This month we’re spotlighting Green Building United member Nicole Carey, Civil Designer at Gilmore & Associates. We spoke to Nicole about her career in engineering and green building, the sustainability issues she feels are most pressing for the industry, and what her company is doing to advance them in the Philadelphia region.

Can you please describe your current position?

NC: I am a Civil Designer with Gilmore & Associates’ Land Design group in Philadelphia. I work on both private redevelopment projects and public infrastructure improvements focusing on Green Stormwater Infrastructure (GSI).


What are some green building projects and/or initiatives you are currently working on and how do you feel they will contribute to the Greater Philadelphia region’s sustainability efforts?

NC: My projects mainly focus on civil site design, so stormwater management has become a huge part of what I do on a daily basis. As the Philadelphia region faces an increasing risk of intense storms and flooding issues, the installation of green stormwater management systems on both public and private properties helps to provide relief to the combined sewer system and keep our waterways clean. I believe it is important to find innovative ways to manage stormwater runoff from private properties on-site, and I am happy I have the opportunity to work on projects that advocate for this methodology. Green stormwater management not only delivers environmental improvement, but also provides triple bottom line benefits. These initiatives all tie into the Philadelphia Water Department’s Green City, Clean Waters program, which is the City’s 25-year plan to reduce combined sewer overflows and associated stormwater pollution through the implementation of green stormwater infrastructure.


“Green building and sustainable practices allow us to work with nature, instead of against it, and holistically integrate the built environment into the natural one.”

Why is green building and sustainability important to you?

NC: I grew up spending most of my free time outdoors, exploring local recreation areas or vacationing with my family at various National Parks. I was lucky to have such an opportunity as it taught me a lot about the natural environment and sustainability at a young age. Now that I am in the professional world, I am happy to be able to apply what I have learned and continue to learn, to what I love. Green building and sustainable practices allow us to work with nature, instead of against it, and holistically integrate the built environment into the natural one. By focusing our projects on these initiatives, we will be able to help protect and restore our home planet, for now and future generations. Over twenty years later and with a deeper understanding of the world around me, we have a lot of work to do.


Which sustainability topics do you feel are most pressing at this time?

NC: While I feel there are many sustainability issues of concern right now—such as human densification, waste generation, and loss of biodiversity—the one that I feel is most pressing at this time is water resource management. Water connects all of life, from the depths of the oceans to the peaks of snow-covered mountains and everything in between. This means that when there is pressure on water resources, there is subsequently pressure on all existing ecosystems, exacerbating any issues those ecosystems are already facing. Life on Earth requires healthy and abundant waterways and water bodies—it is important that we protect this natural resource and allocate properly in order to minimize our impact and maintain homeostasis of our planet.


What resources or advice have you found most helpful in your green building profession?

NC: Maintenance is key; return on investment is vital. It is important we look at not just the system performance when built, but that it will still be working for years to come. Sustainability is, after all, biodiversity and productivity preserved over time. As technology continues to advance, I think it’s really important that we use these resources to our advantage to plan for the future and create more efficient and effective systems.


What is your company doing to advance green building and a sustainable built environment?

NC: Sustainability has been a core value of G&A’s design dating back to the last century. We integrated this value into our work by creating low-impact designs aimed at sustainability, conservation, and preservation. Throughout the years our methods have changed and progressed with the advancement of technology and information. Decades later, when our world is highlighting sustainability within our environment, we are continuing to be innovative yet fiscally responsible with our plans and design.

G&A has engineers and landscape architects who are LEED® accredited professionals and have a thorough understanding of environmentally responsible designs. Sustainability is not just for the design and construction phases of projects. G&A’s Standard Operating Procedures include provisions for limiting mobilizations, ground penetrating radar surveys, use of direct push drilling, low-flow groundwater sampling, and incorporation of in-situ monitoring devices. Each of these procedures is in-line with the EPA’s core elements of Green Remediation BMPs.


What made you want to get involved with Green Building United? Which events have you attended and have you participated in any volunteer projects?

NC: I first heard about Green Building United (GBU, then Delaware Valley Green Building Council) when I was in school at Drexel. One of my classes taught us about the LEED certification system and similar initiatives, as well as the opportunities for education and advocacy through local organizations such as GBU. The mission and vision of GBU is what really stood out to me—I, too, wanted to have a transformative impact through my work and create a sustainable, healthy, and resilient built environment for all. I soon became a member and started volunteering at GBU events every year, such as the Groundbreaker Awards and the Sustainability Symposium. The more I learned, the more involved I wanted to be. Since I started working a few years ago, I’ve continued to volunteer whenever I can, and I have also been able to attend other informative GBU events, such as those related to Passive House, Living Building Challenge, and the Philadelphia 2030 District.


Nicole is a Civil Designer who primarily works with the Land Design department in G&A’s Philadelphia office.  Her responsibilities include site and grading design, stormwater management design and analysis, contract document development, and assistance with projects from concept to construction.  Nicole has gained experience in civil site design through working on both private redevelopment projects and public infrastructure improvements focusing on Green Stormwater Infrastructure (GSI).