Don’t get boxed in. Real Estate and construction have many different flavors. Those interested in mitigating the impact on the environment can look to sustainable building. Those interested in creating healthier environments for occupants, there’s a rising movement for you. Those interested in providing safe and affordable homes, there are many organizations with a variety of needs — from property management to development and even supportive services.
As a part of my series about strong women leaders of the Real Estate industry, I had the pleasure of interviewing Andrea Mancino.
Andrea leads the operations of the New York business unit for Bright Power in her role as Executive Vice President, New York. Pairing her deep technical expertise in building sustainable, high performing projects with an ability to create and execute efficient business processes, Andrea’s goal is to ensure the financial success of the business unit while delivering strong, proven services to our New York-based clients. Andrea is also very active in the industry, consulting with government agencies, green building programs, clients, and product manufacturers to ensure efficiency and sustainability goals can be met through proper goal setting and alignment.
Prior to her role as Executive Vice President, New York, Andrea led the New Construction division, which she co-founded after seeing an opportunity to expand Bright Power’s offerings to build green multifamily buildings from their conception. In her role as Director of New Construction, she managed team members working on ground-up new construction and commissioning projects, supervised long-term strategic planning for the division, and helped cultivate client relationships.
Ultimately, Andrea’s mission is to continuously improve the standard of energy efficiency and sustainability best practices across the development, design, and construction industries.
Andrea is an active volunteer for GreenHomeNYC and is a proud member of the Women in Construction advocacy group. She also is a 2019 Environmental + Energy Leader 100 honoree.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us the “backstory” about what brought you to the Real Estate industry?
Istarted out my career doing energy efficiency work for residential properties. But I wanted to make a bigger impact. I saw there was a need to reduce carbon emissions from buildings and knew that working on larger multifamily buildings would have an even bigger impact. So, I shifted my career to focus on those buildings. And New York City certainly has a large stock of multifamily buildings!
Can you share with our readers the most interesting or amusing story that occured to you in your career so far? Can you share the lesson or take away you took out of that story?
I was attending a construction meeting for a building rehabilitation in the basement of the property. We met while the property was under construction, so it was an active construction site. While I was meeting with this group, one of the workers drilled through a plank in the ceiling above us and the ceiling collapsed! We were sitting about three feet from where the worker fell through the ceiling. So the moral of the story: always wear your hard hat and always watch where you’re going! Don’t worry — the worker ended up being ok.
Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?
I’m excited to be in a new role at Bright Power where I’ll be leading the operations of the New York business unit. One of my goals in that role is to continue to be a part of the industry and to build partnerships to drive high-performance and energy-efficient buildings.
An example of this is a pilot project we’re working on where we are aiming to create a Passive House or net-zero existing building rehab that’s scalable and cost-effective — all while keeping the building’s tenants in place. Not a small task! This is extremely important because this type of rehab has not been figured out yet. I’m proud that my team is part of this cutting edge team that will create strategies to address all of the issues and concerns. This is a very exciting learning opportunity both for the industry and for us!
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
Our Find, Fix, Follow approach is quite unique for the industry. We Find energy and water waste and opportunities for renewables. We Fix buildings to waste and maximize performance. And we Follow the data and react quickly to performance issues. Many companies drop off after they fix issues, which can reduce a building owner’s return on investment. Not us!
Bright Power is also very active in the industry. We consult with government agencies, green building programs, clients, and product manufacturers to ensure efficiency and sustainability goals can be met through proper goal setting and alignment. That pilot project I mentioned is an example of that. We’re working with key stakeholders to help define energy efficiency and renewable energy goals, and we’re working with New York State and New York City to achieve those goals. We’ve become the “go-to” expert.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
Andy Padian helped me break into the city’s energy efficiency network. He taught me the complex art of networking and to always stay humble. Most importantly, he taught me the value of paying it forward throughout my career. I make it a priority to mentor and teach others in the field, especially other women.
Ok. Thank you for all that. Let’s now jump to the main core of our interview. The Real Estate industry, like the Veterinarian, Nursing and Public Relations fields, is a women dominated industry. Yet despite this, less than 20 percent of senior positions in Real Estate companies are held by women. In your opinion or experience, what do you think is the cause of this imbalance?
There definitely is an inertia that is preventing us from breaking the status quo. The good news is that, in my circles, I’ve seen a significant increase of women in leadership roles in the past five years. While there’s still work to do, women are slowly infiltrating senior leadership positions. It definitely will take time to cut down biased thinking that, unfortunately, still exists.
Having advocates and allies will help speed it along. Creating alliances with other forward-thinking companies is a great way to perpetuate that positive change and encourage the continued growth of women in leadership roles.
It’s also important for women to continue to build networks to support each other and lift each other up.
What 3 things can be done by a)individuals b)companies and/or c) society to support greater gender balance going forward?
Individuals can join and build networks that support women in the industry, and work together to be advocates. There are lots of fantastic organizations that you can join across the country.
Companies have the ability to inspire change at the individual and societal level. Individual companies can create alliances with other forward-thinking companies and vendors. They can also foster environments that develop and boost all of their employees. Most importantly, they can be aware of and break down conventional bais — when they are hiring, promoting, even in meetings.
In your opinion, what are the biggest challenges faced by women executives that aren’t typically faced by their male counterparts?
Unconscious bias. There are biases that women need to push past before they can show their worth and provide value. Men don’t have to do that, so they have a head start. But, as those biases get broken down, the playing field evens out.
Can you share 3 things that most excite you about the Real Estate industry?
Innovation. Buildings are being built in a completely different way than they have in the past and they are including new features like accessible rooftops.
Connection to something larger. New buildings are being built with a holistic approach taking health, community, energy efficiency, aesthetics, and comfort into consideration. And that’s in both affordable housing and market rate housing.
Lastly, people understand the connection between energy efficiency and the financial health of a building. These days, it’s a win-win for everyone — whether you’re a sustainability person or you’re a finance person. The proof is clear that energy efficiency isn’t just saving the world, it’s also saving people money.
Can you share 3 things that most concern you about the industry? If you had the ability to implement 3 ways to reform or improve the industry, what would you suggest?
Even with the connection between energy efficiency and the financial health of a building, it still can be very hard to finance high-efficiency projects while maintaining the innovation and thoughtful design. A way to fix that is to work with financial institutions to increase their awareness of those constraints and find creative solutions to address them.
Building on that, the upfront costs of a lot of these high-performance energy efficiency measures and systems are quite high. It becomes a decision for the design team: do we keep these high performing systems and potentially sacrifice something else, or do we leave them out. Again, working with financial institutions to help them understand the payback and return on investment for high-performance systems should help address this issue.
There needs to be a focus to continue to balance the three pillars of sustainability: social equity, economic viability, and environmental protection. Creating a balanced project that does not overly sacrifice one of those can be challenging. But, incentivizing people to keep those three pillars in balance is a great way to address that concern. There are incredible programs through the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) that are working to address all three of these concerns. The outcomes of these programs are more data and proof of concept. And there are other organizations like NYSERDA across the country that are working to do the same.
What advice would you give to other leaders to help their team to thrive?
Encourage collaboration and build your internal and external networks.
Ok, here is the main question of our interview. You are a “Real Estate Insider”. If you had to advise someone about 5 non intuitive things one should know to succeed in the Real Estate industry, what would you say? Can you please give a story or an example for each?
- There are going to be a lot of things that you try that have never been done before. Many times those things won’t work the way you planned. So, continuing to refine your strategy based on what you’ve learned in the field or through your experience is critical. An example of this is that it was industry standard to use spray foam insulation within walls because of its high R-value per inch. But, we found out that it is highly flammable and toxic. Now we don’t recommend it anymore!
- Being charismatic is important! It helps people trust you and it breaks down those unconscious biases that may be present.
- Networking is actually crucial. It’s helped me grow our New Construction department with all-stars. Especially if you are in a niche industry, having contacts in other companies can help you grow your career. It also helps you learn about best practices. And it will help you find a mentor.
- Don’t get boxed in. Real Estate and construction have many different flavors. Those interested in mitigating the impact on the environment can look to sustainable building. Those interested in creating healthier environments for occupants, there’s a rising movement for you. Those interested in providing safe and affordable homes, there are many organizations with a variety of needs — from property management to development and even supportive services.
- When you’re working on a deal, figure out what speaks to that person and shape your proposal around their goals. Tailor your approach to what speaks to someone for the best outcome. Not everyone shares the same motivations and it’s important to think about what the other person cares about and needs.
Because of your position, you are a person of enormous influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the greatest amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
Improving the quality and efficiency of affordable housing to create places where people can be healthy, share a sense of community, and live in a high performing building that they find pride in. This means a lot because historically, those buildings and populations have been ignored and given the bare minimum.
How can our readers follow you online?
Thank you for your time, and your excellent insights!