Steve Mead: Building a Greener Future

Steve Mead, PhD

Steve Mead 225

Professor and Associate Chair of Construction Management

College of Engineering, Forestry, and Natural Sciences


Steve Mead, Professor and Associate Chair of Construction Management at Northern Arizona University, is a leader on many fronts. He heads the university's nationally recognized Construction Management degree program and is at the forefront of the green building movement both on campus and in the community. A "green" visionary, Mead pairs his expertise from a quarter-century in construction with his interest in emerging technology to create greener, more energy efficient buildings.

"We started a green team and kicked around some ideas on how we could build green buildings at the university," he says. "We decided we needed to build an iconic green building that would demonstrate what our environmental ethic is: that building became the Applied Research and Development building, which won the prestigious Royal Institute of British Architects International Award last year."

Green building programs that operate more efficiently, saving both money and energy, are something Mead values. He started educational programs for both the university and the surrounding communities that focus on these types of energy-saving buildings. Key examples include the Coconino County Sustainable Building Program and NAU's Climate Action Plan, which Mead says has the potential to make a huge difference.

"The idea with the Climate Action Plan is to figure out a plan to reduce the university's water and energy usage by 20 percent by 2020. That is basically a two percent reduction for each of the next ten years—that doesn't sound like much, but it is pretty significant, and will save the university roughly two and a half to three million dollars a year," says Mead.

Teaching sustainability is something Mead advocates in course offerings. Many Construction Management courses also offer service learning projects, classroom demonstrations, and internships, which Mead says contribute to the program's growing demand.

"We do a lot of different things in our program with experiential learning, including service learning projects," Mead says. "We build ramps for handicapped people. We have been to Mexico with an archeology team to build a field station for them. We have done some work for the Engineers Without Borders team. People come to us all the time for assistance with projects around campus and the community. It's just something our students do a lot of."

In the 12 years Mead has been at the university, the program has grown from 75 to 250 students and attracts students from across the country. Mead modestly credits the high-quality students that are a part of the program for its success.

"To be a construction manager you have to be extremely hard working," he says. "It is a very interesting field in that you are part business manager and part engineer, but primarily you are a communicator. It takes a diverse set of technical and communication skills. The students we get tend to be kids who learn things fast and are good multi-taskers, so they're good in this program."

Going forward, Mead aims to continue his mission to help students grow into construction leaders. "That is just because there is so much demand," says Mead. "We have kids that graduated 10 years ago and they are now the vice presidents of pretty big organizations," he says. "There are lots of wonderful opportunities right now in this field for our students."

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