We’re sharing a conversation we had with NESEA Member and BE14 Conference Vice Chair and Conservation Services Group’s (CSG) Senior Project Manager, Matt Root.
NESEA: So who are you (as a sustainability professional)
Root: At the start, most of my work entailed ensuring good design was implemented properly in the field. The transition from the design phase through the construction phase is filled with potential ways in which actual performance can be compromised. Lately, I have been able to participate more and more on the design side as well, which is really interesting and exciting.
NESEA: How long have you been in this profession?
Root: I’ve been involved for 10 years now.
NESEA: Why sustainability?
Root: I got involved because I was looking for work that was more meaningful. Tackling energy efficiency in buildings is very important to me. It’s interesting, it’s rewarding, and it provides me with so many opportunities to learn and feel like I’m involved with something bigger than me.
NESEA: What brought you to NESEA?
Root: I volunteered at BuildingEnergy 2004. Back then, I was trying to break into the energy efficiency world, and had just interviewed with my current employer. They hired me just before the conference, so while I can’t credit BuildingEnergy with landing this job, I can credit it with creating excitement for this work. This excitement, I’m happy to say, still hasn’t worn off. Thanks to CSG’s ongoing involvement with NESEA, I’ve been able to be a part of the conference, and the wider organization, every year since.
… I can credit [BuildingEnergy] with creating excitement for my work.
NESEA: Why did you choose to get involved with BuildingEnergy? Why did you bring this track together [for speakers, ask what are you speaking in?
Root: I really wanted to give back. As I mentioned earlier, I’ve been able to benefit mightily from the work of previous conference planners, and this is my chance to help inspire someone (or hundreds of someones) through BuildingEnergy, as it inspired me.
NESEA: You’ve put a lot of work into organizing the Tuesday workshops. What made them so interesting for you?
Root: It’s been really interesting to figure out what the hot issues are that people in this field want to spend time with, and then match them up with the best mind in the industry. I’ve found great satisfaction in crafting a menu of workshops that are timely and interesting.
NESEA: What’s appealing about the NESEA community to you?
Root: I appreciate the camaraderie and the willingness of people to learn and share what they’ve learned with each other.
NESEA: What would you say is unique about NESEA?
Root:Simply put, the high concentration of really interesting people doing really interesting work. I’m constantly impressed with the quality of what they’re turning out. I go to national conferences fairly often, and the speakers just aren’t as good, the work isn’t as interesting.
NESEA: Why should someone from your profession come to BuildingEnergy?
Root: This is the most exciting brainstorming opportunity you’ll have this year. Not only will you learn a lot, you’ll also get to run your big ideas and pressing problems past really smart, talented people. There’s tremendous networking value here.
NESEA: What role can people from your profession play in the larger cause of advancing sustainability in the built environment?
Root: Our role is figuring out how to deliver efficient, healthy, comfortable homes to customers. There’s definitely an educational piece to this. While I personally don’t get much exposure to occupants, I think owner education is critical as we try to help standard homes get better and better. If we want more efficient buildings, the demand must come from the occupants and not just code requirements.
NESEA: Now let’s lay out the “Path to Mastery” for someone who is new to your profession. What specific workshops and sessions should a “newbie” absolutely attend to really succeed in the year ahead? Any demo stage presentations?
Root: For Tuesday Workshops, I would suggest Alex Wilson’s What Would the Founder of Environmental Building News Do orSlam Dunk Energy Reductions with the 1000 Home Challenge .
NESEA: What specific workshops and sessions should a seasoned professional attend to stay competitive?
Root: Again for Tuesday Workshops, I would suggest the Building America’s What’s Been Learned with Your Hard Earned Tax Dollars .
All of [our] grassroots work paid off, and now we just have to seize upon this opportunity to reap the energy and carbon savings.
NESEA: Any thoughts or predictions on how 2014 will shape up for this industry? Anything you’re excited for?
Root: From my vantage point, I’m concerned with increasing energy codes and planning requirements, like “certifiable”, and the expectation that buildings are improving because of standards. I think there should be a focus on enforcement of modest goals rather than the theoretical compliance of lofty requirements. Also, I want to avoid a backlash because the requirements are ratcheted up too quickly. The increasing stringency of energy/sustainability requirements is a good thing, we just need to make sure that the standards that are put in place are actually achieved and not just “gamed.”
But I don’t want to leave you with a gloomy forecast. I am genuinely looking forward to what 2014 has in store because I see a lot of excitement from the larger community. There is demand for better buildings, and we’re in a much better position to meet this demand. All of that grassroots work paid off, and now we just have to seize upon this opportunity to reap the energy and carbon savings.