APA Los Angeles Awards Director
US Green Building Council
Robyn is a fun-loving, challenge-seeking professional who strives for excellence in the profession, while enjoying the diversity of people, places, and things that makes the built environment so fascinating and unique. Joining USGBC in 2009, she had advised, facilitated, and supported the creation of district-scale communities of choice that demonstrate excellence in sustainability, resilience, and social equity.
Her many roles at USGBC and GBCI has included direction of certification activities for LEED for Neighborhood Development, LEED review execution & quality control responsibilities for the LEED Building Design and Construction Rating System, GBCI’s Subject Matter Expert (SME) for Location and Transportation (LT) credits, and other duties related to customer support, business development, and education.
In addition to the above duties, Robyn currently serves as Group Manager for the GBCI Certification Department, contributing to the strategic direction of the team and cultivating talent to maximize their full potential and be agents for change.
Robyn holds a Bachelor of Science in Architecture and a Bachelor of Civil Engineering from The Catholic University of America in Northeast Washington (DC) and a Master’s in City and Regional Planning from Clemson University in Clemson (SC). She is currently an active member of the American Institute of Certified Planners, the Urban Land Institute, USGBC-Los Angeles, and the International Society of Sustainability Professionals.
We caught up with our new Awards Director! Here’s what she had to say:
How long have you been a planner?
Where did you go to school for planning and why?
Clemson University in South Carolina. I wanted to be in the South and though it was not in the big city, Clemson had a strong city and regional planning program, with program chair very interested in a graduate students from a diversity of disciplines.
How did you get into planning?
About half way through my undergraduate dual degree in architecture and civil engineering at Catholic University, I realized that I was not going to be a designer. I also didn’t necessarily just want to be the typical civil engineer that concentrates on infrastructure and construction management. I was looking for something more, so I searched a lot of different disciplines and accidentally came across urban planning. For me, planning answered the contextual question that I was searching for and didn’t realize I was searching for. Questions like: “How do cities form?”, “How do their different networks associate with each other?”, “What make cities the powerful engines that they are?”. So when discovering planning, I realized that people actually think about transportation, the economy, crime, the role of citizenry, the lifecycle of neighborhoods, and the political environment. All these elements go into urban planning or place making. This was a lot more compelling and inspiring to me than designing buildings and space, though the two are complementary.
What brought you to Los Angeles?
Personally I just needed a change. I had been living in Washington, DC for fifteen years, if you count my time in undergraduate school, and it was a great place to be a young planner given its vibrancy and changing dynamics.
Why be a planner in Los Angeles?
I currently work in the district-scale sustainability sector, and that was thing that drew me to the West Coast. California has been very progressive and forward thinking in sustainability measures, by necessity. There are a lot more regulations out here regarding water conservation, air quality, sustainable communities, and transportation and it has shaped a lot of the climate change discussion. I know I want to continue to focus more on sustainability and I needed to be in a place that was a leader in it. I wanted to be surrounded by other leaders in the industry on a regular basis. The other attraction is that Los Angeles is where Washington, DC was back in 2002, when the strong real estate market was just beginning to changeover its neighborhoods into urban destinations. You can tell the dynamic and the momentum that’s just taking place in Downtown LA and in other parts of the city as well.
Who do you see as a mentor?
Terry Farris. He was the urban planning chair at Clemson University during my tenure there. He is a renowned specialists in real estate, wrote a lot about the St. Louis housing crisis way back when, and is a passionate guy. I took several of his courses in college. It was just so captivating to hear him speak about the various issues that he has studied. I would say that he was the linchpin for what I am doing today.
What’s something that’s happening in LA that excites you?
There’s evidence that the planning fundamentals are strong in LA between the Recode LA process, the Plan for a Healthy LA, and now the Sustainability Plan. Those are such strong roadmap documents to get the city where it wants to be. It is really encouraging as a newcomer to actually see what LA transforms into over the next decade. Also, I love how the conversation about creating walkable communities is now including public health, greenhouse gases, and water conservation.
What the Los Angeles APA Section doing well?
The programming that we’ve been doing has been awesome! Also, we have provided programming in many different destinations ranging from Rodeo Drive to Burbank, and transit oriented to transit adjacent areas that have good urban design and walkability. We showcase them to, not only planners, but anyone who is interested in urban form.
Do you a few favorite quotes?
”Leadership is about making others better as a result of your presence and making sure that impact lasts in your absence.”
“Good managers do things right. Great leaders do the right thing.”
“The future belongs to those who see possibilities before they become obvious.”
Have more questions for Robyn?
Feel free to contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org