Hello, it’s great to meet you! My name is Theresa Backhus, and I’m the Building Innovation Hub’s new Associate Director of Outreach and Engagement. I was born and raised in the DC area, I’ve spent my career designing, measuring, and improving the performance of buildings and communities in the DC metro region, which means I understand the confluence of policy and market challenges you face day-to-day.
Conditions are changing rapidly for the real estate sector. We need to remain flexible to ensure that our collective business and environmental goals are met and that we position our buildings to perform well now and in the future. Jurisdictions in Maryland and Virginia, not just DC, are focusing more and more on developing more stringent building codes, building performance regulations, and looking at how to address resilience and carbon to achieve their climate goals. The overlap of energy efficiency, carbon neutrality, resilience, and COVID re-entry is a challenging, yet important reality.
I’ll be leveraging my expertise to support you. I have experience with both sides of the coin—crafting certification and development rules and then implementing those rules, so I understand what’s innovative, what’s actually feasible, and what’s possible when we collaborate. Prior to joining the Hub, I was a sustainability consultant with Sustainable Building Partners, supporting owners and practitioners navigating policy, code, and green building certifications from early design phases through construction. At the U.S. Green Building Council, I was integral in the development of the LEED v4 rating system program.
While at USGBC, I collaborated with stakeholders on both ends of the sustainable development spectrum. We often received many opinions and perspectives encouraging us to write a rating system that best suited varying—and sometimes conflicting—points of view. It was my job to craft solutions that addressed the concerns of business leaders, environmental activists, material manufacturers, designers, building owners, governments, sustainability consultants—all individuals with valid yet varied viewpoints and motivations. I developed the ability to succeed in the “in between,” finding the push-pull balance between policy and market drivers that ultimately results in lasting positive environmental change and client profitability.
As a sustainability consultant, I crafted solutions for the unique challenges you face daily. I have helped building owners and project teams analyze options to tweak building designs to maximize sustainability using market-feasible strategies. I have conducted feasibility studies of how and when to apply 1) forward-looking technologies, such as renewables and energy offsets, grid-connected building automations, water reuse, electric vehicle charging infrastructure, and product health certifications; 2) building operations protocols and policies, such as sustainable and COVID-responsive cleaning practices, pest management, site management, and sample lease language; and 3) green building certifications, such as LEED, EGC, SITES, WELL, and Fitwel.
In my role at the Building Innovation Hub, I’ll encourage innovation and push where possible, while balancing the very real economic, market, and jurisdictional practicalities that you face. High-performing buildings make a lasting positive impact on our local and regional community, build resilience to keep people safe and healthy, and save money. I’m excited to work with building owners, operators, practitioners, and vendors to help you achieve your energy efficiency goals.
I love the energy, the culture, and the people here. The DC metropolitan area draws people and inspiration from all over the world, and I believe that this diversity contributes to the unique opportunities that exist in our industry. I’m passionate about creating healthy places where everyone can thrive, not just get by. To me, “thriving” means equity, clean air and water, resilient and reliable power, happiness, health, affordability, connection, and safety. I believe low-carbon buildings contribute greatly to all of these things. I also believe that buildings need to make good business sense in order for them to have these positive impacts. Thus, I have a passion for solutioning creative strategies that fit within the realities of the commercial real estate market.
I’m excited to collaborate with you to help you meet your goals and to achieve DC’s sustainability vision together!