My Story: Charlotte Matthews
Charlotte Matthews is a sage at 36. The global head of sustainability for Related Cos is a green building expert. Check out her work at the massive Hudson Yards, where she's on the cutting edge of green inventions that could change the way future buildings in New York, and elsewhere, operate. (No pressure, Charlotte.)
We stopped by Charlotte's office on the 19th floor of 60 Columbus Circle, where she told us the current focus at Hudson Yards is infrastructure. Five buildings (totaling 14M SF of mixed-use office, retail, and residential) will be connected, each with its own HVAC plant. The residential plant will run non-stop, and on weekends HVAC can be piped to the office buildings as needed, rather than stoking up their plants. (More proof that learning to share in preschool offers lifelong benefits.) "If we had an off-the-charts demand day, we cold also supplement the buildings through each other," she tells us. Another cool thing: The residential buildings each will have separate chutes for organic waste, recyclables, and trash that can be piped directly to a central terminal--no double handling, no smells.
Her path to the forefront of NYC's green building scene started in 1984 in Summit, NJ, when she was snapped watering acorns. In the rain. It continued when her parents (her father is British, her mother from Oregon) moved her to Hong Kong at age 8. "I saw where the world was going, this concrete jungle. I thought, 'That's a terrible thing for the environment,' but at the same time I loved the buildings," she says. She saw the Hong Kong and Shanghai Bank building as an "amazing, technical, fabulous thing." When she graduated from college in 1999 with environmental science and architecture credentials, however, her current job didn't yet exist. So she got one as a sustainability specialist with a Boston architectural firm. She was 22 and green was in its infancy, and that afforded her opportunities that might not be available today (golfing with the USGBC founders, for instance).
From there, Chalotte took on the title of senior sustainability manager for construction firm Bovis Lend Lease; there she learned how buildings came together so she could find sustainable solutions herself rather than relying on what others were doing. Notable during her four-year stint there: working on the World Trade Center Memorial (above, at the site). In 2008, she joined Related Cos, and today, she develops the sustainability platform across the firm's operations and its affordable, luxury residential, and mixed-used projects.
Charlotte teaches at Columbia in the real estate department, but she's also a sustainability expert on important boards like the Building Resiliency Task Force, Energy Efficient Buildings Hub, REBNY, Real Estate Roundtable, IMT, and Green Codes Task Force. Her advice for women starting out in the industry: Listen well; you can learn something from everyone. And if you think something should be different, speak up. Change is activated by communication, not "polite" patience or quiet stewing.