Starbucks Global Sustainability with John Harrison


Starting on January 1, 2019, GBMS will begin rolling out it’s new membership community.  Members will be given access to some of the guests on the podcasts that you can ask project questions to, if you are preparing for an exam there will be more insurances that you will pass your next exam, you will be given cliff notes if you are a member and so much more.

John Harrison is the store development services manager for the innovation & sustainability support group at Starbucks Coffee Company. He is a licensed architect and LEED Fellow with over 25 years of diverse experience in private practice, and as an owner/owner’s representative. As a part of the company’s high performance building team, he co-authored the Starbucks LEED for Retail Volume Build Program and leads the execution team responsible for sustainable strategies and LEED certifications. To date, the program has certified 1,615 CI and NC projects in 20 countries/US territories across the globe including stores in Europe, the UK, North America, South America and Asia. In addition to leading the programs global development, he has worked with directly with teams in China, the U.S., Japan, Taiwan, the Philippines, Korea, Singapore and Thailand to certify Starbucks stores. Before joining Starbucks, John spent 13 years at Mithun, Inc. in Seattle working with a variety of retail, commercial and institutional clients including: REI, Seattle Coffee Company, Precor, Mirival and the IslandWood Environmental Learning Center.

John Harrison- Love for Drawing Led to Architecture

John grew up in a small town in southeast Idaho in a farming community.  John was the first person in his family to graduate from a university. Finding that he loved to draw, he went to the University of Idaho to become an architect.  John moved to Seattle in the spring of 1990 and has been there ever since. He has been with Starbucks for the past 11 years.

I looked at my dad’s hands when I was about 10 or 11 years old and decided that I would be going to college.” – John Harrison

Sustainability Minded

John’s sustainability mindedness began in Environmental Control System and Design classes in school.  His professor, Bruce Haglund, an offspring of a movement in the late 70’s early 80’s where it was about integrating both active and passive systems to heat, cool, provide daylight.  This was not a time when sustainability was a keyword in architecture.

So it’s something that has been implanted in my since I was 19-20 years old so ever since then it has been about integrating architecture and engineering systems to some degree.” – John Harrison


Burt Gregory, CEO at one time of Mithun and is still there as a partner.  John first worked with him on the REI flagship store in Seattle which was a groundbreaking project in sustainability.  Burt also taught John how to get projects done and that the architect doesn’t have to be passive but an active member of projects.  Rob Deering, another mentor was a huge influence by being a hard worker with high expectations for quality. At Starbucks, Tony Gail is the mentor who pulled him into the current susta

When I came here to Starbucks, Tony Gail who was the corporate architect became another mentor was the one who pulled me into the program we built at Starbucks, the sustainability program.” – John Harrison


John is a LEED Fellow which is a culminates years of work and he highly recommends that you take advantage of this.  REI built a flagship just outside of central Tokyo, Japan. While it wasn’t that successful financially for the company, the building itself was. One of the best integrated both active and passive sustainable projects that John has ever done.  At the same time he was working on a project on island with the Environmental Learning Center on Brambridge Island and it ended up being on of the first 5 LEED Gold projects in the world. Listen to the podcast to hear more achievements.

At the time we really didn’t know what LEED was about it was just one of these things emerging and it was on the cutting edge but we decided to try it and it ended up being a groundbreaking experience for us.” – John Harrison


John is really relationship driven and gets a lot out of peer connection.  He loves doing presentations, podcasts to share and to learn from others. John also believes that everyday that you need to try and learn something.  

“A job is a job, but a career is a highly orchestrated and random things at the same time where you need to take in information; it may not mean anything for 6 months or 6 years but it eventually turns into something that you can utilize to make progress. ” – John Harrison

To hear more about John’s journey with sustainability, download and listen to the episode!

Book Suggestions:


The Curious Incident of the Dog and the Night-Time by Mark Haddon

Epitaph for a Peach by David M. Masumoto

Learn more about John Harrison:


Starbucks celebrates 1,000 LEED-certified stores

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