NSC Member Profile: David Burns

David Burns and his wife Tania set about embracing a rich sustainable lifestyle defined by no energy bills and a reduced dependence on other resources in their award winning green home located on the Northern beaches of Sydney. The 2007 sustainable home, designed around a large native garden, helps cool the house without the need for HVAC.

It also has 6kW of rooftop photovoltaic solar that provides the home’s electricity needs, captures rainwater for most uses, and has a real-time energy management dashboard integrated into the lounge room wall to monitor and provide user feedback for all electrical, water, and gas consumption activities, and thus manage costs.

To be sure, David and Tania have created an impressive home. But, David said, they were only able to make it this efficient after he found information provided by the Rocky Mountain Institute.

“I found out we did some things in reverse order,” Burns said. “We prioritized a large solar array on the roof first when we should have planned for deep energy efficiency into our passive design at the outset. Success in terms of sustainable design requires doing things in the correct order, which saves lots of money, and is a big part of what RMI teaches.”

Burns had heard about RMI through his Australian architecture network and decided to fly to San Francisco for the 2009 Reinventing Fire symposium to see what he could learn. He wanted information to improve the performance of his Sydney home and to seek ideas about a future career direction. Burns is quick to state that RMI has been his greatest source of information and knowledge about how individuals and business can obtain an advantage by integrating efficiency & renewables.

It was at the Reinventing Fire symposium where he learned about the National Solutions Council, an engaged group of RMI supporters that collaborate with the Institute to promote its mission of getting off fossil fuels.

“By joining the National Solutions Council, I’ve learned so much about efficiency and other topics such as lightweighting cars,” Burns said. From attending events and webinars, and by reading RMI’s blogs, newsletters, and books, Burns says his NSC participation has helped him advance his ideas and expand his networks.

“You rub shoulders with amazing people at RMI events, “ he said, sharing this anecdote from RMI2009 as proof:

“I was on the RMI bus going to the Academy of Sciences for a lecture and I sat down next to this gentleman and started talking to him,” he said, chuckling at the memory. “He told me he sold carpet. I thought, there are some really interesting people in this NSC. Here’s a cool guy with a little carpet store. Later I learned he was Ray Anderson [the late founder and visionary leader of Interface Carpet].”

“At that stage, I didn’t really know what I wanted to do with my business ideas,” Burns said. With a background as an analytic chemist, Burns is exploring an interest in green chemistry and industrial ecology, and is currently providing sustainability design services for the development of an industrial ecology park in Australia’s Hunter Industrial Eco Park.

While these ideas are incubating, Burns has successfully launched an online sustainability service, the Whoisgreen business directory. The search function on the site optimizes businesses’ green credentials, including third-party certification within a product and service category.

“I personally find it difficult to find trustworthy green products and services and to decide who can provide me with a performance advantage,” he said. Whoisgeen solves these issues by making green credentials visible and easy to understand. A free directory, it benefits green/clean tech companies. “Start ups struggle against companies that have really deep pockets, but this site ranks businesses based purely on credentials, not marketing budgets.”

Burns wants to indulge his passion for green philanthropy by investing in efficiencies, industrial ecology, and green chemistry with his equity of Whoisgreen when it becomes successful.

Burns invites NSC members and friends of RMI to check out the site and, if interested, list their business in the directory, which is free.