We have the pleasure of announcing that JD Harper has joined Paladino in a Consultant role, working from our DC office. JD is a purpose-driven designer with more than a decade of project experience. JD was a perfect fit for our firm because her approach finds clarity in complexity, and she shines as a client educator, helping architects, developers, and building owners link their business objectives to their relationship with the environment through sustainability, resilience, and wellness.
Tell us about your background and what led you to Paladino.
I started out as a graphic designer, and my clients were often looking for ecologically conscious solutions. For example, a client wanted recyclable plastic packaging made from recycled content for their product. I would struggle to find sustainable solutions for things like packaging and manufactured items, which got me thinking about product life cycles and supply chains. One thing led to another, and I eventually decided to pursue a graduate architecture degree at RIT’s Golisano Institute for Sustainability. In practicing architecture, my favorite work was coordinating sustainability projects, and now Paladino has given me the opportunity to fill my days with sustainability-focused work from start to finish. This is exactly where I want to be right now.
Where do you find inspiration in your work?
I find inspiration in nature. We are surrounded by millions of years of evolution on the planet, and these beautiful ecological systems are in jeopardy. I like to model design systems after examples in nature to discover simple and effective solutions that ultimately are most easily adoptable.
What direction do you think green building is headed? Where do you see the industry in ten years?
I expect a big push towards more actual performance data and better tools to help project teams make the business case for sustainable design. Smarter buildings can provide real-time feedback through Building Automation Systems, so people will engage with their built environments in a continuous conversation. Demands for greater transparency about the real impacts of our choices will be part of the learning tools building occupants use to manage their experience and carbon footprint. I see people get excited when they can understand their direct relationship to the services used in operating the buildings they spend so much of their lives in.
What role does sustainability play in your life outside work? What does it mean to you?
Sustainability at home revolves around energy, materials, and waste. For example, living in a right-sized apartment allows us to maintain a comfortable environment without conditioning more space than we need. We maintain a mostly plant-based diet, avoiding animal products for health and environmental reasons. At home, we try to minimize our waste by being thoughtful about packaging, reusing when we can, composting, and recycling. One of the best tricks I recently learned was how to collect our compost in the freezer until it is ready to take to the municipal compost bins. This was a game changer to avoid stinky compost in apartment living!
What is one positive impact you feel sustainability will support in the world?
Sustainability contributes to equity. There is an opportunity to bridge the gap between economic growth and ecological health when the systems are linked. Humans’ ability to flourish on Earth depends on the health and vitality of our natural resources. Talking about sustainability goals in terms of human health is easier to understand for all stakeholders. Within the boundaries of equity, food security is directly linked to the health of our ecological and agricultural systems. I think food might be the core reason I am so passionate about protecting our environment.
What do you do in your leisure time?
This is an interesting question for me right now because I am trying to create more leisure/playtime for myself. I am so focused on achieving certain professional goals that I have forgotten about my hobbies! One thing that has remained consistent, though, is walking outdoors whenever I need a break.
What are three things you can’t live without?
I am going to approach this in a very literal way, but I also have a fondness for each, so bear with me. I cannot live without water, food, or sleep. Our bodies are made up of mostly water, and so is our planet. I find food is the best way to experience a culture, and with my family ties to Peru and Spain, I believe food is love. And sleep, or recharging, is a must because I am usually go-go-go while I am awake.
What are you most proud of?
I am most proud of the relationships I have built over the highs and lows of my career, and for maintaining a positive outlook through it all. To me, attitude is everything. It does not matter what prickly situation I have found myself in, with a can-do attitude and collaborative environment there is no limit to what you can accomplish!
Is there anything else that you’d like to know about JD? Ask away in the comments section below!