People Spotlight: Meet Rushita Vora
Our People Spotlight series gives you an inside look at our technical experts around the world. This week, we are highlighting an embodied carbon and life cycle assessment specialist from our Buildings + Places business in the U.S. East region and providing an insight into their inspiration and work.
Rushita joined AECOM in 2021 as a graduate high-performance building specialist. She is part of our High Performance Buildings Team that provides sustainability analysis for planning, design, and construction projects across a range of sectors, including infrastructure, commercial, education, transportation and hospitality.
Her work at AECOM includes developing strategies and pathways to achieve net-zero carbon targets and goals for multinational clients, material and market research for low embodied carbon solutions and materials, and embodied carbon and lifecycle assessment modelling for green building certifications. Rushita has also developed and led embodied carbon modeling training for her colleagues globally and shared her knowledge to a broader audience through the B+P Technical Academy training modules.
Tell us about what inspired you to join the industry.
For my architecture undergraduate thesis, I studied ship building using wood and explored how that construction technology could translate to building structures. I remember sitting inside a partially constructed wooden ship and being mesmerized by the material and how it connected the built environment with the natural environment. Reflecting on that moment, I recognize it as the starting point of my journey into addressing sustainability in the built environment.
Following my undergraduate thesis, I worked as an architect in Auroville, a small town in India, where I actively contributed to reducing the carbon footprint by integrating natural and locally available materials into design. I continued to pursue my interest in decarbonizing the built environment throughout my graduate program by studying the environmental impacts of timber as a building material.
My graduate thesis on assessing the embodied carbon impacts of timber construction further piqued my interest in the use of low carbon materials to decarbonize the built environment. My inclination towards finding solutions to address and mitigate the environmental impact of the built environment through the exploration of building materials led me to AECOM and the High Performance Buildings Team.
I remember sitting inside a partially constructed wooden ship and being mesmerized by the material and how it connected the built environment with the natural environment. ”
What is your favorite AECOM project that you’ve worked on and why?
In my role, I’ve worked on numerous projects involving embodied carbon and lifecycle assessments across various sectors. While I enjoyed working on all these projects, if I were to highlight a favorite, it would be the airport terminal project for the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey. My role focused on developing strategies to reduce the embodied carbon to meet decarbonization goals and contribute towards the project’s LEED and Envision certifications.
Collaboration with the design team in the project’s early design stages provided an opportunity to effectively implement embodied carbon principles. We identified optimization and minimization strategies, proposing low carbon alternatives for high-impact materials. Our approach prioritized the adoption of low embodied carbon alternatives, integrating low carbon language into material specifications. These sustainable materials minimized embodied carbon impacts and supported the circular economy. Our team used concrete with high supplementary cementitious materials like slag and fly ash, structural steel and reinforcement with high recycled content, recycled concrete aggregates and warm mix asphalt with high recycled asphaltic pavement.
After extensive discussions with relevant teams and the Port Authority, our low carbon recommendations were either seamlessly integrated or thoughtfully modified and integrated in the material specifications, ensuring compliance with stringent embodied carbon reduction requirements for green building certifications.
This project stands out for me not only because we successfully implemented embodied carbon reduction strategies, which led to the project’s decarbonization, but also because it served as a tremendous learning experience. The project allowed me to align our embodied carbon methodology with green building certification requirements. We were able to implement this streamlined process on other projects. It’s also a great example of how AECOM’s Scope X initiative is put into practice at the project level to drive down carbon impacts. Working across disciplines and teams not only contributed to successful project outcomes, but also helped me build strong connections, both internally and externally. These aspects collectively make this project one of my favorites at AECOM.
This project stands out for me not only because we successfully implemented embodied carbon reduction strategies, which led to the project’s decarbonization, but also because it served as a tremendous learning experience. ”
Tell us a story of how your work positively impacted the community.
One of my current projects is a lifecycle and net-zero carbon assessment for a city level project in KSA (Kingdom of Saudi Arabia). I am part of the net zero carbon team and am supporting the Innovation Laboratory initiative (iLAB) team to assess and reduce the embodied carbon impacts of the project, and to achieve the client’s decarbonization targets. The project involves massive construction work, and without any targeted intervention, it would have a significantly high embodied carbon footprint.
As a sustainability professional deeply committed to reducing the embodied carbon footprint in the built environment, being part of such an impactful project is truly fulfilling.”
As an integral part of the project, we are actively exploring both current and future low carbon technologies and materials through extensive market research. We are also developing innovative low-carbon strategies that can significantly reduce the project’s embodied carbon footprint. These interventions hold the potential to make a considerable impact on reducing the overall carbon footprint.
As a sustainability professional deeply committed to reducing the embodied carbon footprint in the built environment, being part of such an impactful project is truly fulfilling. Actively contributing to the reduction of its carbon footprint aligns with my passion and allows me to positively impact the environment.
Share a piece of career advice.
I believe it is extremely important to step outside your comfort zone to grow both professionally and personally. Taking on challenges that may seem uncomfortable at first can often lead to remarkable experiences. I also strongly believe in embracing continuous learning. Investing in expanding your skills and knowledge is important for a more resilient and fulfilling professional life.