Teresa Rainey of EYP: “The movement is to follow your passion”

Visit National Parks, enjoy walks on nature trails, learn about the local wildlife, build a birdhouse, bat house, or bee box — try to provide a habitat in your backyard. The summer trips my father took my family on had a significant impact on my passion for protecting the environment for future generations. As part of my […]

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Visit National Parks, enjoy walks on nature trails, learn about the local wildlife, build a birdhouse, bat house, or bee box — try to provide a habitat in your backyard. The summer trips my father took my family on had a significant impact on my passion for protecting the environment for future generations.

As part of my series about companies who are helping to battle climate change, I had the pleasure of interviewing Teresa Rainey, Director of Engineering, EYP (www.eypae.com).

Teresa Rainey brings 30 years of experience working on new construction and modernization projects to develop optimal systems to meet clients’ needs and expectations. She helps create spaces that provide the best indoor environments with building systems that use resources efficiently, and the right solutions are uncovered. To meet today’s most pressing climate challenges, next-generation technologies are essential, so Teresa partners with research institutions and national laboratories to provide industry guidance that helps advance these technologies.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

Growing up, my father always took my family on two-week vacations to National Parks. So, living in campgrounds, the appreciation for natural resources instilled in me early on. The “leave nothing behind mentality” meant that sometimes we would pick up other people’s trash if we found it scattered in the parks.

When I was in high school, my dad, an engineer, acquired a test and balance firm, so I often visited job sites with him and saw buildings under construction. I started to get excited about this career and followed in his footsteps, becoming a mechanical engineer. Early on in my career, I read many trade magazines with case studies of new technologies or creative ways technology is incorporated to make projects perform better. That piqued my interest in developing strategies that provide the best solution based on the project goals.

When LEED launched, I recognized this as my opportunity to get in front of teams at an early stage to brainstorm and determine strategies to save energy, improve our environment, and make our projects better. It’s something I got passionate about.

What is the mission of your company? What problems are you aiming to solve?

EYP serves mission-critical clients, and as a people-focused firm, our people are passionate about our clients’ mission.

We’re solving problems like how to provide better patient care, building systems with resilience so they can maintain operations easily in the long term, with the flexibility to adapt to changing technologies. We’re helping clients meet and potentially exceed those goals.

As we help clients improve their buildings’ sustainability, we’ve found it comes down to indoor environments. We evaluate building facades to ensure there’s the ability to access views and find comfort. With access to views comes the potential for too much sunlight, causing discomfort. So, we balance things like solar radiation and glare issues and fine-tune them to provide an optimal environment to improve patient recovery.

Can you tell our readers about the initiatives that you or your company are taking to address climate change or sustainability? Can you give an example for each?

We are signatories of the AIA 2030 Commitment, so every year, we report the energy performance of projects in design that calendar year. The data starts to give us information when we begin the next project. What measures did we incorporate to achieve those great performance results?

Our Green Lab is fully integrated in projects to start early exploration analysis to evaluate what’s possible. From the beginning, we identify opportunities and evaluate impacts, which helps us determine strategies to move forward with in the design. By making informed design decisions, we can tell clients the type of impact the design will achieve.

Sustainability is not just one thing. It’s not just energy. It’s all about the environment — indoor air quality, accessibility, and the way people work. Do they need flexible spaces? Or do they need options for a water use reduction system involving a review of the climate to determine if we can incorporate rainfall capture for reuse? It’s a myriad of strategies we’re exploring to distill down to what makes the most sense, and the client is part of that process.

How would you articulate how a business can become more profitable by being more sustainable and more environmentally conscious? Can you share a story or example?

This is a great question, so I wanted to bring in one of EYP’s designers, Alison Ledwith, to be part of the conversation and share some of her insight on the importance of sustainability and turning it into profit.

Teresa: I think it is about the people. When our people engage in projects with clients who care about the mission, they go above and beyond to solve problems. We get more creative because we understand there is a budget issue, but how can we achieve the same by integrating? As an integrated architecture and engineering firm, we can bring creative solutions and end up solving more than one problem with one strategy. We are getting the best value for those strategies because we’re passionate about helping the client achieve their goals.

Alison: I feel like a lot of our clients care about sustainability and being environmentally conscious. They don’t necessarily have the knowledge base that we have, and they’re looking for us to be the experts in the room and explain to them how they can achieve those goals. But there is passion on their side as well. They want to save money on their energy or water bills, but they also want to do the right thing. The idea is that because they care about it, we can start to care about what they care about.

Teresa: The Grinnell project is a good example. This is a campus that has aspirational goals for sustainability. The project itself is a classroom environment, and they were also very interested in preserving the prairie. They are in Iowa, and the water quality has been a real issue, so there’s a focus on how systems can help protect the prairie ecosystem. It was one of our projects that met the AIA 2030 challenge commitment with over 70% savings against a typical building.

Alison: There were many strategies employed to reach the energy reduction goals, including a geothermal well field used to provide alternative energy for their needs. Two of the buildings incorporated into the new complex were existing buildings, so we had to look at the buildings’ envelope and how it’s performing to improve the quality where we could. There’s also a greywater recycling system that uses rainwater and other sources to reduce water consumption. In addition to the many system-based items they were interested in pursuing, there were design priorities like access to natural light to minimize artificial lighting energy use.

The youth led climate strikes of September 2019 showed an impressive degree of activism and initiative by young people on behalf of climate change. This was great, and there is still plenty that needs to be done. In your opinion what are 5 things parents should do to inspire the next generation to become engaged in sustainability and the environmental movement? Please give a story or an example for each.

Visit National Parks, enjoy walks on nature trails, learn about the local wildlife, build a birdhouse, bat house, or bee box — try to provide a habitat in your backyard. The summer trips my father took my family on had a significant impact on my passion for protecting the environment for future generations.

Since most youth today are advanced in their understanding of the climate change issue, I think exposing them to opportunities for participation is where parents can help elevate their engagement. I would encourage parents to bring their children to local community meetings. Learning about local development activities and listening to neighbors speak about concerns or support for the activity provides exposure to a process where they can have a voice. This may lead to their interest in becoming involved with a local committee or organization focused on sustainability or environmental issues. The key is to expose them to opportunities and support their involvement.

Leading by example, I participate in ASHRAE committees and AIA activities that focus on sustainability and green building design, attend the US Green Building Council’s annual Greenbuild Conference, and share my work and these organizations’ goal with my children.

What is your “1 Thing I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why?

To have taken some architecture classes. Mainly for the appreciation of how the systems support the architectural goal and create the spaces envisioned. I learned by engaging in projects, but I would have benefited from understanding this from the beginning. Honestly, the exposure my dad provided gave me a pretty good sense of what I was getting into.

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?

I go back to my dad. Of all the things I already mentioned, the other thing he instilled is knowing how to defend a position. My dad always challenged my siblings and me. This was beneficial for me as an engineer because I learned that when pitching a new technology or strategy, I couldn’t just say, “this is the greatest thing because it’s going to save money.” I had to defend it in a way that addressed the challenges and risks. What is the client going to be concerned about, and then how do we incorporate controls or system measures that can prevent or protect that from that happening?

As a junior engineer, I was fortunate that leaders within my firm(s) did not shut me down but instead allowed me to explore and pitch my reasons to them. Again, based on my dad, who helped me groom and defend a position, I was able to come comprehensively with the benefits, the challenges, and how to overcome the challenges. That preparedness has helped me be successful.

You are a person of great influence and doing some great things for the world! If you could inspire a movement that would bring the greatest amount of good to the greatest amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

The movement is to follow your passion. Too many people find that they need to get a job and get a paycheck. How can you stick with doing what you love and find a way to do that? It’s about being engaged; it’s about exploring ways we can get more people connected. I feel like we have drifted apart into our little silos. In some respects, COVID-19 has helped with this. After all, we are talking to our neighbors more than we ever have because everyone is home. If there were some way to bring more community and passion, there would be so much good coming from it, but I do not know what that movement actually looks like.

Do you have a favorite life lesson quote? Can you tell us how that was relevant to you in your own life?

Albert Einstein said, “I have no special talents, I am only passionately curious.” I think that is so appropriate for me because, as an engineer, I’m not the technician; I’m not the guy installing or even conducting R&D on a particular component. I’m putting the pieces together. I’m always curious about how we can do better — not a cut and paste of what we did before, but an understanding of how those interrelationships occur to solve the whole problem. I’m passionate about the result and making sure it’s the best it can be. It always poses me to challenge what’s possible and continually be curious enough to solve the problems.

What is the best way for people to follow you on social media?

Teresa: https://www.linkedin.com/in/teresa-rainey-pe-leed-fellow-2


Alison: https://www.linkedin.com/in/alisonledwith


  • Instagram: @eypae
  • Twitter: @eypae
  • LinkedIn

This was so inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!

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