After eight years working toward the creation of Destiny USA, Melissa Perry is still the “greenest” of her colleagues. As director of sustainability, the petite blond achieved remarkable results with her contributions to multiple green initiatives — many of which grabbed the attention of both local and national ears.
“Bob Congel had really high-level sustainability goals for this project,” said Perry, whose efforts helped turned them into reality. “Probably the greatest accomplishment that I’ve had here is working with everybody to make this building LEED-certified by the U.S. Green Building Council. It was a big feat. It’s one of the only malls in the country to achieve this level of certification and be this size.”
Perry was first hired by Pyramid Cos. as an executive assistant, a job she describes as one of her most challenging. “I can tell you right now it is much harder than anybody may or may not give it credit for,” she said. “It taught me so many things. It taught me to be resourceful. It taught me to be punctual and accurate. It honed my writing skills even. One of the toughest jobs I had here at Destiny, to tell you the truth.”
Her transition to working in sustainability came quite naturally, as her then-boss was already involved with projects related to renewable energy. Having had no prior experience in that field, she began to be tasked with green projects and quickly “fell in love.”
“I knew that was the direction I would like to explore and I was lucky enough that they allowed me to do that,” Perry said.
Perry made rapid strides. In 2006, after just two years at Destiny, Perry successfully negotiated with the Environmental Protection Agency a 13-program Memorandum of Understanding (MOU), now considered a model public-private partnership which is currently being employed by some of the largest construction projects in the country. The MOU committed Destiny USA to become an example of environmental stewardship by applying conservation and emission reduction programs throughout all aspects of construction, operations and management.
During the primary construction phase, Perry was responsible for making sure every employee — architects, engineers, contractors and construction managers — was following the rules of the game. At any given time, there could be 300 contractors on the campus. “You walk the site a lot, you shake hands a lot, you really have to share your initiatives with everybody so everybody understands how to be on board,” Perry said.
Perry also co-authored an application to the EPA and Treasury for Federal Green Bonds, and successfully launched and fulfilled Destiny’s Biodiesel-B100 program, where contractors used 100 percent soybean oil in their construction equipment. The program initially met with considerable resistance.
“People said absolutely not. They were scared about what it would do to the equipment,” she said. Typically, only 20 percent of biodiesel fuel can be used in equipment. During the program application, however, a third party was hired to evaluate its effects and found that both the air quality and greenhouse gases were reduced by 67 percent. “The construction workers were also extremely pleased with no odor and less headaches — we had some really great health benefits that happened,” Perry said.
The Rainwater Harvest System is Perry’s all-time favorite piece of the project. Rainwater is collected off the roof of the expansion into a 116,000-gallon retention pond that pumps the water back into the building. “We have dozens and dozens of toilets in this building and none of them use municipal water unless our rainwater source dries out,” she said. The savings to municipal water supplies adds up to about four-million gallons annually.
Now that the construction phase is underway, Perry’s role as director has morphed into consultant, where she will continue to assist in the LEED tenant certification until all 100 leaseholders are in and on board.
“I’m so very passionate about this project,” she said. “I still have a lot of work ahead of me, along with my teammates, here at Destiny USA.”
Speaking of teammates, Perry is one of few women employed on the executive team. So what’s her take on working primarily with men?
“It’s actually a privilege to be among man or woman — just to be among everybody on the Destiny executive team, it’s a phenomenal experience,” she said. “I think, in general, a lot of women feel they have to be a little extra persistent or pushy to be seen or heard, and you do notice you are one of the few women in the company, but I think if you’re strong and you do your job and you come prepared, they’re always going to have good opinions of you and treat you as a team member, just like you would in any situation.”
“The onus is on you to fit in and to be recognized and to be heard in a company,” she said.
Perry, the greenest colleague on campus, has four local and national awards under her belt, and with an active involvement on boards and in various community affiliations, she is without doubt a mature professional with skills cultivated through hard work and discipline.