conversation with Katrina Gerber June 1, 2005
For a different perspective Tom Bean
suggested we talk to Katrina Gerber, who he credits with being
the first LEED Accredited Professional in Kansas City. Kat is a
proud graduate of Kansas State with a Bachelor's degree in
Architectural Engineering--a systems oriented degree. She is an
advocate of LEED and the USGBC within the community and at her
firm BGR Consulting Engineers. http://www.bgrengineers.com
1 What person
influenced you most regarding environmental issues?
I first heard Bob Berkebile speak in
1996 at a US Green Building Council seminar at Bartle
Hall. He's a great speaker and has such a passion for it.
2 What event
opened your eyes to environmental issues?
After hearing Bob speak I began doing
some research on my own. I was looking at all the
documentation that was readily available--the numbers on
energy use in the United States, our global impact, and
the many alternatives that exist.
3 Name one habit
or convenience you gave up for environmental reasons.
- Having our thermostat set at 70
degrees. We installed a programmable thermostat in our
home and cut back on central air with layers of blankets
and sweaters. In warm weather we let the inside
temperature rise to 74 or 78 during the day and 80 at
night. During cold weather we turn the heat down to 67 or
4 Name something
you wish more people realized is harmful to the environment.
It's the whole decision making
process. We need to be aware not only of the energy
something uses but also what resources went into creating
and transporting the product to us. We need to get to a
kind of "global mentality" where we don't just
follow regulations on which refrigerant we can use, it's
not enough to just comply with the rules in place.
5 What is the
most important thing you do personally to conserve natural
Just the simple stuff: not leaving
lights on, changing from incandescent bulbs to
fluorescent throughout the house, adding insulation in
the walls and attic. In our office we have an agreement:
when the temperature outside is under 70 degrees we do
not run air conditioning. When there is good sunlight we
turn off the lights. I believe we all inherently want to
do good things, it's just an education process to learn
the simple behaviors that make a difference.
alternative do you feel more people need to learn?
Getting away from dependence on our
automobiles. Take a 5 block walk to lunch and don't
circle the parking lot looking for that "perfect
spot" right by the entrance. One of the biggest
benefits of working downtown is being able to walk to
everything, business meetings, lunches, and City Hall.
contribution are you uniquely able to make toward environmental
I am a big proponent of geothermal
heating and cooling. It's one of the first things we
evaluate on our projects. When it is appropriate we then
educate everyone about why it makes sense. One such
project under construction is the Linda Hall Library at
UMKC. It's the biggest geothermal plant in a five-state
area with 400-plus tons. This facility is nationally
known for engineering research and they had installed a
brand new physical plant in 1989. They had to question
the notion of replacing the entire plant so soon. We
determined the system will pay for itself in 8-1/2 years.
The new Ronald McDonald house is also geothermal.
8 What do you
think is the next step for Kansas City as a community at the
A lot of it is just getting behind
these issues, as with indoor air quality and the "no
smoking" initiative. Different jurisdictions are
trying to pass independent ordinances, which is a start.
There is just a resistance to "change." This is
where we as design professionals need to get involved
within the community, within local councils and
committees. Within the last year and a half I've started
getting more involved, but time is always a precious
9 What change to
your lifestyle or behavior was the hardest to adopt or maintain?
My car: an SUV. We decided a while ago
that the next car we buy is going to be smaller. With
hauling 2 kids and their gear to soccer and events,
that's always been my excuse--and a lame one.
10 What do you
think Kansas City has done well?
Getting something on the books;
passing things like the LEED Silver ordinance has
promoted a knowledge and dialogue that in the past wasn't
readily accessible. It's forced professionals in the
community to get educated about the technologies and
choices. This influences other municipalities as well.
It's baby steps.
11 What is your
most successful green building project?
Perhaps the Sunset Office Building for
Johnson County, though not necessarily by measurement of
the building systems. It was a great example of
integration of all of the entities, the owner, architect,
contractor and engineer, working together to set and
accomplish goals of sustainability. It was the whole
[ note: for a good description
of the sustainable technologies in this project go to the
Johnson County website: http://facilities.jocogov.org ]
12 What is a good
example of environmental design in Kansas City?
I took my son to the Discovery Center
to show him some of the work Mom does. The living
machine, photovoltaics, geothermal
it's a great
place for anyone in Kansas City who wants to understand
more about the choices we have available to us..
13 What is the
biggest change you hope to see in society within your lifetime?
We joke in our office about a project
that doesn't require air conditioning. I would like to
see society change their view on what is
"comfortable." 82 degrees is not uncomfortable.
This is just a mindset that has been put on us that we
define comfort as being separated from the seasons.
("Green Thirteen" is a series of
questions intended to explore the journey of environmental
thinking, from inspiration to education to action--with a
dual-focus on both individual and community perspectives.
Interviewer: Scott Kevin Jones, AIA, LEED AP)
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