"There are still some architects that think of sustainability as an ‘add on,’ as opposed to something that’s integral. I really appreciate the fact that Quinn Evans believes it’s the other way around: good design is sustainable design."
Our Voices blog series shines a spotlight on the team behind Quinn Evans, introducing their work, inspirations, and how their diverse perspectives contribute to building a collaborative and innovative architecture firm.
From a young age, Nakita Reed, AIA, CPHC, LEED AP BD+C, NOMA, has held a great appreciation for buildings. She remembers seeing vacant buildings and imagining their potential to be sustainably transformed and repurposed. With thoughtful restoration, they could serve a higher purpose, such as creating affordable housing or connecting communities.
Nakita’s lifelong passion for restoration and the belief that it can serve communities sets the foundation for her work at Quinn Evans in Baltimore, Maryland.
“‘Sustainability is just solar panels.’ No, it’s more than that,” says Nakita. “It’s repairing, it’s maintenance, it’s reusing what we have and using less, and all of the elements.”
Nakita was first introduced to Quinn Evans when she served on the board of The Association for Preservation Technology, Washington DC Chapter. She was also running a small architecture practice focused on blending sustainability and historic preservation in adaptive reuse projects. Nakita ultimately joined Quinn Evans when the company’s portfolio began to match the kind of preservation work she was most interested in creating.
So far, Nakita’s favorite project to work on has been Baltimore’s Penn Station. Built in 1931, the building features thick walls and overhangs, which she says contribute to a more sustainable building than if it had been built as recently as the 1980s. There’s a maintenance and repairability detail to the historic elements that makes them more sustainable.
“A lot of the building performance aspects aren’t sexy like solar panels, where everyone can see how great it is,” explains Nakita. “Insulation and windows are things that you don’t necessarily see make more of a difference.”
In fact, historic windows, like the ones used at Penn Station, are a hot topic when it comes to historic preservation. While much of the industry opts for new, energy-efficient windows, they often fail to factor in needing to replace them every 20 years. Meanwhile, Nakita emphasizes, historic wood windows can last a century before needing to be resealed, and proper maintenance can further their lifespan.
“We’re not throwing those windows away or sending them to the landfill,” Nakita says. “We’ll keep the historic windows, but also improve the energy performance of the window by putting a storm window on the inside.”
Despite common perceptions that sustainable materials and systems are expensive, the people occupying these buildings benefit from lower utility bills and energy-efficient design. As Nakita explains, you do not have to sacrifice comfort for a more sustainable building.
“If a building is using less energy, but everyone is very uncomfortable in it, then it’s not a successful building,” she says.
Nakita also mentions that, to assess whether occupants are satisfied with their sustainability projects, Quinn Evans often conducts a post-occupancy survey so the actual users of the building can provide feedback on what they’re doing well and where they can improve with their next project.
Nakita’s personal success is finding projects that connect sustainability and architecture.
“It’s weird to me that there are still some architects that think of sustainability as an ‘add on,’ as opposed to something that’s integral,” she says. “I really appreciate the fact that Quinn Evans believes it’s the other way around: good design is sustainable design.”
Nakita Reed has been featured in Veranda and the Baltimore Business Journal’s 40 Under 40 list. In 2022, Nakita also won the American Institute of Architects Young Architects Award.