Roger Chang stepped onto the ice of rink after rink during the spring of his junior year, notebook in one hand, carbon monoxide monitor in the other. At more than a dozen skating rinks, the monitor alarms shrieked, until eventually Chang and his UROP advisor figured out that the ventilation systems in most of them were failing to remove cold, low-lying carbon monoxide that had been emitted by propane-powered ice resurfacers. Chang learned two things from that project. One, he was fascinated by the field of building. Two, skating rinks ought to use resurfacers powered by electricity, not propane.
Today Chang satisfies his interest in building at Westlake Reed Leskosky, an integrated architecture and engineering firm headquartered in Cleveland that provides design and management services to private firms, arts organizations, and, lately, government groups.
As director of sustainability, Chang focuses on helping clients satisfy Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) requirements. Since that’s about 60 percent of the firm’s work, he is well versed in evaluating the sustainability of a building’s site, construction materials, indoor environmental quality, and water efficiency.
Yet green building isn’t his only concern on the job. “For me, sustainability means designing things that are enduring and also have the proper balance of impact on the environment, people, and economics,” Chang says. “I know some people just worry about the environmental effects, but that’s just one component. A more holistic approach takes into consideration varying income levels and socioeconomic constraints.”
Out of the office, Chang tries to practice what he preaches, particularly when it comes to temperature regulation. Knowing that heating and cooling account for the bulk of a building’s energy use, he’s careful with his own thermostat and looks for opportunities to encourage friends and colleagues to reconsider their temperature demands.
“In Europe they tolerate much wider bands of temperature, and something like that can have a profound impact on energy consumption,” he says. “But for that to happen [here in the United States], we would need a cultural shift. It’s very hard to change how people are used to doing things.”
Chang lives with his wife, Tanis, their pug, Mercury, and their cat, Igby, in a modestly heated and cooled apartment in Washington, DC.