USGBC Florida Women in Green Forum

Jun 11, 2024


by Maite Bruno

Women in Sustainability: Fresh Perspectives from USGBC of Florida’s Women in Green 2024 Forum

This spring, I gained new insights at the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) of Florida’s Women in Green 2024 Fresh Perspectives Forum. The panel event aimed to explore the integral role women play in the green workforce while preparing us for impactful careers in sustainable design and development in today’s dynamic professional landscape. With Andresa Maia, Molly Polehna, and Veronika Mercado—three female teammates excelling in the design industry at Little—in tow, I hit the road to Gainesville, Florida.

As the forum began, panelists took the stage to infuse new ideas, perspectives, and pathways for women to succeed in the sustainable industry. The women discussed how to embody the culture and values of diversity, equity, and inclusion to help encourage human well-being throughout both environmental and urban fabrics.

They provided a platform for collaborative solutions and inspiration moving beyond the traditional framework, encouraging women to continuously expand their capacity. I was struck by not only the integral role women play in the green workforce but also the impact of connecting with other professionals in shaping our mindset.


While the forum offered a wide range of perspectives, each with its own valuable takeaway, my most significant inspiration came from the stories of these powerful women succeeding in their fields. They serve as evidence of the human capacity to make a positive difference in people’s lives, where our work becomes a passion.

Bahar Armaghani, Director of the Sustainability and the Built Environment Program & Instructor at the University of Florida College of Design, Construction and Planning

Bahar Armaghani started her remarkable journey in sustainable design as a professor. As Bahar spoke, I was captivated, feeling the passion she has for her profession—a passion that transcends the audience and commands listeners’ attention.

A University of Florida civil and environmental engineering graduate, Bahar faced an arduous path to achieve her goals. She moved from her native country, had to learn the English language, and received a thousand critiques because of her accent and gender. She faced difficulties finding a job where she could succeed. However, despite the obstacles, she found her dream job at UF and USGBC and now uses her experiences to inspire and educate emerging professionals with the mission to create a world of collaboration, where we all have access to health, well-being, and safety.

As of today, Bahar has served as an international advisor on sustainability, introduced green buildings and the LEED rating system to the public and private sectors in Jordan, the Republic of Georgia, and Iraq, worked in Dubai, Singapore, and Sweden, helped establish the Jordan Green Building Council, and presented in International and National Conferences. For Bahar, sustainability is not solely about preserving the environment but enhancing the quality of life for people and their communities. Being sustainable encompasses creating equitable, healthy, prosperous, resilient, and thriving communities.

Little thoughtfully designed AdventHealth’s regional Health Park to create an environment that elevates the holistic health and wellness of the people and communities they serve. Our design approach is guided by four critical areas of measurement we call the HEWS: Health, Energy, Water and Social Equity.

Brooke Hansen, Associate Professor of Instruction at the University of South Florida School of Hospitality and Tourism Management

What struck me most about Brooke Hansen’s journey is her experience with an often-overlooked element of sustainable design—what happens beyond sustainability and its role in environmental well-being? We frequently hear about sustainability as a matter that focuses on water, energy renewal, and carbon reduction to support our environment.

However, as an archeologist, Brooke reminded us that sustainability also becomes about the people and their daily health and well-being.

“Green building practices are essential. Green buildings not only help to save money and improve efficiency, but they create healthier places for the people and support more equitable communities,” Brooke said. “Industry certifications such as LEED, WELL, and TRUE help to create guidelines and parameters for a healthy, productive, sustainable, and responsible environment, with emphasis on advancing the human quality of life. However, being sustainable goes beyond achieving a certificate, but bridging that gap between the human essence, the buildings, and the environment our communities live in.”

Brooke’s current research projects include using virtualization technologies to engage and educate visitors, implementing sustainability assessment and reporting platforms in tourism and hospitality, and aligning tourism sectors with the UN Sustainable Development Goals.

Alexis Barry, US Market Transformation & Development Associate at U.S. Green Building Council

Alexis Barry is a recent graduate like me, and it was astonishing to see her journey and fresh perspective on sustainability and its role in today’s generation. She reminded us that sustainability is not a “like” but a necessity for impacting people’s lives.

“Being sustainable is not to work individually, but to work collectively to achieve the same goal: to enhance and advance human and environmental well-being,” Alexis said. “To improve the sustainable metrics, humans in different fields need to start working together. This means that designers, product manufacturers, researchers, public health practitioners, and governmental officials should work collaboratively to achieve this goal and be able to understand the metrics to recommend new measurements of success that quantify health impacts.”

During her time as a student at the University of Florida, Alexis worked at the Office of Planning, Design, and Construction as well as alongside Florida’s local governments in improving quality of life, fostering social equity, deepening communication with other communities and governments, and assisting cities in LEED certification.

With sustainability as a primary project driver, Little implemented innovative design solutions to decrease the Cape Fear Valley Medical Center vertical expansion’s carbon footprint while ensuring uninterrupted facility operations during construction.


As professionals and designers committed to a regenerative future, we are tasked with increasing industry involvement in relevant matters. It takes everyone, every field, and every discipline to be able to make an impact on our communities. We have the power to reach out and connect with each other more often, make sustainability more visible to everyone we encounter, and engage with communities to better understand their needs.

Some ways to connect with communities include practicing direct observation, engaging with community members and activities, and creating surveys to better understand what they like about their community, how they relate socially, what improvements they want to see, etc. Engaging students in Green Buildings and sustainability early in their academic careers can also help socially and environmentally conscious community members.  Together, we can create an even greater population that cares about sustainability, quality of life, health, safety, and well-being.

As designers, we can use our experience to craft the world we want the next generation to live in, drive positive outcomes, and make a difference in the lives of the people we serve.


Maite Bruno

As a designer in Little’s Healthcare practice, Maite is committed to crafting designs that positively impact people and their communities. She is enthusiastic and detail-oriented about enhancing building performance and creating meaningful experiences. Maite spends her time outside the office exercising, reading, and spending quality time with her family.

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