Every year, Earth Day mobilizes millions of Americans to serve our planet. I’m fortunate to work for a company that celebrates Earth Day each day through the work we do to make every building we touch more efficient. I joined the company more than 19 years ago because my personal passions aligned so well with the company’s values, and I’ve never looked back. To put that statement into context, when I was interviewing, I was wrapping up a thesis design project for a heat recovery system at the Staten Island Ferry System in Manhattan to use the Hudson River as a heat source/sink. Fast forward to today and I’m still designing alternative solutions for energy use such as an eco-district to serve our first zero-energy building, Catalyst, and others on the South Landing campus in Spokane.
I care deeply about our planet, and I’ve been told that sometimes my passion for the environment may come across as extreme. I’ll take that as compliment! So maybe it’s true that I take an air quality monitor on vacation. And maybe I build bee houses every spring with my daughters for one of our native pollinators, the mason bee. Would you be surprised to know, or should I be embarrassed to say that I make sure misplaced recycling finds its way into the appropriate bins at home?
My “extreme” passion for our environment carries over into my work every day where I have the opportunity to innovate with teams to make better decisions that meet current building needs while advocating for the next generation.
The Catalyst Building, as an example, balances the built and natural environment. The five-story zero-energy building uses more than 4,000 square meters of sustainable cross-laminated timber (CLT), offsetting nearly 5,000 metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions (equivalent to removing 1,100 cars off the road for a year). What’s more, North American forests can regrow that 4,000 square meters of renewable timber in less than 11 minutes. And this doesn’t even account for the large PV array on the roof and elsewhere to get it net zero. Our planet can do amazing things!
Long-term sustainability is also taking center stage at the University of Northern Colorado. McKinstry will soon install an on-campus solar PV array that will produce 4.7 million kWh of electricity over the next 20 years, offsetting more than 3,300 metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions. That’s enough to offset the equivalent of 706 cars driving more than 8 million miles. The system also provides hands-on education opportunities for students that will drive energy innovation for years to come.
Today, I’ll celebrate Earth Day reflecting on how grateful I am to be working on projects like these that will make a positive difference for years to come, and I’ll act by continuing to teach the next generation to be curious. Doing so is how we’ll collectively find the environmental solutions our planet needs.
Earth Day creates a powerful call to action to serve our planet. McKinstry is committed to answering that call. I, personally, hope that you’ll join us. Be well and do good. Together, we can build a thriving planet.