Aurora Namnum: Making Spaces Better For Everyone

Aurora Namnum

"Aurora took a course in transportation engineering and one in engineering economics from me during her career so far in CEE, so I heard from her a few times about her work on greenhouse gas emissions with local government.  Recently I learned what a difference she has made.  According to local government colleagues working on the project of greening government buildings, her long commitment to the project and attention to detail has been invaluable, " said Senior Lecturer Francis Vanek.

Enter Senior Aurora Namnum, Civil ’19. We got the chance to speak with this remarkable CEE student about her work with the City of Ithaca, the Ithaca 2030 District and her advice for her peers. 

Q. How did you get initially involved with the Ithaca 2030 District and the City of Ithaca?
A. When I was a freshman I was looking for a part time job that was at least somewhat related to my career interests, and I found one at Cornell Cooperative Extension (CCE). I was a culvert field analyst, which meant I would drive around Ithaca and take measurements of culverts (the pipes under roads that allowed water to flow from one side of the road to the other) to assess aquatic connectivity. Once it started getting cold, CCE sent me a list of other possible jobs to do. The one that caught my eye was Architecture 2030, a nationwide initiative to reduce the environmental impact of buildings. I jumped on the opportunity to get involved, and after a few months I became the 2030 District Specialist at CCE. One of the board members of the Ithaca 2030 District, Nick Goldsmith, is the Energy and Sustainability Coordinator for the City and Town of Ithaca. We were able to achieve a lot together for the Ithaca 2030 District, so partnering up at the City of Ithaca just seemed like a natural fit.

aurora and nick
Nick Goldsmith and Aurora Namnum

“Aurora worked on several projects, but her main efforts were related to the City's recently adopted benchmarking policy, which commits the City to tracking energy use in many city facilities and sharing that information with the public. Aurora was invaluable in planning and creating the first annual City of Ithaca annual benchmarking report”, Nick Goldsmith, City of Ithaca Sustainability Coordinator said.

Q. What did you do there?
A. For the Ithaca 2030 District I began by collecting and analyzing energy data in Ithaca buildings, and used that data to make recommendations on how to reduce energy consumption with a high return on investment. As time passed I received more responsibilities, such as creating the District's baselines for energy and water consumption, and transportation emissions. I created a report outlining the calculations, and there is also a more specific methods and assumptions document that is not included on the website. Now, as assistant director I get to give presentations on some of the steps we've taken to take a holistic approach to sustainable urban development, and create individualized reports for each district member outlining their building's performance and progress toward the 2030 targets.

I worked at the City of Ithaca from August 2017 - May 2018. I performed a variety of tasks, ranging from conducting market research, to preparing written reports and presentations. But my main task was to develop a framework and report for the City's new municipal building energy benchmarking policy. This involved collecting energy data for City buildings, tracking them in an online platform called EPA Portfolio Manager, and analyzing the data to look for anomalies and make recommendations on how to improve building performance.

Aurora on construction site

Q. What did you want to be when you grew up?
A. As a kid I always enjoyed solving problems, especially when they helped people. Seeing the joy and relief on people’s faces when I help them has always been the greatest feeling in the world. So I knew that I wanted to apply my love for helping others to a career, but I could never figure out how. All I knew was that my dream was to help save the world. I wanted to be a police officer, then a firefighter, and then a spy. But as I got older, I’ve begun to approach my dream differently. I realized that to save the world, I didn’t literally have to save people. Instead, I could change people’s lives or help improve their standard of living.

Q. What do you want to do after you graduate?
A. That's always a fun question. Since I was a kid I've known that I want to change the world for the better, I just wasn't sure exactly how. For the first year after I graduate, I plan on staying at Cornell to work in ministry with Cru. But after that, I'm not completely sure. I just know that I'd like to explore the intersection of profitable urban development & sustainability to make spaces better for people. 

Q. Do you have parting advice for undergrads?
A. Don't be afraid to reach out to people that are older and more experienced. If you are interested in getting involved in something, just show that you are passionate and willing to learn.



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