Energy Interns Work on Presidents’ Climate Commitment and LEED Certification
06/21/12 by Kathy Chaffin
Three paid fellows and an intern hired through a grant from the N.C. Energy Office have helped Catawba College move closer to carbon neutrality and advanced the Center for the Environment’s pursuit of LEED certification for its building.
Craig A. Midgett of Huntersville conducted research for the campus-wide American College and University Presidents’ Climate Commitment and LEED certification for the Center’s sustainable facility.
As a LEED-accredited professional, Michael A. Smith of Charlotte worked primarily on the Center's application for certification. He said working for a nonprofit broadened his collaboration skills.
"It's been rewarding working with people who are brilliant," he said, "and promoting issues that matter that do not necessarily equate to getting a bigger profit margin."
Rebecca Turner of Charlotte focused her attention exclusively on the Presidents’ Climate Commitment. “I looked at Catawba’s carbon emissions and compared this year’s emissions to last year’s,” she says. “I think this will be very helpful as college officials make decisions that will help the campus become carbon neutral.”
Intern David Idol of Kernersville worked closely with Midgett and Smith on the LEED certification application. Among the things he learned is how many people are impacted by the Center's programs such as its Campaign for Clean Air and the annual "Redesigning Our Future: National Environmental Summit for High School Students."
"There's a lot more going on here than I realized," Idol said.
Midgett, who grew up on the Outer Banks, came to the Center with a versatile background. He earned an associate of fine arts degree in technical theater from the College of the Albemarle in Elizabeth City and worked in theater for 12 years before enrolling at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, graduating with a bachelor of science degree in civil engineering.
Midgett said he enjoyed working with Smith and Idol and learned a lot from the Center staff. While working for various regional theaters – including four Tony Award-winning companies -- Midgett served in such capacities as technical director, managing teams of people constructing sets.
Working for the Center, however, required him to develop softer, more malleable management skills. "John (Wear, the Center’s executive director) and Cathy (Holladay, director of operations) and everyone here helped to foster that softer side of myself," Midgett said. "My people skills have really flourished here."
The fellowship has benefited him in many different ways, he said. "It gave me an opportunity to work with people who are just out of school or are just starting in the sustainability field ... I am grateful for the opportunity, and I thank the Center, the (N.C.) Department of Commerce, the state Energy Office for allowing me the opportunity to serve the environment in this way for the past year."
Smith earned a bachelor's degree in architecture from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte in 1991. When the economic downturn started a few years back, "architecture and construction got hit pretty bad," he said, "and it's still not completely recovered."
In an effort to hone his skills, Smith returned to school, earning a sustainability technology applied associate's degree from Central Piedmont Community College in Charlotte last year. He worked on the Center's LEED certification application, which is an extensive process addressing not only the design of the building but the staff's sustainability practices and interactions with other entities on campus. "It's a lot of documentation," he said.
LEED certification is awarded on a point system, with platinum being the highest, followed by gold, silver and a "certified" status. "This building was built to LEED standards to some degree," Smith said, "so we're certainly going to shoot for silver, and definitely gold is within our range."
Smith said it was a rewarding experience. "I have a deeper appreciation for collaborating with people," he said. "John is a big proponent of collaboration, and that's actually something I always appreciated.
"Even as an architect, you have to deal with different clients and engineers.
Turner, who earned both her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in civil and environmental engineering from UNC-Charlotte, said she learned about air quality and how carbon emissions impact the environment during her fellowship.
Idol graduated from Catawba in 2009 with a bachelor of science degree in biology and a minor in chemistry. As an intern, Idol said has worked closely with Midgett and Smith. "With Craig having the engineering background and Mike having the architectural background," he said, "it was a good mix in the office .... We sort of balanced and worked very well together."
Idol said working at the Center has helped him to become more conscious about saving energy not only at work but at the Legacy Farms he runs with his cousin. "If you do more of the little things," he said, "they'll add up to the big things.”