YMCA of San Diego County: embracing sustainable solutions

YMCA of San Diego County: embracing sustainable solutions

Luis D’Carpio, Vice President of Asset Management, Enterprise Risk Management & Sustainability, discusses the influence sustainability is having on hi...

Dedicated to helping people improve their quality of life and achieve their fullest potential, the YMCA of San Diego County is a key component to the lives of thousands of people.

Focusing on three core areas – youth development, healthy living and social responsibility, the YMCA serves more than 435,000 San Diego residents, employs over 5,500 people, and covers 1.2mm of real estate assets (18 branches and three overnight camps). Having been founded in 1882, the YMCA of San Diego County has become the largest YMCA association in the United States. Luis D’Carpio, Vice President of Asset Management, Enterprise Risk Management & Sustainability, discusses how important the Y’s corporate social responsibility (CSR) strategy is. “Environmental stewardship is rooted in our commitment to social responsibility. It’s vital to us and is a significant area of the service that we provide to the community,” affirms D’Carpio. “For us, it’s important we provide facilities that improve the quality of human life through health and wellness, be a great place to work or volunteer, and give back to the community by reinvesting the savings generated by our sustainability efforts.”

Having joined the YMCA of San Diego in 2017, D’Carpio has over 20 years of experience working for a diverse range of entities, in addition to spending a considerable amount of time on a range of project types with a particular emphasis on sustainable design, construction and operational measures. Holding such a varied background, D’Carpio believes his experience has laid the groundwork for him to succeed in his current role. “I've been fortunate in my career to have worked across three areas: owner-developer, general contractor and specialty contractor. As a result, it has given me a different perspective on what needs to be accomplished to achieve the desired end result,” he explains. “One of our biggest challenges has been helping to shift the YMCA away from being a decentralised entity because branches operated as independent business units. This centralisation allows us to focus on standardising our asset management approach and process to help establish and achieve our sustainability goals.”

In a bid to accelerate its sustainability efforts, the YMCA more recently completed two major capital projects; Dan McKinney Family YMCA and the Jackie Robinson Family YMCA, to create a lasting impact on its facilities and the community, in combination with its capital efforts. Having opened in 2017, the $25mn Jackie Robinson YMCA building was developed to meet the YMCA’s vision to serve the community and is also recognised with a LEED Gold certification. “The Jackie Robinson facility was also acknowledged with San Diego Gas and Electric’s (SDGE) 2018 Excellence in Energy Leadership Award because of the work that was done in collaboration with vendors and the utility company to implement sustainability features,” explains D’Carpio. “Both projects consist of over 45,000 sq.ft each and have the amenities that our communities needed. The Y’s first LEED Gold facility was the Copley-Price Family YMCA, which opened in January 2015.”

In 2015, the YMCA created a 2025 plan for the next decade and set out clear targets of the projected place the organisation hopes to be within the next 10 years. “We’re looking at building three to five new YMCAs, renovating our existing facilities to get them all to a comparable standard, and ensure we provide a safe and clean environment that is good for our community,” says D’Carpio. “Our goal is to double our impact in order to positively impact the communities we serve.” Four years in and following the construction of the Jackie Robinson and Dan McKinney YMCA buildings, work is well underway. However, D’Carpio affirms there is still more work to be done over the upcoming six years. “There’s definitely a lot of work to get finished. Our current efforts continue to focus on energy and water management, implementing key certifications, such as LEED or WELL and incorporate additional renewable energy projects,” he says. “We’re also looking at how we manage our solar projects. We’ve completed six installations so far (2.5MW) out of 18 branches and three overnight camps. It’s important that we continue to look at where the benefits come from and how these projects tie into the return of the community.” D’Carpio added that current efforts also continue to focus on partnerships. “We believe that long-term sustainability comes from key partnerships with vendors, regulatory agencies, and our local utility.”

With the future in mind, the importance of remaining versatile and adaptable to the latest trends is essential to long-term success. To achieve this, D’Carpio believes observing change management is key and is continuously monitoring the ways in which his organisation can grow. “We’re in the early stages of sustainability, but open communication is part of our change management process so there are many opportunities for us to grow as we continue our transformation towards our strategic goals,” he explains. “We’ve still got a long way to go and we believe that continued success will be based on establishing high performing teams, implementing technology to effectively manage our work, and further developing collaborative partnerships.”

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