General Excellence: OLA Consulting Engineers
Jill Walsh, James Dolan, Patrick Lynch, Steven Abbattista, John Torre
Green building may be in vogue now, but in the early years of OLA Consulting Engineers, many in the industry viewed LEED (the US Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design program) and other green efforts as a gimmick. These naysayers “weren’t taking the time to educate themselves on what LEED was,” says Steven Abbattista, one of OLA’s five principals. The 40-year-old Hawthorne-based mechanical and electrical engineering company, though, has made sustainable design and energy conservation a main focus for more than 15 years. “We’ve been there from the beginning, learning the systems, learning how that type of approach helps the design,” says Patrick Lynch, another principal.
The 38-employee firm—which now brings in around $6.5 million a year—has been a green pioneer in Westchester, working on a number of high-profile projects, including a number of LEED “firsts”: PepsiCo’s R&D building (the first LEED for Existing Building certification for a research building); the New York State Parks Taconic Regional Headquarters (the first LEED Platinum project in New York State); Armonk contractor C.W. Brown’s offices (the first LEED Platinum project in the Hudson Valley); and the Jacob Burns Media Arts Lab and Manhattanville College’s Student Center (the first two projects to receive LEED Gold for New Construction in Westchester).
A big reason for the company’s success is the dynamic between its five principals—Abbattista, Lynch, James Dolan, John Torre, and Jill Walsh—all of whom have been with the company for at least 10 years. Says Lynch, “There’s a lot of history here and a lot that we’ve learned together over the years.” Learning things such as how to best work with architects to map out the best materials and find an approach that maximizes cost-effectiveness.
Also, Lynch says, the principals are “fairly hard on each other in terms of thinking about how we can always improve.” To that end, OLA attends conferences and hosts lunch-and-learns and in-house training events to stay abreast of the newest technologies and best practices.
Looking back now, the principals are happy they were at the forefront of the green movement. “Now, if a mechanical engineering firm isn’t strong in energy-efficiency and sustainability and [they don’t] understand LEED, they’re backwards,” says Lynch.