On the Lookout for Better Buildings,
Energy Savings,Workplace Wellness
By George Pond
(April 2020) – The hunting grounds that Alexa Stone and her ecoPreserve team stalk are construction sites, airports, convention centers and hospitals. You’ll find them at job sites and engineering offices throughout Central Florida and nationwide. The sustainability specialists conduct vulnerability studies, assess readiness for change, measure business and building carbon footprint, forecast lifecycle cost and recommend quick-win and long-term climate mediation strategies.
Less often, you’ll find Stone back at the office, maintaining the business she launched in 2009. She realized the significant need for sustainability years earlier, while working as the lighting and energy manager at Home Depot Supply. Among her responsibilities there, she promoted light emitting diodes (LEDs) at a time when LED was just an acronym, not seen as valuable in a recession-ravaged market that was dominated by energy-inefficient high-intensity discharge and incandescent lamps.
“I’ve always thought that if I can just bring the right people together, we can do anything.” – Alexa Stone
Taking on the challenges of opening a business, Stone supported the Florida Department of Environmental Protection in writing a grant application that brought $1 million in federal stimulus funding for a massive LED lighting conversion at the Orange County Convention Center (OCCC). After installation, when the numbers came in, Stone saw the path leading to energy and greenhouse gas reductions. That became ecoPreserve’s mission: To help humanity thrive in harmony with nature.
Focus quickly shifted to planning and administering third-party Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) building certifications. As organizations saw the resulting savings, the projects often expanded to include sustainability plans, air quality testing and recycling programs.
An ecoPreserve third-party certification project brought LEED Gold to the OCCC. For that effort, Stone hired Jeff Benavides, who had been in an internship with the City of Orlando. After a decade with ecoPreserve, Benevides was appointed by Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings as the county’s first chief sustainability and resiliency officer.
Stone and the ecoPreserve team practice sustainability, as well as administer it. ecoPreserve maintains an energy-efficient LEED-certified downtown office space, although the company operates under a distributed office model: All team members have the flexibility to work at home or come to the office.
“We love this model for three reasons,” Stone said. “First, it gives us the flexibility to balance our work and life; second, by eliminating the daily commute and the associated greenhouse gas emissions, we support one of our core values, ‘Be the change’; and third, it allows our team members to produce exceptional outcomes by taking on high-level responsibility and ownership of our work.”
Team members gather for quarterly meetings, including one earlier this year at Orlando’s City Hall, where the city’s chief planner, Doug Metzger, spoke to the ecoPreserve team about what’s happening with 5G deployment and the Under-i urban community park planned for under Interstate 4 downtown.
“At every quarterly meeting, we want to accomplish a little bit of learning and a little bit of loving,” Stone said. “The learning might be an invitation to an important stakeholder to speak, like this past meeting, and the loving is the time to interact in person, learn from each other and just get to know each other on a personal level since we don’t see each on a daily basis like most folks in a traditional office environment.”
One goal at the company is to become carbon neutral. ecoPreserve team members, who range in age from 21 to 68, have quite different ideas about how to make that work, Stone said. “The younger people said, ‘Let’s get rid of the office altogether. We can meet in open spaces, and we can have vegan potluck meals.’ The older people suggest that as we grow, we may find ourselves within the walls and corridors of a traditional office. Different ages bring different perspectives. And really, as we listen, we learn from each other.”