it comes down to our episode topic today which is why scoring is going to help save the planet um so this is a really a really good topic it's near and dear to my heart as well so chris to to get started can you tell us a bit more about you know what how do you use scoring on a day-to-day basis what is a lead score what is leed certification and how does arc play into this just give us the overview

absolutely i'm happy to do that so let me let's let's jump in you know why first as you said what is scoring why do we do it at all and so for me so our our role is let's start with our mission our mission is to use performance data to recognize better spaces buildings and places around the world right so to do that we understand that there are many kinds of performance data that you could collect you could collect trip generation vmt mode split energy efficiency uh uh heat island effect the reality is there are there are there's there's too many too many metrics that we can't hold them in our brain we can't understand trade-offs and so fundamentally what scoring is is a simplification we it gives us a way to simplify digest and communicate what those variables mean the second thing scoring does is it allows us to compare so because we have different data from different places so the fundamental thing is a data reduction we simplify data by bringing multiple lines of evidence into a score and then we interpret it by putting it into context with others that's why we do what we do with scoring

yeah that's really interesting and um yeah i mean that this makes sense because what's going on in the transformation space is how do we compare something like you know a five minute bike ride with a a 20-minute drive i mean they're completely different with it with an hour long transit ride if we're looking at vmt then the the drive might be the worst one because it's vehicle mile traveled but if we're looking at something like you know uh like commuter happiness or uh well-being then maybe these longer commutes are worse so it's trying to figure out how we do this and and how we actually baseline it because there's a lot of different things going into it

and exactly right maybe to build on what you said for half a second and you got a question going in there but that this is it is that issue that it's the reality is we can measure a lot of things but measurement is not interpretation and saying okay what what is good what is bad what is preferred and then even then we have to integrate multiple lines of evidence so how do we trade off your bike commute rate from your pedestrian rate from your sov rate from your uh from your transit rate and there is no world and i think certainly our our transportation planner friends they there is we have too many variables and so what we do in our rating system world is we say okay this is what we think better looks like and we can provide a good better best representation that's actually our role our role is not to create the metrics our role is to is to fold the metrics into an interpretation that we think constitutes buildings that are better for people in the environment and that so that's actually our role and a lot of people don't understand that and they think oh i don't want that score just show me the data the problem is most of the time you show them the data and they go oh what does that mean and you're like well how about the score so i mean we can talk about well obviously we'll talk about that in different ways but i find that it goes in circles uh in reality

yeah it's true because i i mean i've been in that same conversation before where it's like yeah you have you know 1.8 million pounds of co2 annually from your commutes okay and does that is that good is that bad you're like well you know the average is 1.5 million okay so i'm only a little bit what does that mean you know and so giving a score of like you're on a scale of let's say seven out of ten that's a lot more helpful to me um i think it helps people baseline that behavior kind of get that understanding and one of the reasons we're excited to talk to you here is because arc and the usgbc working together on this lead certification i mean leeds lead scoring is uh you know the gold sander the platinum standard uh we're working towards platinum here obviously on the lead on lead scoring but uh it's the it's the standard here of taking these complex things in this case building environmental data that's just completely disparate going all over the going all over the place and putting it into a score it's pretty interesting um so yeah i mean this goes to something i've been saying something you've been saying as well is helping us to actually build a baseline to help us actually understand what a you know random metric means um most of most people are not experts in in every little metric so that's where the scoring can help so from you know in your industry in in the you know building the green building kind of space um and then maybe specifically as well in the tdm in the transportation the commuting space i how do we use scoring or how do you use scoring to actually take these numbers and put them into a single number or a single

so that's a great question and so let's let's talk about you know what we you know what we try to do fundamentally as the space that we exist in is real estate generally and so in that real estate space we are addressing market failures with information so that's the first that's the first reason we do anything so we want to give people insight when they are considering when they're creating operating owning leasing a piece of real estate what what is this like from a transportation perspective are there are there multiple travel modes are there uh do do folks commute with non-single occupancy vehicles do they have uh uh storage and changing rooms and and various tdm measures right so our point is either to inspire action to give transportation options or to create transparency about how that how that piece of real estate fits in the system and ultimately we are judging about that in the sense of lead that we believe that there is a superior choice we want to get to create positive competitive differentiation for those locations which have short commute distances high mode choice low carbon alternatives and so we are trying to define that through multiple metrics and so our purpose is to recognize those we we we regard those as better buildings that and buildings with those characteristics and so we set criteria for those we score against those criteria and we hope we we inject that information into the development operations and leasing conversation so that's why we do what we do our scores have a special purpose so we uh first off we we do we are our philosophical okay score one thing i haven't said yet scores reflect values fundamentally they are the the inputs to a scoring system are usually fairly objective but when we start blending your choices those blendings create val reflect values so my value about transportation as against energy efficiency as against water as against indoor experience so that is what we do through the lead governance process so we have volunteers they come in they hash it out and that is reflected on a scorecard that is not science that's values the metrics are science and the roll-up is valid and those so the combination of values plus metrics is a score and so our particular score so arc is the part of the usgbc universe where we provide scores for at least three kinds of lead writing systems we provide scores for cities and communities existing buildings and recertification so basically anything that can be measured in the real world and so whether you're a city and you're putting in information on vmt per capita whether you're a building and you're putting in information on commute distance and carbon intensity perhaps using the commutify tools for that or you're pursuing re-certification which is entirely performance-based there are three different score families we implement the scores that are approved by the lead steering committee those scores make up a substantial portion of recognition through lead and again that that increasingly is happening across scales so you're working at you can be working at a commercial interior you can be working at a whole building you can be working at a neighbor like a business improvement district or an entire city there are obviously we all know they're different they're different mobility metrics at each of those scales and and and that's a challenge now so that that's what we do today so operationally we provide those kind of scores in 131 countries we serve about 4.8 billion square feet of commercial property and that's our job is to provide information about those those those qualities and to to incentivize people to do more of that good stuff like TDM measures.

and one of the things i think that you rightfully pointed out and it's important to think about when we're thinking about scoring is the point about values and yeah metrics are quantifiable they are uh measurable and and objective there's nothing that we can say that that says you know 1.5 million pounds of co2 is not 1.5 million pounds of co2 if we're measuring it accurately of course but um the values piece is interesting because one of the things that i think is is valuable from from scoring is that uh an individual is looking at you know a set of metrics that are quantifiable and are objective it's hard to know what that means and certainly you know that person can spend the time to think through if that's uh a good thing to them if they want to improve that or whatever it might be but most people don't have the time to spend looking at every single metric in the world that they're trying to to measure so kind of providing those those value-based scoring um you know systems for them uh up front kind of takes guesswork out of it makes it a little bit easier and if you trust the system that's making that or the you know the organization making that system um then you know you say i trust the score and this seems like it's going the right way um so i really like that that you brought up that point and i wonder then if you know this this is getting into kind of the the key benefit of scoring which is you know helping us actually drive towards behavior change and and give us an understanding of how that improves but before someone can actually improve their score they have to get a score in the first place and see where they are i wonder on your end what you've seen from organizations that come in to do lead scoring in the tdm space and beyond on that baselining piece are people surprised when they get a score and they say oh shoot i thought we were doing a lot better um does it does the score help people really get an understanding of where they are

yeah this is a really good question and I will cop right off the bat that when it comes to mobility and transportation this is this is a challenge for our theory of change i mean like the theory of change for the green building community came from energy efficiency that notion of kind of the idea that you you ask people to be 10 or 20 or 30 better than an energy code and to move forward in a lot of ways the last 25 years we've tried to apply the same concept to mobility and but mobility doesn't have a simple baseline i mean every every facility has a unique combination of occupants it's in a unique location and i think we've really grappled with and one of the ways that's reflected in what we do is a grappling with kind of consistent measurement like in other words do we want one measurement we apply all around the world for mobility or do we tailor it to urban suburban rural to different settings and what is our ability to as you said generate positive change is everything a snowflake and thus it only is relevant to itself that's one totally valid thing on the other hand you have another faction which says hey a green building is defined by very low vmt very low emissions per occupant and that's it i i i feel like i've really struggled so today our scoring makes the most sense for kind of office based workers who are going to and from a commuting mode and incentivizing them to take low carbon modes over shorter distances now so we can create transparency around that so i think the signal that we do best with rating today is transparency how do people get to and from how you know how are they getting there what is the environmental impact of their commuting patterns what do i think we do lousy i think we don't do a good job of saying what that represents for that location in other words is this is this good for where i am or is it good for what i am and i really get i really grapple with places where the the commuting paradigm is a little different so for what i mean by that is facilities are located for specific purposes fire houses medical uh healthcare centers they have to be where they have to be for reasons that have nothing to do with that with some of the things we value so i so i guess what i'm trying to put on the table is there are things we do well understanding commuting patterns and there's things we're going to do better as we do them together and and provide better tools for that but there are things that are philosophically hard to do like what constitutes green or low impact mobility for rural fire stations or rural health care settings or that's not easy right and i'm not sure i know the right period so we're that we're probably with those and so obviously doing more tdm measures on a prescriptive basis can be good period so there is always a role for you know wherever you are these practices are probably good for you um on the other hand the performance data can be actually harder can be sometimes it's dead on and as you say it's easy to interpret sometimes it really is a head scratcher what we're what what direction we want the metrics to go and why anyway we could talk more about that but that's i i think there are there are strengths and weaknesses to how we currently score transportation in our you know in the green building universe

yeah and that's interesting and it's something that i think building that uh story around an organization and a commuting or i guess in the context in the context of commuting thinking about is uh 80 you know sov drive alone rate good i mean probably not if you're in or definitely not if you're in like manhattan um and definitely so if you're a rural firehouse you know like it's hard to get those measurements and kind of going back to another episode that we talked about let's see it would have been episode five uh when we talked with claiber and clark about the colorado employer traffic reduction program it's a similar kind of problem that they're facing as well um and you know people are facing around the world how do we uh incentivize change without you know wrongfully punishing people who or organizations that just are not in the position to to have as good of a you know a tdm strategy in place but like you said putting tdm strategies in place can always help and you can go from 100 drive a loan rate to 98 and that's great that's an improvement you know you can still work on that and so that gets this next point which is you have a score you understand where you are let's say that we've we've figured it out and we've come to the perfect solution where we know exactly that you uh based on your you being a rural uh fire station compared to other rural fire stations you get a great score or whatever it is but uh you know your neighboring fire station gets a bad score so the the key here is can we encourage and influence people to improve that score improve their their systems whether it's tdm or it's green buildings um in a in a kind of straightforward way so from your perspective um kind of looking at the the lead process are people coming in seeing that they're you know let's say lead gold and saying i want to get up to lead platinum and that's important to me because i share the same values with you know the usgbc and i want to improve this this system and now i know i need to do x y and z are people actually working then towards this improvement

yeah that's this is a great question and and the answer is yes the short answer is yes people do change now there is a duality so i mean leed tries to do two things lead is an environmental assessment on one level that creates transparency regardless of change it's also a market transformation tool and and lead is always kind of weighing these things you know saying where are you and then can i get you to jump higher and that's that's that's that's intrinsic to what we do when it comes to transportation i think over the years we have we have come to understand that mobility choices are more and more systemic you know it's one thing to put bike racks there but if the bike racks don't connect to a bike lane the bike lanes don't connect to a trail system don't connect to a to a set of of of populations who can afford a bike who can you know and so forth and so on there is a i think that over what i've seen over the last decade of working in the green building community is more and more appreciation for those dependencies and i do think you know we do you know it's not news though we we have struggled to say we've always tried to advocate for that but you know sometimes we're pilloried for saying hey it's a bike rack credit it's not as good as a as a as something else i've always kind of you know felt like that was a misunderstanding about saying what are the incremental actions that that allow people to to to have more mobility options if the thing you were lacking was a bike rack well then bike rack is damn well useful if the thing you were lacking was a changing room because you you wanted to extend how far people could go each one of them is a link in a chain and i think it's easy to pillory the links that and that's a challenge we have is getting people to see the the forest for the trees often because the construction industry is very literal they're like hey i gotta put this bike rack in who's gonna bike i just drove up here in a truck but it's it's uh and but the issue of looking at it from a and being open to the idea that it's not all or nothing i'm trying to get the marginal person to take something other than an sov and the question is is my actions whether it's transit subsidies bus passes whether it is it is is is uh crosswalks and pedestrian access whether what can i do in within my right span of control that's going to make that marginal person marginally better than it and then that's a different issue that's what we struggle with about saying we can definitely help people improve in that way now can i make a fire station in rural idaho have a commuting footprint that looks like downtown you know vancouver canada no and so that's where that's where the the emphasis that the the balance between environmental assessment like i need to be able to show that these things have different carbon footprints but i also need to be able to meet them where they are to say there are there are specific opportunities for improvement that are that are available to each of those projects so we exist in that tension often that nuance is hard to convey in the you know in the battle that that individual projects represent but that is always our aspiration so to provide transparency about what it is and to help the team do something specific and better and and i do think to our to our credit over the years that emphasis on systemic change what is the weakest link in that delivery vehicle for mobility that and going from there and actually that's what last thing i'll say about that i think you're going to see more of that i think you're going to see a greater emphasis on sustainable travel options diversity of options and and and and being things that are a little more that that a property owner can create options and create mobility options for different different groups uh there's more to say about all that but that gives you a flavor of the kind of conversations we have on a regular basis

and what you know and what i like about this is that from a developer perspective i mean i'm not a i'm not a building developer but i could imagine i've had conversations with them um i look at a bike rack and i say this is going to cost me x dollars and i don't see anyone biking right now there's no bike lanes or whatever it is um this is not uh a good use of our of our money but like you said it's a whole systemic you know systemic system uh it's a system so you know we uh we need the bike racks we need the bike lanes if you build bike lanes you don't have a place to park the bike then it's it's relevant so you have to work together you know the city's working with the uh property developers and getting that whole system in place so what something like lead uh elite score does um or what something like a commuter score does in commuting is now i know as a as a uh you know person in charge as a manager to the system that there's some inherent benefit to this because i get x number of points or i improve my score by x number it's not just a a you know dollar line on a budget uh there's actually something that could come from that so it gives me an understanding of you know this is worth let's say one point and uh you know subsidizing transit for 100 cost or something's worth two points okay now i can kind of compare those two i can understand how it works i don't know if that's how the scoring works but yeah throwing it out there um i really like that i think that's it's a good point and and the once again i mean this we have these conversations every week with different people and it all comes down to this is going to be a group effort looking at it it's going to come down to the you know the cities the states the government agencies it's going to come down to employers and uh property developers as well now we're talking with you i think this is the first real conversation from that perspective and it's really important and it also comes down to commuters as well making those behavioral choices um but for us to actually get from everyone driving alone to having this you know perfect utopia of being able to take whatever motor transportation you want and clean skies and everything is going to take a lot from every community i'm really excited about what leads doing and what you all are doing to support them at arc um yeah so i mean we're towards the end of our time here that we can keep talking forever uh and and we often do and we talk offline about this all time so uh you know if anyone's listening and wants to jump in on a call let me know um but uh let's let's go to our final question here um like always we like to summarize everything we've talked about so chris in a couple of sentences uh can you tell me why will scoring help save the planet

i fundamentally the reason that i i value scoring is it interprets performance it defines what better looks like and i think that that level of directionality a score is an opinion whether you're credit worthy or whether you have high or low vmt or whether your building is energy efficient a score is a direction and and our goal is to get create that transparency and i often say of ourselves we are the market failure people we are looking for places where information is absent where we believe by injecting information we can help people make better resource allocation decisions to address that market failure with information we do that with scores and we do that with scores that also become glass plaques and do other things but i want i am trying to both create that transparency to overcome market failures and i am trying to support that person on a project team who is in there arguing for the bike rack or the changing room or the whatever and give them a little more ammunition to on the margin win that battle and if i can do one of those two things address market failure to to to create more value for better places or to help that practitioner win by giving a little more weight to that positive thing that they want to do that's that's our small bit of how we save the world

i couldn't have said it better myself i really like that answer um great well chris it's been great talking um and everyone thanks for joining us today on this on this conversation um in this episode of between the lines uh make sure you all go on and subscribe to our podcast to our email list we send out more resources after every episode as just a recap of what we've been talking about i can you can do that at betweenthelines.io and follow us subscribe on on wherever you're listening to podcasts spotify apple um podcast or google podcasts and watch watch our videos on youtube if you're just listening to us you don't really get the full effect until you see my hair um flowing in in the breeze here as we're talking but uh it's been great uh having you on chris like we always do we finish off with this one last thing we're building this commuter playlist this music playlist on spotify because most people probably aren't quite to their destination yet so you want to fill it up with some with some music and we love to have um our guests give us their give us their songs they want to add on so chris what would you like to add to our playlist

okay only because it seems situational so i have a 15 year old daughter who uh and so my taste in music is saturated not taste actually my musical experience is saturated so all i can say is i i can't see how it couldn't be olivia rodrigo and driver's license experience right now so and that is what's playing in my kitchen

that's great you know what i was hesitant at first to listen to that song and i think it's great i think it's a great song and once you said you had a 15-year-old daughter i was like taking a note okay this is what it's gonna be i mean it's crazy it's honestly crazy it's not on the playlist yet so i'm glad we got it now um perfect well chris thanks for joining me today and everyone listening and watching thanks for being here we'll see you next week on between the lines a

wesome thanks katie

thanks for joining us on this week's episode of between the lines with andy keaton be sure to subscribe to hear next week's episode and check out our exclusive commuter playlists on Spotify


Better commuting starts here.

Better commuting starts here.

Better commuting starts here.