KATHLEEN NARBONNE, MSc., CPHD, PHIUS + Verifier
Energy and Sustainability Analyst
Toronto, since 2019
Kathleen brings a depth of understanding in building design and construction to RDH Toronto with her consulting experience in building science and sustainable design. Her experience includes building enclosure detailing for high-performance buildings, simulating building energy use, on-site inspections for quality assurance, and failure investigations.
Was there a moment that helped you realize this was the career for you?
I’ve always had an affinity for problem-solving, from doing puzzles as a kid (and adult) to renovating my quirky 100-year-old house. Through architecture school, I started to see buildings as puzzles with lots of pieces that fit and work intricately together. In my earlier career, I worked on building details and failure investigations where I realized that this was the problem-solving that I wanted to do. Building science allowed me to take things apart and put them back together to see how they worked.
Over time typical building construction and endless failures weighed on me. I realized that buildings weren’t being built to last and I wanted to make a change and more of an impact. My rising awareness of climate change and education in sustainability started to connect. I see climate change as a huge problem to solve and I believe buildings can be an important solution.
What inspires you?
I love being part of the passive house community. Regionally, nationally, and internationally I find that people are so open to sharing their passions, ideas, and experiences to educate and empower each other to solve the greater issue of climate change. Working on high-performance and passive house teams, whether full of veterans or newcomers, feels like working with an inner circle of friends.
Being able to inspire and support others to do the same is the most rewarding part of my job. We all have a passion to create change and we work together to achieve it. When I walk around the site of a passive house building, people are excited to be there and share in making a difference, which is amazing to see.
Images Left to Right: Kathleen skiing at Kicking Horse Mountain Resort in Golden, BC and Kathleen performing an air tightness test as the Phius Verifier.
Is there advice you’d share with your younger self?
Don’t be afraid to step out of your comfort zone – you’ll be stronger for it. Whether something big like moving across the country or something small like writing an essay (both things I have struggled with) – it’s comforting to know that I am growing with each experience. Working in still, a male-dominated field, going to a site, or giving directions can be uncomfortable for a woman. Looking back, I’ve become more successful after gathering courage and using that to propel myself. Now I use those experiences to build me up.
Don’t let challenges and hard work discourage you. Often the tough challenges become the most rewarding to overcome. A lot of the work we’re doing now challenges us in so many ways. Our clients are new to high-performance buildings, our projects are pushing boundaries at every opportunity, and we’re trying to keep up with the ongoing innovation happening around us. Those challenges enable us to continually learn and be on the cutting edge of the industry.
Who is your unsung hero?
Working at RDH, there are many people that I look up to. However, I think the genesis of everything comes from my mom. She’s a tough gal. She overcame so many challenges as a young mother, but nothing ever stopped her from building a family and maintaining a positive attitude. She is always here for me, and I’ve always felt supported and that I can do anything, which I owe all to her.
Is there a quote that inspires or empowers you?
“It takes courage to grow up and become who you really are” – E.E. Cummings
I have this plaque on my wall and look at it every day. Life is challenging and full of the hard stuff. You need the courage to step out and take things as they come. Do your best. Empower yourself, and others.