Max Kiefer (Mgmt’04; OrgMgmt’21) spent the last two decades building a career as a sustainability professional, holding positions at Costar, CB Richard Ellis and Healthy Buildings International. Today he serves as the sustainability director at Wynd, an air monitoring and purification technology company operating in over 100 countries around the globe.
What was your favorite part about your time at CU?
The highlight has to be a business class I took called “Profiles in American Enterprise” that allowed undergrads to be teaching assistants to a class of 30, give a presentation to over 1,000 people, connect with CEOs — mine was Patagonia CEO Michael Crooke — and become a published author.
Could you tell us a little about what Wynd does?
What we really focus on is speciation and contextualization — basically telling you exactly what’s in the air. Our monitors and purifiers communicate with one another through connected sensors. These sensors can pull in particulate matter and tell if it’s pollen, mold or smoke from a cigarette, and instruct the purifier to respond accordingly. We then aggregate all this data in a mapping system to give consumers a report of their space’s air quality.
Why does indoor air quality matter?
People spend more time inside now, and indoor air quality can be nine to 10 times worse than outdoor air quality. Things like office buildings and apartment complexes used to be just for the owners to monitor and manage. But now, individuals have more access to data and have the power to ask questions and push for change in the places that they live, work and play.
What creates poor indoor air quality?
Poor indoor air quality often comes from simple things people don’t pay attention to: cooking, vacuuming, cleaning — even carbon dioxide from breathing. Improving indoor air quality often comes down to educating individuals on simple items to improve their space, such as opening windows. The COVID-19 pandemic also changed the way people talk about air quality. With the pandemic, we became more aware of how viruses travel through the air — and poor air quality makes that spreading even easier and compounds the ramifications.
What gives you hope for the future of air quality?
I’m hopeful that with more data out there we can continue to uncover solutions to maintaining better air quality. I’m also optimistic about the direction sustainability is heading. It’s evolving to incorporate health and wellness and environmental justice, ensuring these technologies will bring all individuals — particularly those who have been marginalized in the past — forward to the future of healthy buildings.
Photo courtesy Max Kiefer