In celebration of Women’s History Month, we’re highlighting women who are leading the way in positively transforming our communities through high-performance buildings.
Meet Charlotte Matthews, Director of Sustainability at Sidewalk Labs and IMT board member.
Why do energy-efficient and high-performing buildings matter to you?
I love buildings—their architecture and design. In college, I realized that protecting the health of the environment—the air, water, and habitats on which life and economies depend—would be the defining mission for my life. Combining those two passions—improving building design to reduce the impact of development on the natural environment—gives me joy and purpose.
What are you most proud of in your career?
Getting the microgrid at Hudson Yards financed and into construction was the hardest and biggest thing I’ve accomplished in my career. But, what I am most proud of is the small contribution I’ve made to the larger building performance movement. Every budget constraint, technology risk, or challenging stakeholder that a project team overcomes to deliver a better-performing building sets a new floor for what people expect (and thus demand) of buildings moving forward. I have been a part of that progress.
The theme of this year’s International Women’s Day is “Think Equal, Build Smart, Innovate for Change.” What is the change or market transformation you would most like to see in the energy industry?
I believe the collection and study of data, systems integration, and automation will enable buildings to perform much more effectively and efficiently than they do today. The real estate industry is really only just getting started in this space.
In a few years, I hope that the work we are doing at Sidewalk Labs will prove out what is possible in the built environment in terms of livability, affordability, and environmental sustainability while getting people excited to dare innovation and readily adopt new technologies. We need to speed up the pace of change and progress in building design, construction, and operation.
What is your advice for women in the energy and sustainability industries?
When I was asked this question several years ago, I suggested listening—everyone can teach you something—and speaking up when you disagreed. While I would still encourage that, what feels most important to me now is that women believe in their capabilities and help one another pursue ambitious positions of leadership and impact. The world—both men and women—does not yet recognize the potential in women to lead and deliver large projects as readily as it does men, and connecting capable women to those opportunities requires a concerted push from everyone.