Lessons Learned: Tools and Skills for a Sustainable Future Through ‘Net Zero’ Internship

By Alondra Maldonado, Net Zero Emerging Leaders Intern

architecture studio setting

In 2023, Hennebery Eddy received a Net Zero Emerging Leaders Internship grant from Energy Trust of Oregon to hire a design student for a net zero internship. This internship is part of our commitment to the AIA 2030 Challenge and improving upon our sustainability measures through all stages of design. Here, intern Alondra Maldonado shares what she learned through her experience in the internship program.

When I came across the Energy Trust of Oregon Net Zero Emerging Leaders internship at Hennebery Eddy, I knew immediately that I wanted to give it a shot. I was intrigued to learn more about how projects are tracked in terms of sustainable goals and about other energy modeling tools. The main thing that drew me to Hennebery Eddy was that the firm pledged to the AIA 2030 Challenge — meaning they are working toward all their projects becoming carbon neutral by 2030. Another thing that interested me about Hennebery Eddy was that it is a very inclusive firm, which I believe makes a great working environment because you get many different perspectives and outlooks on life.

The biggest lesson I learned was how to work in a professional setting and communicate with a team every step of the way. The tools we used in the process include the AIA 2030 Design Data Exchange (DDx) platform, which helps firms track their projects in terms of how well they are performing and whether they are beyond the baseline reductions. I also helped with the QC (quality control) process of ensuring projects are reported both on DDx and our internal tracking system. The biggest lesson I learned was how to create a new workflow for the firm that allow the Net-Positive Committee to report to the DDx platform more efficiently.

I learned how to create an energy model using Cove.Tool, all the benefits the software has, and how it is used here at the firm. Using the same tool, I was also able to dive into embodied carbon calculation by creating wall assemblies, floors, and roofs from a design drawing set. By building those in Cove.Tool, we were able to quantify which materials embody the least amount of carbon.

Keeping myself accountable for meeting deadlines and being well organized is something that strengthened and prepared me for the next chapter of my career. Another takeaway I gained from this internship is the importance of learning and sharing that knowledge. The internship cohort I was a part of this year really taught me the importance of sharing knowledge. The other interns from four different firms were very generous in sharing their findings, methods and solutions to achieve some of the similar goals we have in common, aiming to mitigate the climate crisis within our built environment. In the weeks building up to the final ETO presentation, I spent a lot of time preparing my presentation, and I truly believe that preparation really helped me become better public speaker overall. It helped me become more comfortable and confident in speaking, which is highly important in the field of architecture.

I know that the experience gained here at Hennebery Eddy as a Net Zero Emerging Leader intern, I will carry on with me in my career. I am very passionate about sustainable design and believe that this field will become the center for all design decisions in the next decade. I want to thank Hennebery Eddy for giving me a chance to be part of this incredible experience — I will take the lessons I learned here with me everywhere I go, especially this summer when I return to the firm for a design internship position!