Meet USGBC Tennessee's Holly Baird | U.S. Green Building Council
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Get to know Holly Baird, director of USGBC Tennessee, in her own words.

As director of USGBC Tennessee, Holly Baird will collaborate on sustainability initiatives with local stakeholders and communities. Get to know Holly in our Q&A below.

Where are you from?

I’m from Nashville, specifically the rural community of Joelton.

What’s your favorite thing to do in in your town on a Saturday afternoon?

Nashville is the perfect combination of a little/big town, so there are lots of things to do throughout the week. I tend to run wide-open during the week, so Saturdays are my favorite day to relax and catch up on “me time.” That could mean staying in pajamas and reading a book, going to see a movie or play with my husband, going shopping with my mother or just taking a nap with my puppies, Calvin and Ruby.

Who would you want to go to dinner with, living or dead?

It’s a tie between Samuel Clemens (Mark Twain) and Benjamin Franklin. The descriptions of their personality types—brilliant, witty, and curmudgeonly—has always fascinated me.

What’s your proudest accomplishment?

Most of my professional accomplishments relate to the interior design field. In 2011, I received the Nashville Business Journal’s “Forty under 40” award and the first ever “Readers’ Choice Award.” Over 300 people applied, and 40 were selected for making a positive impact in Nashville or in their professions. Not only did this represent the attainment of a long-term goal for me personally, but it also was an honor for me professionally to represent the interior design Industry.

“Forty under 40” helped me bring recognition to interior design, not only as an art form, but also as a profession backed by extensive education, experience and examination requirements for all registered professionals in Tennessee. Through my advocacy work with interior design, I continue to strive to demonstrate, through the highest level of professionalism and skill, the value an interior designer adds to any commercial or residential project.

Who is your favorite superhero, and why?

I’d have to say my preference is for Iron Man, Tony Stark. Again, brilliant, witty, and curmudgeonly is a theme for me.

What’s your background, and what motivated you to pursue a career in sustainability?

I graduated from Vanderbilt University in 2001 with a double major in political science and art/art history. From there, I moved to New York to study at the New York School of Interior Design. Through my work as a registered interior designer, the correlations between health, efficiency, conservancy and our built environment were always clear to me. I understood the marketability of LEED® first and grew to understand the business case over time. In 2013, I went back to school to get an MBA in nonprofit management. Through USGBC®, I have found a way to align my knowledge of the design and construction industry with my passion for making a difference and striving to transform the world around me.

What impact does LEED have on the city of Nashville and in the state?

Metropolitan Nashville has an ordinance for all publicly funded buildings over 5,000 square feet to be designed to achieve LEED Silver. That ordinance is having a positive impact in improving the built environment, reducing energy and water consumption and producing substantial and quantifiable cost savings as compared to the non-LEED buildings within the portfolio.

Across Tennessee, LEED is affecting corporate offices, education, retail, health care, public assembly, religious worship and industrial facilities the most. Beyond LEED, Chattanooga became the first city in the nation to be PEER-certified, and 2017 should bring Tennessee’s first WELL-certified project.

What excites you most about joining the USGBC team?

There is a Venn diagram I encountered in my MBA program: working clockwise, the four overlapping circles include what you love doing, what the world needs, what you can be paid for and what you are good at. The overlapped areas are vocation, mission, profession, passion and at the very center, where all four overlap, is purpose.

Being hired for USGBC felt like everything fell into place and I’d found my purpose. I’d been a USGBC member and LEED AP since 2007, as well as having been part of the task force to help rewrite the LEED ID+C exam. I’d just completed an MBA in nonprofit management and was unsure how I would transition careers, and I did not look forward to walking away from the architecture, construction and engineering community that had always been so good to me. USGBC combined all of those experiences into work I love, challenges that are inspiring, an opportunity to excel and a chance to make a difference.

What part of the sustainability movement inspires you the most?

Right now, I am most inspired by the WELL Building Standard, and the evidence-based connection between sustainable practices and human health. Using health as a starting point gives us an opportunity to reach new audiences and promote the LEED and WELL rating systems, in particular, to continue our transformation of the marketplace.

What’s your favorite LEED project?

My favorite LEED project is the next one to be certified in Tennessee! But some of my other favorites include the Bridge Building, OneC1ty, Music City Center and Ascend Amphitheatre in Nashville; Lonsdale Phase 2 in Knoxville; greenspaces in Chattanooga; and NovaCopy in Memphis.

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