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Women at work – Thinking differently: Tiwari tackles sustainability issues

WashU's Railesha Tiwari stands in front of the East End construction site on the Danforth Campus.
Railesha Tiwari, on the site of the East End Project. She will be facilitating sustainability efforts there, but her work for the university will encompass so much more. (Photo: Joe Angeles/Washington University)
Yellow sign with Rosie the Riveter silhouette reads East End Women Working

Washington University women are rolling up their sleeves and getting the job done on the East End construction site in a variety of ways, from engineering to project managing to communications. Here’s another in a series spotlighting women students, staff and alumni who are contributing to the transformation.

Railesha Tiwari is the Sustainable Design and Construction Project Manager at Washington University in St. Louis. It’s a new, unique position at the university, reporting both to Facilities and the Office of Sustainability. And it’s a job in which she wears many hats, shepherding sustainable design principles across new construction projects, like the East End Transformation, as well as renovation projects on campus.

More than a decade ago, Tiwari was working as an architect in India when she realized she wanted to do something more in the industry. After completing a five-year professional degree program in architecture, she worked on commercial, mixed-use and residential projects, but felt something was lacking in her career.

“Sustainability wasn’t that much at the forefront then, at least not in India,” she said. “It wasn’t like today, that if you say ‘sustainable design,’ everyone understands the meaning of the term and the potential design strategies.

“I wanted to get a better understanding of good sustainable design principles and best practices,” she said, “and learn what other countries were doing. My literature review on the initiatives in sustainable building design led me to high-performance design projects that were starting to push the envelope on energy efficiency across the world.”

So she set her sights worldwide, exploring advanced degrees in the United Kingdom and in the United States. She landed in Blacksburg, Va., at Virginia Tech, one of the country’s top sustainable architecture programs. “I came with an open mind,” Tiwari said. “I knew I wanted to choose an area of research that I could investigate and apply my findings in practical real-world projects, so I focused my research efforts on high-performance buildings, with a specialty in net-zero energy design processes. I wanted to learn the best ways to deliver such a building.

“At the time, I took a bit of a risk, and I think that’s why I landed here,” Tiwari said. “I was thinking differently.”

Thinking differently took her from Blacksburg to Harvard Square, where she joined the Green Building Services team at Harvard University. There, she led and successfully managed the LEED certification process, prioritized sustainability goals and helped deliver sustainable building projects for the university.

And thinking differently landed her here, at Washington University in St. Louis, in mid-2017.

“I am ecstatic to join this wonderful team of enthusiastic individuals from diverse backgrounds that share a passion for sustainability,” Tiwari said. “I am thrilled to have the opportunity to contribute to the continuous development of Washington University’s leadership in sustainability and green building design.”