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 Erin Hiatt, Senior Director of Sustainability and Innovation at the Retail Industry Leaders Association (RILA).
Why do energy-efficient and high-performing buildings matter to you?
Buildings are an integral part of our everyday lives where we spend so much of our time, so it makes sense that we want them to operate efficiently and effectively. Human ingenuity is a constant source of new opportunities and innovation, and we can apply that to our buildings so that they are always improving to best support our communities and businesses.
What are you most proud of in your career related to energy and efficiency?
Over the past four years, I am most proud of leading and building out the RILA Retail Energy Management Program into the rich education and networking resource that it is today.
Energy is an exciting space, but when people get into the weeds of actual implementation and operations, it can seem inaccessible. With that in mind, a lot of the program’s progress has come from the ability to dig into the “people” part of the energy equation. All organizations and companies rely on their people, so relationship building, impact management, and communications skills are critical to successful energy initiatives. Our program is fairly unique because it thinks about these larger market barriers—recent programming has included how to develop the business case for energy efficiency projects and how to speak a “different language” to secure across-the-board support for energy and sustainability initiatives.
Energy is an exciting space—but relationship building, impact management, and communications skills will always be critical to success.
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?
There is so much untapped potential for valuable landlord-tenant collaboration to change the energy industry. When we think about innovation in the built environment, it can seem challenging because most of our buildings are large, existing structures with oftentimes outdated energy infrastructure. This is where the landlord-tenant relationship can make a huge difference: When landlords and tenants move toward designing and retrofitting their buildings in response to their shared priorities around operational efficiency and sustainability, we can really start to move forward on reducing energy use in buildings.
In retail, there is significant acknowledgement of the need for flexibility to revise internal layouts and make other aesthetic updates, but we also need landlords and tenants to ensure preventative maintenance and proactive updates to keep up with the pace of technology advancement. All parties that interact with a building should recognize this shared vision for high-performance, highly energy-efficient spaces and work together to achieve it.
What is your advice for women in the energy industry?
My advice is the same for all groups that can make the industry more diverse and reflective of the people it serves: I recommend that they always be themselves, and make sure they are not changing based on expectations of who the typical energy industry employee is, what they look like, or how they act. Instead, bring yourself to all of your work, projects, and partners.
I am fortunate to have recently been given a role in RILA’s diversity and inclusion initiatives, and I’m excited to explore how these values can be woven throughout every business in an intentional way. It’s important that we all strive to be resources for a diverse set of new energy leaders—as more new perspectives come to the table, the more complete a picture we have of the important role energy has to play in our lives.