Sam Kittner

The paths one can take after architecture school are manifold, but what happens when an architect changes focus mid-career? For Frank Mobilio, AIA, LEED AP, shifting gears has meant becoming far more effective at promoting sustainability, primarily through green leasing projects, than he was behind the drafting table. Formerly a senior associate at HOK, Mobilio is now the associate director and vice president in the project and development services (PDS) group of Jones Lang LaSalle’s (JLL) Washington, D.C., office, where he also serves as the sustainability market leader.

I worked on my first sustainable project with HOK in the ’90s. I was the project manager for interiors for the Nature Conservancy headquarters. At that time, the emphasis was not as much on energy saving and performance as it was on materials selection and indoor air quality. That project was where I first met my colleagues with the Staubach Co., which eventually merged with JLL in 2008. In 2002, I was home sick with the flu and, thanks to bad cable and cold medicine, I was able to study for the LEED exam. I was one of the first officers in HOK to become a LEED-accredited professional.

In 2003, which was a watershed year for me personally, one of my clients asked me to be his owners’ representative for ongoing work. At the same time, I became president of my local community association, which was a great way to build organizational skills, and I began to focus more on the bigger picture of sustainability. I found that strategizing on projects was very intellectually engaging to me. One of my colleagues said to me, “The way you get things built is with your telephone.” So I thought, “Let’s go with this.” Not long afterward, I had the opportunity to join Staubach.

As a sustainability market leader for JLL’s PDS Mid-Atlantic region, I work with our real estate brokers and building managers up front to assess potential locations, work through budgetary issues, and help define their sustainability goals as well as manage LEED EB [LEED for Existing Buildings] certification projects. I have written on green leasing, which is about how the owner and the tenant work through the ongoing changes in sustainability during the lease term, as well as how potential split incentives on energy savings and costs are addressed. These factors are important in both the construction of a tenant space as well as in the space’s operation.

I find it fascinating that I have been able to do more sustainable work on this side of the table than as an architect. I can speak about sustainability in terms that are understood in the boardroom, at the design table, and in the field. I think that really brings a level of comfort to decision makers. Sustainability is an area of growth, and my goal is to continue on this path. Will I ever retire? Probably not. I believe that when you stop learning you die. So I want to keep learning. —As told to Kim A. O’Connell