Driven by Energy Efficiency and Creature Comfort

Nelson + Pope
Written by Pauline Müller

From lighting control to energy conversion and carbon sequestration, Nelson + Pope is a dynamic full-service architectural, engineering, and surveying firm that has refined the art of diving deep into several disciplines. Beyond design, the company offers comprehensive owner representation services alongside construction administration and environmental consulting through affiliate Nelson Pope Voorhis. Based in Melville, New York, with a satellite office in Manhattan, its approach to design and construction is as evolved as its systems are intelligent.

Turning its service offering into a sophisticated portfolio solid enough to take on even the most demanding public, private, institutional, and governmental projects, Nelson + Pope’s clients benefit from having a single point of contact throughout their projects. Such a breadth of service contained within a single firm is rare but is also the company’s secret to success—a holistic approach that addresses overall property performance, as opposed to a single aspect.

Indeed, the company has a long history of keeping in stride with the times. Serving clients since 1954, it evolved from land surveying and development to sanitation and roadway design into an architectural leader, soon incorporating mechanical, electrical, plumbing, and fire protection as well in response to client demand. Having earned their collective knowledge through a high level of interdepartmental collaboration and getting their hands dirty in the field, the team’s commitment to excellence is nothing short of impressive.

A bird’s eye view
At Nelson + Pope, all stakeholders benefit from a well-balanced overall project scope that looks at the big picture and then funnels into a laser focus on the finest details over several stages. All project aspects are carefully considered, including well-designed, sustainable energy consumption and the design elements used at the point of delivery; even soft furnishings are brought under the spotlight and incorporated into the overall planning scheme.

While this level of attention given to such a wide array of functions may appear counterintuitive, Nelson + Pope incorporated its many services early on as clients requested them and, in this way, honed its capabilities in each field over time, ensuring it always employed the best people for each function.

As part of its broad scope of services, the company can draw on the expertise of Nelson, Pope & Voorhis, LLC (NPV), its environmental planning affiliate established in 1997. Based in Melville, Long Island, and Suffern, New York, NPV specializes in environmental, land use planning, economic analysis, SEQRA, stormwater management, and various other aspects of development (ranging from industrial to municipal, institutional, recreational, commercial, residential, and more), habitat restoration and preservation, site remediation/clean-up, shoreline stabilization and protection, invasive species management, and a host of other functions concerning fauna and flora. NPV solves complex environmental and planning puzzles for public and private clients through all levels (federal, state, county, and municipal) of governmental review.

“NPV is constantly evolving with the federal, state, and local regulatory agencies with regard to endangered, threatened, and species of special concern. Therefore, we offer the management of invasives and the preservation and protection of recognized species like the northern long-eared bat, southern pine beetles, lantern flies, Japanese knotweed… that could be [spread or] impacted by development,” explains Brant Reiner, Partner, Nelson Pope Voorhis.

Other environmental services include landscape design, project sustainability analysis, environmental testing, and permitting. “Our focus is on continuing to be evolutionary—being able to adapt to situations that are presented to us from regulatory, longevity, and functionality perspectives,” says Reiner of this inherently challenging industry. By approaching each project as a unique opportunity to improve on the previous one, NPV has made a name for itself as an industry trailblazer.

To this end, green infrastructure supported by its progressive management approach shapes the company’s perspective on most projects within the context of sustainable initiatives as it relates to changing weather patterns and every site’s function within its surrounding landscape, now and in the future. Presently, the company is focused on educating clients on living shoreline recovery around New York State and beyond. Driven by the realities of climate projections over the next three to five decades, the team is working hard to incorporate its expertise on the subject into its coastal projects to meet regulations and help save shorelines, marinas, and shorefront properties from further damage by establishing and maintaining shoreline stability and resiliency with regard to wave energies, rising water levels, advancing regulations, and more by coming up with unexpected solutions that combine novelty with future-proof and environmentally responsible concepts.

Moreover, NPV serves as a soundboard and ideation partner for organizations in need of the knowledge and insight of professionals like landscape ecologists, AICP certified planners, Stormwater Water Pollution Prevention Plan (SWPPP) specialists, and informed designers trained in future-proofing infrastructure within, surrounding, and influenced by coastal and freshwater resources, wetlands, natural landscapes, et cetera. To this end, the company often consults municipalities, who benefit greatly from its expertise. That includes assistance in securing financial support through grants.

Cleaner and greener
Beyond all these sustainability efforts, John Perrotta, P.E., Senior Partner and head of the mechanical, engineering, plumbing department, also notes a distinct move toward further future-proofing infrastructure by reducing carbon-related energy sources. This is achieved by retrofitting buildings and replacing old fuel infrastructure with electricity, electric vehicle charging stations, et cetera. This is, in many cases, directly related to regulatory ratings of building performance. “It’s not just us driving the narrative; it’s our clients asking for these more sustainable resources and systems,” Perrotta says, Senior Partner, Nelson + Pope.

This commitment to protecting clients from penalties for low-ranking building performance is evident across all its departments. With public and private clients increasingly looking to discuss their design options within the context of sustainability grants, everyone from the design to the engineering department is approaching their mandates with greater awareness regarding green practices and their possibilities.

As a result, the company has the attention of a few large names in the energy industry. By collaborating with one of these clients on complex fuel cell power plants on Long Island, Nelson + Pope has proven itself a leader amongst giants. It is currently supplying several services, including arranging city approval and site planning, electrical and mechanical engineering involved in the installation and integration of electricity into the main grid, and more.

“Once the project is completed, it is going to be a community power asset so that [community members] can buy their power from this clean source of energy as opposed to it coming from a less green source like gas or oil,” says Perrotta.

Projects with impact
Another proud project includes the wide scope of work the team completed on the ground-up construction of the high-performance municipal building in the Town of Babylon in North Amityville, New York, which was built on a wooded site surrounded by a high-density urban area. Home to the Asian long-horned beetle, a known invasive species, the company had its work cut out to ensure that all environmental protection regulations were followed and approvals obtained to ensure the successful conclusion of the project within this context.

Previously known as a problem site with regard to crime that riddled the area for over a decade, the final product made for a welcomed improvement. “The site was turned into a community courthouse, going from a place where crimes were committed to a place where justice is being served,” says Michael Sciara, R.A., LEED AP, Senior Partner and head of the architectural department, underlining how this building reflects the company’s motto of being thoughtful from the ground up while making a conscious environmental and social contribution to the region.

While the company’s work in civil and health care, senior living, and custom aging-in-place multi-family projects remains strong, it notes a marked expansion of construction in the industrial sphere with the rise of e-commerce. Contrary to what the world may have imagined at the outset, this world-changing phenomenon is actually driving retail construction. As the demand for service stations and trucking depots rolls in, it is clear that truckers moving merchandise cross-country need services.

The company also takes care of locals living in the area by securing affordable housing. At the moment, Nelson + Pope is collaborating with the relevant powers to free up areas for affordable housing. The team has also created units in mixed-use developments for the protection of victims of domestic violence—all driven by the reality that housing on Long Island has, for many, become prohibitively expensive.

The place to be
Significantly expanding its market presence across all five New York City boroughs and the broader state, plus New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and even Florida, Nelson + Pope is a progressive firm acutely in touch with the zeitgeist. As such, it has a particular soft spot for welcoming young enquiring minds with diverse skill sets in search of competitive salaries.

With ample opportunities to develop professionally, the company offers an especially good home for those looking for direct access to the guidance and mentorship of senior colleagues and partners. As its people can and do attest, Nelson + Pope is a fantastic place to work. Full of creative minds brimming with enthusiasm, it is a positive and fun environment where generous mentorship is considered part and parcel of starting a career from scratch.

“Our office has some great opportunities. From our junior staff all the way up to our partnership level, we’re very integrated. From engineering to surveying, architectural, and environmental sectors, we’re all hands-on together,” says Reiner of a company culture where employees are acknowledged as individuals, their strengths identified and channeled toward the areas where they shine best.

With such a vast range of services on offer, the company’s 120 staff members also benefit from having access to a selection of continuous education options to help them build their careers and stay ahead of industry changes. They also have the chance to gain firsthand experience in ways that are difficult to come by in larger and less diverse firms. The management team is also keen on younger staff members pursuing further education through training seminars and certification. “We make accommodations for staff on an evolving level. We also are very understanding of our staff having personal lives; we appreciate scheduling conflicts. We do everything we can to provide flexibility where [possible],” Reiner adds. By nurturing talent, the company continues cultivating a culture of knowledge, expertise, and diversity.

“As a company, we have adopted parameters into our employee handbook which really are beneficial to the employee to promote longevity with the company. For example, we have an educational assistance policy, where the company reimburses the employee for the cost of an advanced degree,” says Sciara. The company also assists its personnel in obtaining their professional licenses through an assistance program, alongside other training and continuous accreditation programs.

Furthermore, Nelson + Pope provides a clear road map of pathways for advancement within the company that displays the exact routes via which new hires can look forward to reaching the next level in their careers when joining the firm. That not only takes the guesswork out of progression for recruits but also instills trust and a sense of working toward something valuable in their futures. The success of this approach is evident in the number of senior partners who have been with the company for decades after joining as juniors and still enjoy coming to work every day.

In addition, the company goes to great lengths to ensure that its people remain current regarding new methods and materials. To this end, it regularly invites professionals and fabricators from various fields to introduce whatever new products and technology exist in a bid to incorporate what it can where it can into its projects. “We have the staff sit in on new product introductions; it’s important that everyone down to junior staff understand what is available to us to work with,” says Perrotta, underlining the importance of encouraging younger staff to explore the possibility of different approaches and materials.

Building the future
As the firm continues to consciously grow and develop its next generation of new professionals as its young progressive thought leaders consistently move up the ranks, the future remains promising. “[Professional progression] is not a vertical path… It has to widen out. We need younger engineers to see that that opportunity exists,” says Perrotta. “Progression can be scary in more corporate, regimented companies; but if we can grow bottom-out, I think that is good for everybody.”

The company will, of course, keep its finger on the pulse of building performance innovations in its existing markets while exploring new opportunities. And it looks like turning its sights toward the education sector is the next logical step for the Nelson + Pope team. Creating spaces where the values of environmental sustainability are reflected within the educational environment is a concept that is dear to the team’s collective heart, and the management team is confident that it has all the capabilities necessary to contribute positively to this field—and perhaps even to transform how educational institutions are built.

Such a focus on educational spaces seems all too fitting for Nelson + Pope, a visionary firm that is shaping the landscape not only for today, but for the future.

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