Boulder’s Unreasonable Institute — a training program for social and environmental entrepreneurs — began its final online competition last week to determine who will attend this summers’ workshop — and for the first time, a local company has made the cut.
The institute, which was started by a group of CU alumni, is entering its third year with four finalists from the United States, including BOULD, a local company made up of University of Colorado alumni and one current student.
BOULD is a Boulder-based company that provides sustainable building experience and education to students and professionals, which would otherwise be unavailable to them.
Stephen Lepke, CU alumnus and director of business operations for BOULD, said green building certifications, like Leed accreditation, are often gained through work experience with architecture and construction firms — jobs that are few and far between in the struggling economy. BOULD provides Leed accreditation training as a course for those who are unable or unwilling to go through the typical channels.
“We are currently working with Habitat for Humanities in eight different states around the country to provide actual building experience for our students, which is required for Leed accreditation,” Lepke said. “That’s the biggest part of what we do. We also help guide them through the academic part, doing research and studying for their certification test.”
Lepke said BOULD is structured like a college course. BOULD students pay a $450-$600 tuition fee — 30 percent of which goes to the Habitat building project to allow the organization to build green at little or no extra cost. Students receive 50 hours of green building experience and academic support before taking the Leeds accreditation test, he said.
BOULD was started just more than a year ago and Lepke said the company is hoping the Unreasonable Institute will help them “take the business to the next level.” But first, the team has to get into the summer workshop.
The Unreasonable Marketplace, the final step in receiving acceptance to the summer program, is a 50-day online fundraising challenge. The 25 companies that raise the $10,000 tuition the fastest are accepted. With 40 days remaining, Lepke said BOULD is in the top ten competitors and is confident they will raise the necessary funds.
“We are hoping we are going to be able to get a lot of exposure and get people aware of what we’re doing,” Lepke said. “We want to attract more participants and refine our business model by tapping into the expertise of the professionals involved in the institute.”
Shane Gring, founder of BOULD, would represent the company at the summer institute if they are accepted.
In 2011, 115 BOULD students helped build 17 Leed certified homes, and raised more than $20,000 for Habitat for Humanity projects, Gring said.
Shane Baldauf, CU architecture junior and director of development for BOULD, said the certification is not only beneficial for affordable housing builders, like Habitat for Humanity, but could give students an edge after graduation.
“With unemployment for architecture graduates being so high right now, having this certification and experience will definitely make you more marketable to employers,” Baldauf said.
Teju Ravilochan, co-founder and vice president of communications for the Unreasonable Institute, said the institute has seen about 900 applicants over the past three years, with only five from Boulder.
“We’re location agnostic,” Ravilochan said. “And this is the best team that we’ve seen apply from Boulder so far.”
Despite high praise from the program’s founder, BOULD’s fate will be determined by online donations over the next 40 days. Visit the Unreasonable Marketplace to browse company profiles and donate.