NREL's Sheila Hayter Selected as New Buildings Institute Senior Fellow
Pioneer. Visionary. Mentor. Buildings champion. These are a few words that describe Sheila Hayter's impact during her 30-year career.
For her lifetime achievements, the New Buildings Institute (NBI) appointed Hayter as a senior fellow in 2022, where she joins a select group of other distinguished advisors serving in a think tank to help achieve decarbonization.
"It feels good to be included with this group of people that I've admired for the work they've done and the way they're able to communicate their expertise," said Hayter, who is the National Renewable Energy Laboratory's (NREL's) laboratory program manager for the Department of Energy (DOE) Federal Energy Management Program (FEMP). "Now I'm invited to sit at that same table with them as an equal in that way. They want to know how my experiences have given me a perspective to form that greater conversation of what is needed within the larger buildings industry."
The experiences and choices Hayter made throughout her career ultimately formed her unique view and ability to advance the industry. Her father, who was on the engineering faculty at Kansas State University, slyly helped prep his daughter toward a career in science. In the fifth grade, he was drilling her in math so she would better understand thermodynamics. She did not understand why, or even enjoy it, at the time.
"In college, I realized there's only one degree in the world where you have to take thermodynamics, and that's engineering," she laughed.
In 1992, Hayter joined a buildings research team at NREL because it matched her mission in life: to make a difference. For the next three decades, project by project, she watched society catch up to buildings innovation. She did her homework and talked about it all over the world. Knowing her audience, she thought deeply about communicating advanced buildings, so people could see themselves as part of the solutions. When the pandemic hit, she said, people suddenly saw firsthand how buildings affect the people inside.
Today, Hayter leads NREL's portfolio of work funded by FEMP, advising U.S. federal agencies on how to identify, implement, and evaluate opportunities related to energy and water resilience and security.
From 2018 to 2019, she served as ASHRAE president, guiding professionals globally toward advancing human well-being through innovations in building systems, energy efficiency, indoor air quality, refrigeration, and sustainability within the industry.
During her presidency, her duties varied from testifying to the Canada House of Commons to increasing awareness of buildings in our clean energy economy to giving more than 100 talks to audiences around the world.
Juan Torres, NREL associate laboratory director for Energy Systems Integration, said the senior fellowship is a well-deserved honor for Hayter.
"Sheila is a trailblazer and a visionary," Torres said. "Over her 30-year career, Sheila has moved the needle nationally on energy-efficient, renewable-powered building design. Her ideas are bridging the solutions coming out of NREL with real-world needs and priorities, spurring transformative change."
Through various collaborations, her peers have seen how her passion and communications approach have elevated the conversation around the built environment.
"Sheila's ability to understand the obstacles building practitioners face daily is a true gift," said Roderick Jackson, NREL Buildings Research laboratory program manager. "The buildings industry is at a pivotal point in ensuring scientific research benefits everyone. We are fortunate to have her as a champion of building science and innovative ideas to change the world."
Announced in May, Hayter co-lead's NREL's efforts toward net-zero-emissions operations as part of DOE's Net Zero Labs Pilot Initiative. This DOE initiative tasks NREL and three other national laboratories with developing and deploying clean energy technologies and approaches within their own facilities—amplifying their energy efficiency efforts and creating solutions that organizations can replicate. Through Net Zero Labs, NREL is moving the United States closer to its goal of reducing emissions by 50% by 2030, having 100% clean electricity by 2035, and achieving a net-zero economy by 2050.