The Green Engineer, Inc. is a sustainable design consulting firm specializing in solutions to design, build, and operate buildings with improved energy efficiency and reduced impact on the environment. Founded in 2005 by Chris Schaffner, PE, LEED Fellow, the firm has a technical staff of fifteen LEED-Accredited Professionals. The expert team brings to the table experience and perspective from a variety of backgrounds including engineering, architecture, construction, planning, development, and public policy. We practice Integrative Design and see sustainability as a core goal shared by design team members and stakeholders. Our practice uses tools such as energy and daylight modeling and life-cycle assessment of materials to analyze performance and inform our decision-making. We also consult for non-LEED clients, including affordable housing and other non-profit developers. To date, we have managed or been involved in more than 122 LEED certified projects in New England and around the country.

 

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Principals Sarah Michelman, Chris Schaffner, and Erik Ruoff

Principals Sarah Michelman, Chris Schaffner, and Erik Ruoff


Chris Schaffner, P.E., LEED Fellow

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The Green Engineer founder, Chris Schaffner, P.E., LEED Fellow, is a professional mechanical engineer registered in Massachusetts, California, and Vermont. Chris has been a member of the USGBC faculty since 2001, training more than 9,600 building industry professionals in the LEED rating system. He is an elected member of the USGBC's Advisory Council, and is on the LEED Advisory Committee, in addition to serving as a part-time faculty member at Northeastern University.

How did you become involved with sustainable design?

Before I started building green, I felt a separation between my professional life and my personal thoughts and beliefs–I did what I thought my boss/client/peers wanted, instead of what I thought the best answer was. When I listened to the inner voice that told me to trust my own judgment, and do what I thought was best, it made all the difference.

What do you like to do when you are not working? 

Although I don't look like one, I am an avid runner and will be running in the 2016 Boston Marathon. My mantra is, "Someone has to finish last–why not me?"

What is one small change you wish every building would undergo? 

I think we need every building to announce to visitors how much energy it is using.

When you teach, what is the one thing you want your students to walk away with?

I hope they are as energized about the possibilities of green building as I am. Getting involved with LEED has been a life-changing experience for me, and I want to share that experience with others.

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Erik Ruoff

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How did you become involved with sustainable design?

As a lifelong environmentalist I struggled to figure out how to have the most beneficial impact. I left school on the path for a career in environmental law, but became disenchanted by what I saw as the available options in the field. Too many positions in environmental law were struggling to make change, or worse, working for the wrong side. While I contemplated a career change (and chased the perfect ski day), I started working on single-family residential construction projects where I held every position from laborer to team leader. My 'ah-ha' moment came while working on a project in Colorado that had a motivated homeowner who was interested in energy efficient design. There I realized that sustainable design presented the perfect opportunity to merge my educational background in environmental theory and my experiential expertise in building construction. Working in sustainable design provides the opportunity to make real measurable environmental impacts in a sector that consumes huge amounts of energy and resources. I connected with Chris in late 2005 and became The Green Engineer's first employee in 2006.

What one thing do you want your clients to walk away with from their interactions with you?

I want them to understand that our services not only got them a plaque on the wall, but created a space that is durable, efficient and a better place to live and work.

What small green action do you advocate for in your daily life?

I spend extra money on fresh, local and/or organic food.

What is the most recent book you read?

I finally got around to reading Michael Pollan's, The Omnivore's Dilemma and, yes, it is as good as everyone says it is.

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Marie Nolan

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How did you become involved with sustainable design?

I became involved with sustainable design while working as the Sustainable Design Research Coordinator for the Massachusetts Sustainable Design Roundtable, whose mission was to 'green' state buildings. Chris, the founder of TGE, was a member of the roundtable.

What do you like to do when you are not working?

I love hiking in the White Mountains with my family and my dogs.

What small green action do you advocate for in your daily life?

Turn off the tap!

What is one small change you wish every building would undergo?

I wish every building would automatically enter their energy data/utility bills into a program like Portfolio Manager to compare their energy use over time and with similar buildings.

What is the most recent book you read?

While I was recently in Australia I read Diamonds and Dust, an autobiography by Sheryl McCorry, the first woman to run a million-acre cattle station in the outback.

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Ruth Lewis

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What have you learned about LEED?

LEED has changed from an unknown acronym to an eminently sensible way to look at buildings.

What do you like to do when you are not working?

Read books, play the piano, watch my daughter play soccer.

What small green action do you advocate for in your daily life?

I stopped using the dryer a couple of years ago (except for my husband's shirts, which I refuse to iron).

What is one small change you wish every building would undergo?

Don't overheat in winter and overcool in summer.

What is the most recent book you read?

A Separate Peace by John Knowles.

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Neetu Siddarth

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Describe your first LEED project or other LEED experience and what you have learned.

The most interesting experience I have had thus far is on the Northeast Veteran Training and Rehabilitation Center project, where I worked both as an energy modeler and LEED project manager.The dedication of the design team towards sustainability and LEED as a design tool, rather than a marketing strategy, was the winning point for this project. Quickly the project moved from just being LEED certified to a potential gold rating.

What is one small change you wish every building would undergo?

I would like all buildings to be designed for natural ventilation whenever weather permits, rather than centrally air-conditioned closed boxes.

What do you like to do when you are not working?

I love skiing and climbing mountains when I am not working.

What is the most recent book you read?

Recently I read Funny in Farsi, a tale about growing up Iranian in the U.S. with language problems. Being born and brought up in India, I could relate to the book, wondering how similar sentences could be worlds apart in meaning when spoken in India versus the US. Spoken Indian-English does sound funny in the U.S.

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Sarah Michelman

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How did you become involved with sustainable design?

As an architect I am acutely aware of the impact the built environment has on the natural environment. I was a big advocate for 'green' architecture in my former office. I was one of the founding members of the office's Sustainable Design Group and helped promote the importance of sustainable design within the office. I was the first member of the firm to work on multiple projects seeking LEED certification.

What one thing do you want your clients to walk away with from their interactions with you?

I would like them to perceive me as a friendly, reliable, sustainable design resource and valuable team member.

What is one small change you wish every building would undergo?

Automatic lighting controls, including the integration of photocells and occupancy sensors because people always leave lights on!

What small green action do you advocate for in your daily life?

I work with my children on the merits of turning off the lights and recycling. We do small things to respect the planet–we have a small urban garden where we work together to grow vegetables.

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Carrie Havey

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How did you become involved with sustainable design?

In my first couple of months in Boston I became very involved in the USGBC MA chapter. I had just started working at a landscape architect firm (my first landscape architecture job out of grad school) and was frustrated to be working on projects that required cutting down forest areas to put up cookie-cutter housing with a few trees in the front yard. I wanted to be doing something that made a positive impact on the environment. Getting involved in the USGBC chapter shifted my focus to sustainability and eventually led me to my current position.

Describe your first LEED project or other LEED experience and what you have learned.

One of my first LEED projects was the Mt. Auburn Cemetery Horticulture Center. I learned the importance of a design team that works together throughout the LEED process. An integrated design process can make a huge difference. This was a great team to work with; they were driven to make the project sustainable, not just LEED certified.

What small green action do you advocate for in your daily life?

Composting. I started a compost bin for my apartment building. It has been very successful and easy to do.

What is one small change you wish every building would undergo?

Low VOC product use. A change that doesn't have to cost a lot more money and has many health benefits.

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Anthony Hardman

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Describe your first LEED project and what you learned.

My first LEED project was for a new Caterpillar campus located in Panama. As an energy modeler, I gained substantial insight into the design challenges inherent to tropical climate zones. This project did not have personnel dedicated to the LEED certification process and most of the design team native to Panama were not LEED certified. It exemplified the importance of having dedicated LEED project managers.

How did you become involved with sustainable design?

As an Air Force Officer looking to transition out of the military, I had to decide between following a familiar aerospace engineering career path or try something new. I recognized the growth of the sustainability industry and was drawn to the challenge of reducing the energy footprint of buildings. As a result, my first position was with an HVAC design company that specialized in Geoexchange applications. It was the best career move I ever made!

What one thing do you want your clients to walk away with from their interactions with you?

I want my client to feel like they're working with a professional consultant who provides outstanding services and makes their job easier. Someone they would look forward to doing business with again.

What is one small change you wish every building would undergo?

A comprehensive energy audit. There are so many ways to save energy that don't require capital investment, and many more that can be implemented with no cost to the building owner through third party financing vehicles, grants and tax incentives.

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Vipul Singh

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Describe your first LEED project and what you learned.

My first LEED experience was working as an architect on the design of the Head Office for Spectral Services Consultants (in India), a USGBC Certified Platinum Green Building. Due its restrictive site, the project proved to be quite a challenge in achieving a delicate balance between building aesthetics and technological requirements for a Green Building. Working on this project helped me understand the importance of utilizing integrative design in order to achieve more energy and resource efficient buildings.

How did you become involved with sustainable design?

My interest in the field began as an undergraduate student of architecture in India. My discontent with the manner in which many developers and architects were indiscriminately working towards creating built environments separate from nature made me recognize the value of a specialized knowledge required in the design and operation of buildings. Having found a direction of interest, I opted to pursue a graduate degree in the built environment.

What one thing do you want your clients to walk away with from their interactions with you?

I would like to broaden the outlook of the people I work with and make them understand the importance of using energy-efficient design as a tool to strengthen both our cities and the environment. I hope to make them understand that sustainable design should go beyond just getting incentives and certifications.

What is one small change you wish every building would undergo?

To maintain an efficient building, it is important to educate and engage building occupants. Informing occupants of the green initiatives a facility has in place and educating them on measures that they can follow to be more resource efficient, can help ensure that the building operates in a sustainable manner.

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Matthew Smith

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How did you become involved with sustainable design?

During my undergraduate degree at Wentworth in Boston, I had opportunities to travel to Beijing, China and Phoenix, AZ to participate in studios and workshops. Both the studio program in Beijing and participating in Arcosanti in Arizona opened my eyes to unique examples of sustainable design and vernacular living methods, developing a passion that I’ve carried with me since.

What small green action do you advocate for in your daily life?

I’d say one subtle action that I tend to advocate is water use awareness in the kitchen; small things such as making sure the dishwasher is full before running or fridge defrosting versus sink defrosting with running water can help to reduce your daily demand for water. That small change can rack up a pleasant annual savings on a water bill too!

What is one small change you wish every building would undergo?

Taking advantage of roof space; be it with green roof applications, planter boxes, or mounting a few solar panels. There’s always some open square footage up there, and we’ve had it all along. 

What do you like to do when you're not working?

Photography sits prominently at the top of hobbies for me and it couldn’t be much more tied to who I am outside of work. From outdoor adventures to capturing spontaneous moments, taking photos of my surroundings is definitely something that will never get old. 

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Ryan Montoni

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How did you become involved with sustainable design?

I’ve always been mindful of the benefits involved with designing more sustainable infrastructure. My first opportunity to work in the building design industry came in high school when I was hired as an electrical design intern at an MEP firm. As an electrical designer, it was my responsibility to advise project team’s on selecting lighting fixtures and controls strategies that save energy. Throughout my career, I have maintained an interest in sustainable building strategies that can limit long-term recurring costs, address environmental concerns, and positively impact human health issues.  

What small green action do you advocate for in your daily life?

Reduce, reuse, and recycle!

What is one small change you wish every building would undergo?

All design and purchasing decisions should be made after examining life-cycle costs, rather than initial costs. 

What do you like to do when you're not working?

I enjoy spending time with my family and friends, and exploring the outdoors -- especially fishing and snowboarding. 

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Peter Levy

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How did you become involved with sustainable design?

I have always enjoyed designing and building, and have always appreciated the importance of environmental stewardship. One day, it occurred to me I could combine these two passions into a career.

What small green action do you advocate for in your daily life?

I try to grow as much food as I can during the summer. While it only accounts for a fraction of the food I consume, it helps me appreciate the real cost of food production, and helps to ease the pain of paying higher prices for local and organic foods at the grocer. 

What is one small change you wish every building would undergo?

Installing shading devices on appropriate windows.

What do you like to do when you're not working?

A good day involves designing and building furniture in the workshop, while my coonhound Buella looks on.

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Michael Munn

How did you become involved with sustainable design?

Long story, but I’ll try to be brief:  I always enjoyed doing things in beautiful natural places.  First, I learned to build all wooden timber frames in British Colombia.  The second push towards involvement came when I stayed with a sustainable living community in Costa Rica for a summer.  I helped construct buildings using all natural materials – timber frame structures from locally and sustainably-harvested teak, wattle and daub infill, and lime wash finish.  I can’t miss the opportunity to mention the renewable energy methane bio-digester we installed for cooking gas - that was fun.  This coincided with my educational focus in the AEC industry.  Luckily my university made a strong effort to teachthe students in my program sustainable design.  It all just came together.

What small green action do you advocate for in your daily life?

Less water waste.

What is one small change you wish every building would undergo?

More foot pedal water faucet controls - not the bulky garish ones.  I saw in Korea some sleek, unobtrusive flat-foot pads to turn on water faucets.  I really like those.  I’ll install them when I own a home.  The ability to operate the flow of water hands free can really reduce a lot of water waste, in my opinion.

Thoughts about emerging trends in sustainability?

I personally think policy is pushing sustainability hard, at least in Mass.  The efforts to reduce energy consumption in the built environment, on a large scale, will be a continuous challenge for the (AEC) industry.  I’d bet that will remain the case until goals are met. I’m interested in what comes after those goals have been achieved.

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Bradley Newkirk

How did you become involved with sustainable design?

Ever since the dawn of LEGOs in my childhood days I have been fascinated with the design and construction of buildings & structures. I always knew that I wanted to be a part of the building industry in some capacity.  Not until college did I begin to recognize the rapid development of the sustainable design industry. I saw it as an opportunity to pursue a passion while also making a difference and haven’t looked back since.

What small green action do you advocate for in your daily life?

Unplug the chargers for all my devices that aren’t being used.

What is one small change you wish every building would undergo?

It’s no small change but relax with the glass! Yes, it is nice to look at, and can provide abundant daylight and views for the occupants, but nowadays we are regularly seeing buildings that are nearly all glazing. That is insane to me. Glass is not a good insulator and, in turn, is very good at letting heat in and letting it escape causing a building to overheat in the summertime and be uncomfortably cold in the winter.

What one thing do you want your clients to walk away with from their interactions with you?

I want clients to value our insight and walk away knowing the benefits of using sustainability/energy-efficiency as a design tool instead of just a way to get a LEED plaque.

What do you like to do when you're not working?

Being lucky enough to grow up in a coastal town that is only a few hours drive to the mountains, I have developed a deep appreciation for the outdoors. Whether it is running, skiing, hiking, kayaking, going to the beach, or playing football, Spikeball or basketball – there is always something to do.

 

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Allison Zuchman

 

How did you become involved with sustainable design?

I saw an opportunity to approach architecture and construction projects more holistically and to help make decisions early in projects that have meaningful, long-term impacts on the common good. I am a big picture person and collaborator by nature – thoughtful and early integration of all disciplines and teamwork is the key to sustainable design.

Describe your first LEED project and what you learned.

One of my first LEED projects - really portfolio of projects - was with Hannaford Supermarkets. The team designed and built the first LEED Platinum grocery store. That prototype became a learning lab for greening corporate policies and implementing sustainable design strategies in existing stores and new stores for the company. I learned that strong leadership and a dedicated team are key to innovation. I also witnessed that institutional change takes time but when done comprehensively and inclusively can make a big impact.

What small green action do you advocate for in your daily life?

Supporting local agriculture. I get much of my produce from a local farm through a CSA. I even worked on a farm in Maine one summer in exchange for my farm share.

What one thing do you want your clients to walk away with from their interactions with you?

I want my clients to be inspired and to realize possibilities they had not thought of before for their projects.

 

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