On a Mission with Kelly Reed

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We’re back with the second installment of our new On a Mission blog series – shining a light on our employees, and sharing stories from their own personal journey to a mission made real. Over the next few weeks we’ll hear from a team of interns from Catholic University of America’s School of Architecture and Planning (CUA) who’ve spent the past seven months working with us in support of American Geophysical Union’s net-zero headquarters renovation project which is currently under construction.

This week we spoke to Kelly Reed about her time with MGAC, finding her own unique career path within the industry, and what it’s been like to participate in such a ground-breaking project.

What attracted you to this particular internship opportunity?

At the Catholic University, sustainability is something that we value highly. So when I heard about this opportunity to secure an internship working on a net-zero project in the DC area, it seemed like the perfect fit. I was also intrigued by the fact that MGAC is not an architecture firm. I had worked at an architecture firm at a previous internship, and found the opportunity to work within and experience a different side of the building industry very interesting.

Over the past few months I have helped to compile a reuse plan for the building – tracking chairs, tables, glass panels, and even doors in an effort to make sure anything that could be diverted away from a landfill was.  In addition, David and I found donation partners so that anything we couldn’t repurpose in the building could be put to use elsewhere in the community. This work as interns, although relatively small compared to the overall scope of the project, was still treated in high regard by the entire team. To me, this shows the commitment AGU has to sustainability and how they have surrounded themselves with a design, construction, and management team with a similar mindset.

As an architect in training, what did you get out of interning with the project’s owner’s representative?

In school we do a lot of design work. Most people get it in their mind that you have to design, get your license, and then work in a regular architecture firm after graduation. The designing aspect of architecture has never interested me as much as the construction part. It was refreshing to see what else I could do with an architecture degree besides design, and this experience opened my eyes to a lot of new possibilities for my career.

What is one of your favorite memories from your internship experience?

In November, I had the privilege to stand alongside the AGU design team and present AGU’s building renovation project to my peers, as well as my faculty at The Catholic University of America’s School of Architecture and Planning. David and I were brought onto the team by MGAC at the beginning of September in order to help facilitate some of the reuse tracking and donation strategies for the project, as well as look into some possible funding opportunities. The idea soon surfaced that we should find a way to engage Catholic University’s architectural community in the project in the hopes that students will take the mission of sustainable design with them throughout their schooling and their careers, and we were invited to join the AGU team in a presentation to the school.

Representatives from the project’s key partners – MGAC, Hickok Cole, Skanska, and Interface Engineering – each provided an overview about their role in the project within the context of AGU’s larger goals, and David and I shared about the importance of reuse to a sustainable building renovation. I think seeing this spoke to the value Catholic University places on sustainable design and engaging sustainability in every manner possible, no matter how small – a value CUA and AGU have in common. It was a great feeling showing others what I have learned and been a part of, and hopefully we’ve given our peers some ideas for their future work in regards to sustainability.

What was the most valuable takeaway from your time with MGAC and the AGU team?

I think the most valuable thing I learned is that if you want to be the first to do something and you want to set an new standard for sustainability, it needs to be a team effort. The architect, the engineer, the owner, the owners rep, and whoever else is working on the project have to work together and understand the ultimate goal for the project. Yes, there will be some heated meetings from time to time, and people may disagree, but I learned that in order to be successful, the team must keep in mind the project’s aims in its entirety and not just focus on their own individual roles.

What is one piece of advice that you would give to fellow students as they begin seeking their own internships?

I would advise future students to give every opportunity that comes there way a chance. I am glad I got the chance to work in an office that was not strictly an architecture firm because it gave me the opportunity to explore the many different career possibilities available to someone with an architecture degree.


Want to learn more about how MGAC can help make your mission real? Check out our Careers page or click here to explore current opportunities in your area.

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Laura Ewan

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