Born Into Home Performance—Q&A with Maureen Mahle
Maureen Mahle is the vice president and director of Sustainable Housing Services for Steven Winter Associates, Inc. She’s also new to the Home Energy Board of Directors. As a welcome to the board, and as an introduction to our readers, we decided to get to know Maureen a little better. Below is our conversation.
Home Energy: As a newcomer to the Home Energy Board, what can you say about the magazine, its readership, and your future involvement?
Maureen Mahle: I think Home Energy is an incredible forum for people in the high performance residential building world to talk directly to one another about what works, what doesn’t, and where they are looking next to find even greater energy savings. I am extremely excited to be joining an organization known for disseminating consistently high quality information to the industry.
HE: What have been some career highlights for you in your time at Steven Winter Associates?
MM: I get excited about every great project I have the chance to work on. There is always something new to grab my interest. Some favorites of mine include The Eltona and now Forest House in the Bronx; the Coons Residence in Clifton Park NY and the Kantor Residence in New Canaan CT; Sheridan Station in Washington D.C., and Temple II in Philadelphia. I have a soft spot for the affordable housing projects, since the human stories attached to them are so moving. I have never gotten through a ribbon-cutting ceremony for a Habitat for Humanity project with dry eyes.
HE: We hear that you are a specialist in high performance homes—what led you to that as a career?
MM: In a way I was born into it. The house I grew up in was new construction circa 1976 with passive solar features and a wood stove. My family also bought older homes and renovated them for resale, so I spent a respectable portion of my childhood scraping wallpaper and paint. I earned my Masters in Civil Engineering with an emphasis in Construction Project Management and worked with commercial buildings for a while, but eventually migrated back to the residential world. I dislike waste, and I know that we can do better with our homebuilding practices.
HE: We also read that you’ve done a lot in advancing the LEED program for homes—is there any upcoming news you can share on that front?
MM: LEED for Homes was piloted in 2005 and launched as a Rating System in 2008, so we’re ready for an update. We’ll see that toward the end of 2013 with the rollout of LEED v4. Some positive adjustments have been proposed, which will bring the rating system in line with current state-of-industry. LEED for Homes has actually been progressive from the beginning, relying on as-built inspections (instead of extensive paperwork) and performance testing to determine if criteria have been met; and requiring kitchen exhaust and fresh air ventilation strategies instead of relying on windows for indoor air quality. I expect to see the other LEED rating systems moving closer to Homes on residential performance issues.
HE: What are the most memorable lessons or takeaways you’ve walked away with so far with your involvement with the home performance industry as a whole?
MM: What sticks with me the most are the anecdotes and feedback from homeowners, builder superintendents, contractors, and developers whose experience with residential buildings has been changed after doing a high performance project. The rate of repeat participation in programs like LEED, Energy Star Homes, and Green Communities has been tremendous in my marketplace. Once a person experiences the performance of a highly efficient and healthy residence, they remain committed to the concept of better buildings.
HE: What do you do on a personal level in the way of energy efficiency?
MM: I’ve been living in a pre-war rent stabilized apartment in New York City for almost 8 years. My energy signature will be changing dramatically, since I am moving out of the city and buying my first home at the end of the month. It’s a 1,785 sf wood framed fixer-upper, built in 1915. I will still get to work on foot and by train, but I have recently become the co-owner of a used pickup (this is a project that requires a truck). The scope of energy renovations is still being determined, but the first thing on my list is pipe insulation for heating and domestic hot water, since the basement is completely un-insulated.
HE: What's one thing our readers would be surprised to know about you?
MM: I’m known for baking pies. My favorites are rhubarb, and a mango-apple-raspberry combination.
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