Recap on EBC Program on Energy and Environmental Affairs

April 8th, 2015

by Stephen Barrett, LEED AP


I recently had the opportunity to participate in a panel discussion organized by the Environmental Business Council of New England (EBC) with Matthew Beaton, the new Secretary of Energy and Environmental Affairs under Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker.  While the Baker Administration took the reins in early January and Secretary Beaton has been on-board since day one, this panel was one of his first public appearances as he has been busy building his team and getting them up to speed.  Some in the clean energy and environmental industries had been concerned that the Baker Administration would roll back clean energy policies and environmental protections, though Beaton emphasized that the Administration was entering office with an open mind and no actions would be considered during an initial three month freeze period on any new regulations or programs.  Renewable energy advocates were happy to hear the Secretary’s announcement at the PV America Conference the previous day that the Administration would continue the Patrick Administration’s commitment of 1600 MW of solar by 2020.  Beaton was asked by the panel about another Patrick Administration proposal – the Clean Energy Standard – which would incentivize the purchase of Canadian hydropower in Massachusetts in an effort to achieve the 2008 Global Warming Solutions Act goal of 80% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by the year 2050.  With the proposed program out for public comment, Beaton only said that he would wait to review public comment, but that he would focus on cost-effective solutions.  The high cost of electricity in Massachusetts due to constrained supplies of natural gas elicited a lot of interest.  While everyone seems to agree that high energy costs are a burden on the economy and that increasing natural gas supply in some manner is the best short-term solution, how to deliver new supply (e.g., new or enhanced pipelines, more Liquid Natural Gas [LNG] deliveries by sea) and how much to deliver given the region’s current over-dependence on natural gas is of much debate.  Beaton did not offer a plan for avoiding price spikes next winter but said it would be a focus of his agenda in the coming months.  All in all, the evening was a welcomed introduction to the new Secretary and the start of a productive dialogue with the environmental and energy business community.

On being a women-owned business…

April 6th, 2015

By Mary Ellen Eagan


Over the past several months, as we’ve negotiated and finalized the internal sale of HMMH, I’ve had a lot of time to think about what it means (or might mean) to be a women-owned business (I’ve also spent a lot of time learning all the designations and abbreviations: WBE, WOSB, EDWOSB, etc. For simplicity, let’s just go with WBE). On a surface level, there should be no difference – after all, I’ve been president for more than 10 years, and Diana has been COO for two. And yet, I think it will make a difference for HMMH and for me.  Here’s why.

First, many people already assume we are a WBE – but now, we can even better serve our clients by helping them meet W/DBE contract goals.  I just spent the day at the City of Chicago Department of Aviation’s W/M/DBE workshop, and was stunned to learn that the CDA achieved a 39% W/M/DBE goal last year.  We hear from firms all the time that it’s hard to find “quality” DBE firms – I’m confident that our 34-year history of excellence will help in some small way to change that perception.

Second, it has forced me to think about what it means for men at HMMH – I’ve thought a lot about the trust and confidence displayed by the men who sold their stake in the company to Diana and me, but even more about the future of current and emerging male leaders within our firm who are also significant owners and contributors.  We may be unique among WBE firms to have so many talented men in leadership positions – I think that makes our firm rich.

Finally, it has brought back some of my inner feminist.  I was recently encouraged by a close friend (an enlightened male) to read Wonder Women: Sex, Power, and the Quest for Perfection, an examination of how women’s lives have, and have not, changed over the past forty years.  It made me realize how lucky I am to have been born when I was and how grateful I am to have been able to make the choices I’ve made (I am a contemporary of the author).  If my mother had not been an unsatisfied “housewife” at the height of the Gloria-Steinem-bra-burning-days, she might not have been the Tiger Mother who insisted I study something (anything) other than teaching or nursing in college.  I hated engineering (and my grades proved it – HMMH would never hire me today!), yet somehow I never lost the sense that I needed to forge my own path.  If I’d been a little older, many of those paths would have been closed to me (as it was, I have my share of horror stories – like the time the professor told my entire class to ‘Let the Lady Engineer show us how to do it’); if I’d been a little younger, it might not have been so important for me to prove myself (I look at my niece – who’s about to graduate from WPI as a biomedical engineer – and suspect gender is not an issue for her, except that the boys can’t keep up).  The challenge that remains – for women and men alike these days – is that of making choices.  We can do anything, but we can’t do everything.  When folks ask me how I ‘do it all’ (and by that, I assume they mean CEO, parent, wife, friend, volunteer), my stock answer is that I don’t do any of it well (and by that, I mean that I’ve had to accept the fact that I’m not perfect at anything).  But I get a lot done.

This quote from Wonder Women sums it up for me:

“Women should seek empowerment in their lives, but not control. They should be empowered to use their bodies as they desire; empowered to make the choices they prefer; empowered to seek happiness wherever they may find it. But control, like that ephemeral “all” again, is an illusion. Because in the end, the only thing you can really control is your thighs. And they just don’t matter that much.”

Amen, sister.


Observations from a Panel at the ACC/AAAE Design and Construction Conference in Denver

March 18th, 2015

by Stephen Barrett

I had the pleasure of participating in a panel on how airports apply unique engineering techniques to take advantage of available resources. I started off the panel discussion by presenting information on ACRP 02-56, Developing the Airport Business Case for Renewable Energy where I described how the research will produce a ranking system which quantifies the economic, self-sustainability, and environmental benefits of renewable energy projects. These benefits include stabilizing long-term electricity costs, investing in a modernized electricity generation and distribution network to ensure reliability and resiliency, and advancing environmental initiatives to open up permitting for future development. Traci Holton, Manager of Design at the Metropolitan Nashville Airport Authority, followed up with a discussion of a variety of examples from Nashville Airport (BNA) including solar planning (which I am helping them with – thanks for the kudos Traci), to asphalt and rock reuse, to converting mulch produced through vegetation management activities into improving site stabilization and minimizing runoff. Traci also described their Geothermal Project which will utilize the constant water temperature from a large on-site quarry for heating and cooling resulting in savings to the airport from avoided natural gas use and potable water previously purchased for boiler make-up and on-site irrigation. The project is currently out-to-bid with a design-build format and requiring a minimum payback period. The last speaker was Dale Stubbs, Associate Vice President for AECOM in Atlanta, who talked about Atlanta Hartsfield-Jackson’s (ATL) Green Acres Recycling Facility that is presently under development. The unique facility will be built, owned and operated by a third party contractor on 39-acres of airport property where all the airport’s waste will be delivered, sorted and managed including the use of compost for growing food that will be sold back to concessionaires. Each of these projects shows how airports can be leaders in developing innovative approaches to areas such as energy consumption and waste management that can produce a financial benefit through the efficient use of available resources.

Happy America Recycles Day 2014!

November 13th, 2014

by Christopher Menge

recycling logo with the world

In honor of today being America Recycles Day, I put together the following tips to assist with your recycling efforts:

  1. Put your recycling bins next to your trash or near your kitchen.
  2. Remind your family members with “Can you Recycle that?” signs on your trash bins.
  3. Your cereal bags aren’t really “dirty.” Just shake them out or rinse them and then recycle! Recycle the boxes as paper, of course.
  4. Don’t throw away that greasy food container! You don’t need lots of energy-hungry hot water to recycle your greasy plastic take-out food container. Just put in a couple drops of dish soap, and with a sponge, some cold water and 15 seconds of scrubbing, you’ll have a clean container ready for the bin!
  5. Make 90% of those pizza boxes recyclable! Just use your sharp box cutter knife to cut out the greasy spot, and the rest of the box can go in the recycle bin.
  6. Quickly dress up your glass bottles for clean recycling. Just cut off the metal or plastic capsules and rings at the tops of the bottles, and put those pieces in the proper stream.

For more information on America Recycles Day, see

Happy Recycling!

RIP Mayor Menino

November 4th, 2014

by Mary Ellen Eagan

Tom Menino

Tom Menino, 1942-2014

I first met Tom Menino when he was running for Mayor of Boston in 1993. My father (a born-again Democrat) was a precinct captain in Dorchester, and invited me to a house party/meet the candidate event on someone’s roof deck. Now, Dorchester is an Irish-American stronghold, and Menino was Italian-American (and there were 4 Irish candidates in the field). On top of that, I could barely hear or understand a word he said (his nickname was “Mumbles”). I didn’t think he had a chance. Boy, was I wrong.

The next time I saw him was at my father’s funeral in 1997. By that time, my father had lost his job and most of his friends to alcoholism. But the Mayor sat discreetly in the back of the mostly empty church, and left a card telling us kids that he was a good guy and we should be proud of him.

He had a reputation of being everywhere – in every parade, but also at neighborhood meetings, checking on roads and trash pickups. I saw him on the street, at meetings, at the airport. And he was all about making the City work. He was proud to sing The Pothole Blues.

The last time I saw Mr. Menino was last summer. He was doing a victory tour of the City, picking up awards and recognition from every group in town – this one the Energy Award for Government Service from the Environmental Business Council of New England. He could barely walk, and spoke for only a few minutes, but got a lengthy standing ovation.

For someone who never graduated from college, and whom many (including your truly) thought unfit for the job, he left quite a legacy – especially in the areas of environment and transportation. He demonstrated that leadership has many styles. Sometimes it’s about getting stuff done.