We are pleased to announce Katie Rothenberg as Paladino’s Managing Director for the DC office. Katie transitioned into a career in sustainability when she joined the U.S. Green Building Council in 2008 and has been an advocate for change in the built environment ever since. Her experience includes corporate sustainability strategy and reporting alongside executing programs centered on portfolio management, operations, construction, innovation, and the non-profit arena. In her role as Managing Director Katie will be a driving force for Paladino’s impact in the DC market and beyond, bringing her business and people-centered approach to projects, company culture, and performance.
Katie Rothenberg is a regular speaker and expert on issues related to green building practices including material health, innovation, green building R&D, chemical transparency, and high-performance strategies.
Katie is a perfect fit for Paladino because of her abundance mindset, creative approach to problem-solving, and her gift for authentic collaboration. Join us in learning more about Katie’s journey to Paladino.
Tell us about your background and what led you to Paladino.
Falling into sustainability during the market downturn of 2008 was likely the best thing that ever happened to me because I could apply my real estate expertise to the green building movement. Since my start at USGBC, I’ve worked in operations and construction, created corporate sustainability programs, and nurtured my passion for carbon and healthy materials. I’ve always respected Paladino for its forward-thinking strategies and world-class projects, and Paladino’s approach to articulating sustainability’s business value to clients sealed the deal for me. Paladino’s perspective aligns so closely with my background and I am absolutely humbled to be leading the team here in DC.
Where do you find inspiration in your work?
A-ha moments! Those moments you realize you’ve explained a particular sustainability strategy and helped an executive embrace sustainability in a meaningful way. These can be small wins – a building retro-commissioning program or a design tweak that enhances the health of a space for occupants; And they can also be big wins – helping organizations invest in sustainability at the asset, portfolio, or corporate level. I’m lucky to surround myself with passionate professionals that do an incredible job sharing their knowledge and making a difference. They inspire me every day.
What direction do you think green building is headed? Where do you see the industry in ten years?
Investors focused on ESG are making a significant impact on the way organizations view corporate sustainability, as illustrated by the frequency that ESG topics are covered in Bloomberg, Barons, CNBC, etc. Action, transparency, and reporting are no longer a nice to have – they are a business imperative. I see this continuing to grow on two fronts:
The first is carbon. Buildings make up nearly 40% of global carbon emissions, and there will be a continued focus on both operational and embodied carbon. We will see a price on carbon within the next 10 years, and smart people will be out front.
The second front is health and chemical transparency. Employees are the primary value driver (and cost) for most organizations, and strategies to provide workers with healthy productive environments will be common. We’ve seen the market react to remove known harmful chemicals such as BPA in water bottles, and as awareness increases, I expect to see the market grow from a few leaders focused on chemical avoidance toward widespread adoption by the AEC community of third-party transparency tools used to easily confirm the safety of materials and their chemical inputs. We should all want healthy spaces available across the real estate spectrum from hospitals or class A office buildings to affordable housing, and making chemical transparency more understandable will be key.
What role does sustainability play in your life outside work? What does it mean to you?
Outside of work, I’m focused on the next generation of sustainability leaders. My husband and I are lucky to have two great kids, 9 and 6. They are smart and curious, and we spend lots of time discussing climate change and protecting the environment. Recently my 6-year-old son casually tied microplastics in raindrops to plastic pollution in the ocean as we drove to the grocery store. My mind was blown. Last year I was asked to speak with my daughter’s 2nd-grade class about the UN Sustainable Development Goals. After briefly describing the 17 goals as a framework for inspiring action, I stood in awe while they quickly connected reduced equalities, hunger, biodiversity, and climate action to deforestation. This is our future.
What do you do in your leisure time?
These days I spend a lot of time on the sidelines of my kids’ soccer, baseball, and basketball games. I learned a lot from playing team sports, so I’m thrilled to see my kids doing the same. When the weather is nice, I get out and play golf. I enjoy cooking and testing out new gluten-free recipes. Outside of my day-to-day, I love to travel, including recent trips to Sedona and California – we look forward to Spring Break in the Caribbean!
What are three things you can’t live without?
Needless to say, my family is #1, so I will give you three more.
- Deva Curl Hair Gel – you curly-haired ladies know how crazy we are about our product!
- Overnight Oatmeal – anyone who works with me knows that I am obsessed. It can be breakfast or lunch, it travels, and it fits perfectly in old jelly jars! What’s not to like?
- Pilates – my weekly class keeps me sane.
What are you most proud of?
Professionally, two things: One was working with Wells Fargo to create and manage their volume certification program in support of their 2020 Environmental Goals centered on energy, water, and waste reduction. I worked across the organization to garner support from all levels and had the joy of engaging with incredible people who moved the needle in portfolio operations day-to-day. The second was the delivery of the Co|Lab R&D facility for HITT Contracting, where I most recently ran sustainability and innovation. Co|Lab was our first Mass Timber building, and the first in Virginia. There were other firsts, including the pursuit of ILFI’s Material Petal. My team came together to create something that will help change the industry, and I’m proud to have been a part of it.
Is there anything else that you’d like to know about Katie Rothenberg? Ask away in the comments section below and find her on LinkedIn!