2021 Women in Building Services: Jeannine Altavilla Cooper


Name: Jeannine Altavilla Cooper

Title: Director of Analysis, New York

Company Name: Bright Power

Real estate associations or organizations that you are currently a member of: NESEA BuildingEnergy NYC Content Committee, Urban Green

What did you want to be when you grew up?

I wanted to be a lot of things growing up but did not anticipate where I have ended up in the energy field! The top two contenders for what I wanted to be when I grew up were president and a lawyer. Ultimately, math was always my favorite subject in school, and I think I ended up in a great career where I get to look at numbers all day and turn them into actionable information for clients.

What led you to your current profession?

My bachelor and master’s degrees are in urban planning, and I started my career in climate planning at the regional level, moving on to local government. The more I looked at greenhouse gas emissions and the impact of energy use in communities, the more I found that multifamily buildings are a large portion of energy use. The multifamily building sector straddles both the commercial and residential sectors, which can sometimes hide its impact. Without significant reductions in energy use in the multifamily sector, reaching city and national climate targets will not happen. What brought me to Bright Power was its focus on making multifamily buildings better in order to achieve the important climate goals that we’ve set.

In the past year, what project, transaction or accomplishment are you most proud of?

I’m extremely proud of the work my team has done submitting energy and water benchmarking reports to the city and state. Last year was difficult with everything shutting down right as reporting season was ramping up. This year was difficult because so many building profiles changed significantly with the impacts of the pandemic. We submitted reports for over 1,600 buildings each year. Last year was the first year for building energy rating labels with Local Law 33/95 taking effect, and we analyzed how the buildings we benchmarked performed on the grading scale. This year, we’re going to look at the impacts of the pandemic and changes in building use patterns.

Who was/is your mentor and how did s/he influence/help you in your career?

I’ve had several mentors over the course of my career. John Morrill and Joan Kelsch started Arlington, Virginia’s climate program, the Arlington Initiative to Reduce Emissions (later Rethink Energy) and both inspired and encouraged me tremendously. I learned a lot from them about scoping out the full environment I was working in, getting my hands dirty understanding all of the details, and then stepping back and figuring out how we could have an impact in key areas to meet the targets that the community was setting based on our role as a government. It was that inspiration of ensuring I was making an impact that led me to Bright Power and the work that I do with buildings in New York.

What trends will dominate your industry in the coming months?

The future after a global pandemic will be an important study from so many perspectives, including the building energy sector. Understanding what really happened in 2020, how building use will change in 2021, and what to expect in a settled state beyond 2021 are all really important questions to examine. Everyone was starting to examine how the Climate Mobilization Act would impact them in the near future when the pandemic hit. Now, previous years may not be the best predictor of future performance depending on how people will shift their use of buildings over time. With Local Law 97’s first limits impacting 2024 energy use, it’s important to start planning for capital projects now if a building is facing significant fines.

How do you contribute to your community or profession?

I work with a lot of young career professionals and try to help them find inspiration and impact in their work, as well as mentor them to set and achieve goals just as my mentors have done for me. I’m excited to be participating as a BuildingEnergy NYC Content Committee member for the first time because I believe that sharing best practices is critical to achieve all of our industry goals. I am a member of the Daughters of the American Revolution, which works to preserve American history, promote education, and encourage patriotism. This past year I sewed masks for hospitals and tribal nations and secured recognition for a veteran who leads the Women in Military Service for America Memorial.