The Future of Sustainability in Buildings: Grant Sheely ’19

May 11, 2020

Victor Salcido ’21

man wearing suit and tie sits at a desk in office space.
Grant Sheely ’19 sits in his office at Vornado Real Estate Trust in New York City.
Photo credit: Courtesy of Grant Sheely ’19

As an Oberlin student, Grant Sheely ’19 carried “a demanding and exciting workload.” Sheely juggled being a captain of both the cross country and track and field programs his third and fourth year, founding the Spikeball club, and tutoring fellow students in the math and physics departments. Sheely earned degrees in both math and physics and now works as a sustainability coordinator at Vornado Real Estate Trust in New York City.

How would you describe your role and experience at Vornado Real Estate Trust?

As a sustainability coordinator, I help manage the sustainability projects my team has in its portfolio. Vornado is ahead of the pack when it comes to sustainability as they have had a sustainability team for more than 10 years which is rare in real estate and even more rare in New York City. It is amazing to work on such an experienced team who have been teaching me so much. 

How did your time at Oberlin foster your next steps for your post graduate life?

The jobs I held at Oberlin ultimately helped me the most in figuring out what to do after graduation. I worked at the Adam Joseph Lewis Center (AJLC) for Environmental Studies as a Living Machine operator, which grew my interest and love for sustainable buildings. In my final semester, I did a private reading to improve the biodiversity of the Living Machine, which introduced me to a field of people who have tried combining nature with buildings. In my fourth year, I also worked as Oberlin's greenhouse gas inventory intern where I was responsible for the collecting and the compiling of Oberlin's greenhouse gas emissions for reporting purposes. This increased my interest in the reporting process and how schools/companies need to show their work towards sustainable goals and all the factors that went into it. This all culminated in the final weeks at Oberlin where I realized I wanted to work in a field where I could apply my knowledge of sustainability to buildings. 

What has been the biggest project you have been working on since leaving Oberlin? 

I would say the largest project I have been working on is continuing my education. It is hard to continue learning without the structure and recommendations of courses and professors. Even though it is a challenge, I believe it is important to stay motivated and keep learning new things. To keep my goal in mind, I remember a quotation from the show The Office when Michael Scott once said: "The day we stop learning is the day we die." Thus, I have read lots of amazing books since graduating that have taught me new things in new fields as well as my own. I also have taken two courses at colleges and am working on a certification to become a LEED green associate. The post graduate stage in life is a really exciting time to find new ways to improve yourself, so I find joy in engaging with different activities and chipping away at more goals. 

What's on the horizon in the next five years? 

In the next five years, I hope to be working more with the design and ideas for large sustainability projects. There are a few large projects that should be happening in the next five to 10 years I am hoping to be a part of. I'll mention two: Sidewalk Labs Toronto Project and The Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG) Oceanix City. Both projects are going to be insanely cool, and I look forward to an opportunity to take part in them. 

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