State of the Planet

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Sustainability Management Alum Pursues Green Building Dreams

MS in Sustainability Management alum Jessica Bollhoefer (’12) works as a Senior Sustainability Consultant at  Goby L.L.C., a LEED and Energy Star consulting firm.

MS in Sustainability Management (MSSM) alum Jessica Bollhoefer (’12) is doing exactly what she set out to do when she began the program in the spring of 2011 – working with green buildings. Combined with her undergraduate background in architecture and her prior professional experience in construction, Jessica’s education in the MSSM program has proven invaluable to her in her current role as a Senior Sustainability Consultant at Goby L.L.C., a LEED and Energy Star consulting firm.

1. What is your current job?

I am a Senior Sustainability Consultant at Goby L.L.C., a LEED and Energy Star consulting firm. We aim to optimize the performance and cost efficiency of real estate by providing expertise in high impact sustainability planning, monitoring, and implementation for commercial, office, and real estate operations. We provide services including building retrofits, energy audits and simulation, Energy Star consultation, utility incentive opportunities, LEED consultation, marketing for green building achievements, real estate portfolio analysis and planning, risk management, and strategic initiative alignment.

2. Do your current job responsibilities align with the professional goals that you originally had when you began the MSSM program?

Absolutely. I have an undergraduate degree in architecture, so when I entered the MSSM program at Columbia, I knew that I wanted a career that focused on real estate development, renewable energy ventures, and green design. My current position in the Green Building industry allows me to utilize my newly acquired skills from the MSSM program, my educational background in architecture, and my professional experience in the fields of construction and real estate development.

3. What skills has the MSSM program taught you that you think have proven useful to your current position?

I found that a central theme of the MSSM program was recognizing and understanding the importance of trade-offs. Although many decisions are motivated by environmental or altruistic aspirations in the business world, these decisions often determined by economic factors. For instance, recycling efforts may divert waste from landfills, but this diversion is done the expense of increased energy usage. Trade-offs exist everywhere and it is imperative to understand all aspects of your audience’s motivations in order to best guide them toward sustainability. Personally, understanding these compromises has allowed me to connect with my clients and recognize the need to make environmental building initiatives economically feasible.

4. What skills and tools do you hope to acquire through this job?

The interactions that I have with clients on a daily basis will allow me to develop my understanding of what drives property management decisions. It is important to develop and manage environmentally conscious initiatives while recognizing the need for buildings to be economically feasible.

5. How has collaborating with your fellow students in class projects benefitted you professionally and personally?

On a professional level, I believe that the program’s Workshop course helped me to develop the constructive communication skills that I need in order to be able to effectively connect with my clients. As a member of my workshop group, I learned importance of being an active listener, namely discerning the situations in which I should take charge and the situations when I should sit back. There are times when it is appropriate to speak your mind, but other situations call for flexibility and receiving criticism. This balance can be difficult but team collaboration helps with that development.

Personally, the diverse professional backgrounds of the students in the MSSM program provided a unique and rewarding educational environment. It was very helpful to hear varying perspectives and opinions when discussing controversial environmental issues.

6. What kinds of environmental initiatives do you hope to start in your new position?

I hope to guide organizations toward meeting necessary social, economic, and environmental demands without succumbing to ecological compromise. Within the built environment, I hope to help improve operational efficiencies and social consciousness.

The MS in Sustainability Management, co-sponsored by the Earth Institute and Columbia’s School of Continuing Education, trains students to tackle complex and pressing environmental and managerial challenges. The MS in Sustainability Management program requires the successful completion of 36 credit points. Those credit points are divided among five comprehensive content areas: integrative sustainability management, economics and quantitative analysis, the physical dimensions of sustainability, the public policy environment of sustainability management, and general and financial management. Please visit our website to learn more about the program.

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Recent record-breaking heat waves have affected communities across the world. The Extreme Heat Workshop will bring together researchers and practitioners to advance the state of knowledge, identify community needs, and develop a framework for evaluating risks with a focus on climate justice. Register by June 15

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