McKinstry’s Claire Puryear on Empowering Clients With Actionable Decarbonization Solutions

“Earth Month is a good reminder of how we can all do a little bit to protect the blue dot we call home.”

Claire Puryear is a mechanical design engineer and started with McKinstry in 2019 as an intern. Learn more about Claire and how she makes decarbonization and sustainability accessible and actionable for building owners, guiding them from initial goals to tangible outcomes.

Learn More About Claire’s Experience

What is your role at McKinstry? What’s been your career journey?

I’m a mechanical design engineer on McKinstry’s Zero+ Planning Group within the Engineering and Design department. I joined McKinstry as an intern five years ago, then transitioned to a full-time role in the Design/Build world, where I helped design HVAC & plumbing systems for large New Construction jobs, primarily commercial office buildings. When Engineering’s Zero+ Planning team launched in late 2022, I transitioned to a more consulting-focused role. Now I work on decarbonization jobs full time and work with clients to help them meet their sustainability goals. 

What does success look like in your role?

In my role, success looks like a variety of things. Success could be: 

  1. Helping a building owner replace old, inefficient fossil fuel equipment with new energy-efficient systems tailored to the needs of their building. 
  2. Making an actionable plan for a university to reduce its carbon emissions over time, and they implement our improvement recommendations and see the positive changes to the campus. 
  3. Implementing renewable energy systems and lowering a client’s energy use and utility costs. 
  4. Educating a building owner on federal/state/utility grants and incentives available to them so they can invest in sustainable technologies. 
  5. Providing consulting expertise at a level of excellence that opens doors for future work from high-profile clients. 
  6. Helping a client reach their sustainability goals via a path that aligns with both their values and McKinstry’s. 
What is the most rewarding thing about your work?

Taking complex concepts like decarbonization or sustainability and making them more digestible and attainable for building owners and the average Joe or Jill alike.  

Most of the time, our clients come to us with big goals but have little to no idea where to start, much less how to get it to the finish line. It’s incredibly rewarding to create excitement for decarbonization and sustainability, make it approachable for all, and watch our clients take on the efficiency measures we recommend, making a positive difference in the built environment. 

What do you feel is the best way to encourage environmental responsibility and community engagement?

There is no wrong answer for how to get involved. Many of us feel the effects of climate change in our own way, e.g., extreme heat events in the summer, wildfires, fewer and fewer “good” ski days each season, etc. Tackling a problem that big can be overwhelming and we can’t solve it ourselves, but it’s ok to do little things to transition to a greener lifestyle and do your part.  

Some recommendations for where to start: 1) get really good at recycling, 2) take shorter showers, 3) volunteer to clean up parks, 4) ask our Decarb team why heat pumps are so cool and 5) attend monthly events to learn more ways to get involved and hear from your coworkers about sustainability project success stories. Earth Month is a good reminder of how we can all do a little bit to protect the blue dot we call home.  

Can you tell us about a time that you were proud of supporting clients in their sustainability goals?

One project I’m working on right now that I’m very proud of is the Mosier Community Center in Mosier, Oregon, (a small town about an hour east of Portland). In 2016, an oil train derailed and crashed there, causing a devastating fire and forcing evacuation of the town. It destroyed the town center and spilled tens of thousands of gallons of oil into the surrounding water. With all the damage to the town and the ecosystems around it, the city of Mosier wanted to rebuild its town center better than before and decided to make it net-zero energy.

I’m happy to report that we just submitted drawings to the city for a net-zero energy facility that will help rebuild the town and align with their goals. I’m so proud that we can help make a positive impact in a community that’s suffered so much.

Which of McKinstry’s values do you most resonate with?

Make a Positive Difference. We can leave the built environment better than we found it and provide real value to our customers and community. I see it daily through the kinds of work/jobs we seek out, the clients we choose to work with, the countless hours of community service, the Alliances that lift internal McKinstry folks up and more 

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