The Green Innovator
The green innovator promotes LEED across a broad range of projects.
Charlie Cichetti, who’s leading a rolling wave of green innovation, calls his 2008 layoff from his construction job at real estate developer The Opus Group a blessing in disguise. He’d earned his first LEED AP credential that year, and his journey into the world of sustainability was just getting started when the recession hit.
“They laid off the entire construction team,” says the Atlanta-based social entrepreneur. “I was in tears. My wife and I had just bought our first house together; it was the year our first son was born.”
However, his experience at Opus had taught him a lot, and the man who’s gone on to teach tens of thousands of building professionals the best ways to design and build green was ready to expand on it.
“Opus was the developer, the designer, the construction team and the property manager, all in one company,” Cichetti says. “As a young professional, it was an amazing experience. Plus, they were an early adopter of LEED; it’s where I really cut my teeth on LEED projects.”
Back then, those projects were mainly new construction. Today, Cichetti is immersed in the greening of both new and existing buildings—including stadiums and skyscrapers—in Atlanta, across the U.S. and in several other countries.
Cichetti, who was named a LEED Fellow in 2020, says he’s humbled to be among the elite group of 330; each month, he facilitates a Zoom call for the whole group. “We share a common goal that as we make buildings better, we protect the environment,” says Cichetti, who’s the CEO, founder and strategist behind a compelling array of small forces in the green building industry.
His portfolio of businesses includes education and software ventures that are helping propel green building from a specialty endeavor to business as usual.
In 2009, he and a former colleague launched Sustainable Investment Group (SIG)—a full-service consulting, engineering and training firm that was an early force in the real estate movement toward healthy building and wellness. Today, the firm has covered 50 million square feet and completed more than 400 projects, many of which achieved LEED Gold or Platinum status.
SIG has led to three more Cichetti creations that are helping to define sustainability’s potential.
Green Building Education Services, begun in 2007 and taken over by Cichetti in 2014, was the first company to make LEED AP practice tests. Since then, it has grown into a worldwide powerhouse responsible for teaching upwards of 150,000 professionals about green building and helping them to earn and maintain their professional credentials.
Next came the technology startup Blue Ocean Sustainability, a software company that creates solutions for developers and contractors in green building. One of its main tools, TrueCarbon, helps track energy, water and embodied carbon impacts during construction.
During the pandemic, Cichetti says, “We got really innovative in order to keep the business moving.” When his team couldn’t travel, clients at construction sites and energy efficiency projects at existing buildings were supplied iPads for “over the shoulder” work.
That led to the third division under Cichetti’s green-building umbrella, Aetos Imaging, a 3D scanning and digital twin venture that’s able to virtually tell the story of any project’s healthiest, most sustainable possibilities.
“The pandemic sped things up for us,” Cichetti says of his new technology enterprises. “In eight weeks’ time, we built up years of innovation. And I’ve heard the same from other companies.”
He’s proud of 1180 Peachtree Street, which was the first LEED Gold high-rise office building in the southeast U.S. when it was built in 2006. Last year, the SIG project team won a USGBC Georgia Chrysalis Award for the building’s sustainability upgrade to LEED Platinum through its recertification under LEED for Operations and Maintenance.
Upgrading the Hines-owned building meant taking a skyscraper that was built green and figuring out ways it could better operate green. Today nearly 2,000 occupants of the 41-story office tower enjoy enhanced HVAC equipment and clean power. Reserved parking for alternate-fuel vehicles, EV charging stations and secure bike storage, plus incentives for commuting via the nearby train station, contribute to the building’s improved sustainability.
Cichetti and his teams are called on to bring LEED certification to projects of all ages. He embraces the challenge of 30- to 40-year-old buildings in Manhattan, and also cites upgrades to two stadiums in the Twin Cities of Minnesota as LEED achievements in existing buildings.
“New construction is something we do very well,” Cichetti says, but he sees existing buildings as a key part of the movement’s future. “We are very good at applying green practices to any building in existence.”
In 2019, his work took him to the island country of St. Lucia, where green building was virtually unknown until he and his team arrived to assist 34 professionals with earning their LEED credentials. Previously, there were zero. “Helping create new green building careers in St. Lucia was really a career highlight for me,” he says.
To further spread the word about sustainability, Cichetti hosts a weekly podcast called Green Building Matters. His interviews with green leaders help uncover the stories behind the sustainability movement.
When he’s not working, Cichetti spends time with his wife Latrice and their three young sons. He especially enjoys bringing his family to the North Georgia mountains where he was raised. Aside from involvement in his kids’ many activities, Charlie likes to play tennis, read and indulge his love for technology.
LEED is “a tool to make sure we’re all talking the same language,” says the green pioneer. “There’s always more to do,” he says. “But I argue that LEED has created a target for us all to hit. There are so many buildings that may never have improved, but thanks to LEED, they’re achieving a lot more than they ever would have originally.”
Who we are
Sustainable Investment Group LLC (SIG) was founded to deliver sustainability services and education to the building and real estate industry. Today we serve the entire A.E.C. (architecture, engineering and construction) marketplace, with not only Environmental and Engineering Consultancy, but a suite of Technology and Corporate Sustainability services. From LEED and ENERGY STAR to Fitwell, WELL Building and a host of sustainability reporting formats, we provide Consulting, Training, and Technical services across the globe from our offices in Atlanta, GA, Boulder, CO, Minneapolis, MN, Los Angeles, CA, and New York, NY.
Sustainability is not a side-line for us, it is our primary focus. It is the core of our mission. We believe that sustainability is the only way forward. In today’s world, leading companies know that environmental risk is financial risk. We reduce that risk.
At SIG, we are in the business of Better: Better Buildings and Better Solutions, for a Better World. Our clients are industry leaders who believe that too.
Just ask them. They know that making green improvements is good for the environment and good for business. All of our clients have become repeat customers.
Making your buildings more sustainable in their operations, and telling your green building story well will help you qualify for more contracts and attract better tenants. SIG is a dedicated and experienced team, including design, construction, property management, and real estate professionals. We approach every project with an eye to how we can improve it for the people who use it, the efficient use of resources and capital, and the impact it will have on the community and the world.
We offer LEED training nationally and internationally, so we are always up to date on the latest sustainability developments and requirements. We are industry leaders because sustainability is all we do, and we live it everyday. Our energetic and passionate team delivers a wealth of knowledge and experience, and really believes in the work we do. We’re inspired about our role in the green building movement and we’re fun to work with too!
SIG’s Core Values
Quality of life
Support happiness and excellence
Promote sustainability through global education and local community involvement
Create win-win opportunities that bring value through honesty
Develop enduring ties and bring enthusiasm to everyone we know