On October 19, 2011, former ASHRAE President Lynn G. Bellenger passed away. Kendra Tupper, Senior Consultant at RMI, remembers Lynn and her contribution to RMI’s work.
Let’s be honest here: HVAC engineering has historically been a field dominated by white males. I am a female engineer, and while I don’t feel like I’ve had to navigate a remarkable uphill battle in my career, ASHRAE was a tough nut to crack.
So I was overjoyed in 2009 when ASHRAE elected its first female president. And when I learned that Lynn Bellenger would also be structuring her presidency around sustainability and energy modeling, it felt like Christmas morning. Two years later, I would be working directly with Lynn through my position at Rocky Mountain Institute, inviting her to be the keynote inspirational speaker for our Building Energy Modeling Innovation Summit, and confiding in her during the 2011 ASHRAE energy modeling convention in Atlanta.
I conveyed my frustration to Lynn about my attempts to become involved in some of the Technical Committees (TCs) earlier in my career. Over coffee, Lynn told me that when she was in her twenties, she went to her first TC 4.1 meeting, and was uncertain whether she was being acknowledged. But she just kept showing up.
Eventually, when the Committee needed a new secretary, they turned to the one female in the room and elected her. Although she found the default gender assignment off-putting, she realized that this was her “in.” A few years later in 1984, she became chair of the same TC. Her contributions to ASHRAE following that were numerous. Within the Finance Committee, she initiated and chaired a subcommittee to develop a passive investment plan for ASHRAE based on modern portfolio theory. She also chaired an ad hoc committee to conduct a study— subsequently referred to as the “Bellenger Report” —that led ASHRAE to affirm that its standards would address health impacts. In 1996, she received ASHRAE’s Distinguished Service Award.
Lynn told me that sometimes you just have to get over it. Keep showing up, and keep volunteering for work. If your efforts are ignored, then next time, volunteer a little more quickly and a lot more loudly!
I took her advice and became an active contributing member within TC 7.6. Since then, I have been invited to join other ASHRAE committees and task groups and consider my participation in ASHRAE one of the most fulfilling parts of my career.
I’m not the only one here at RMI to have been impacted by Lynn’s example. My colleague, Ellen Franconi, recalls, “Lynn remembered her roots. Especially after being named president, when so many could have removed themselves from the day-to-day, she took on energy modeling as her issue—and she really was a modeler! She took the BEMP exam. She was a true practitioner in the thick of it and she didn’t distance herself from what so many of us do.”
Lynn was instrumental in RMI’s broader efforts to increase collaboration among key organizations in the energy modeling community, and she was a valued ally in our mission to reduce the energy consumption in the built environment.
After our Building Energy Modeling Innovation Summit this past March, Lynn helped us to orchestrate follow-up work with key attendees at ASHRAE’s subsequent energy modeling conference. She was proactive about what she and ASHRAE could do to increase cooperation across key organizations in the industry. We had long conversations about how to improve the education and certification programs offered for energy modelers. As typical of Lynn, every long conversation was followed by immediate action on her part to implement the ideas we had discussed.
Lynn was an early proponent of integrative design and using energy modeling to inform, not just document, design. As I have built my career around these principles, I am grateful to her leadership and visionary thinking. This video created by RMI provides a glimpse of Lynn’s compelling views on these topics.
To honor the remarkable legacy that she leaves, ASHRAE has established the Lynn G. Bellenger Memorial Fund, which will be used to recognize women in engineering through scholarships or other means. ASHRAE is directing all who would like to contribute to this fund to do so via mail or online:
Lynn G. Bellenger Memorial Fund
1791 Tullie Circle NE
Atlanta, GA 30329
In the meantime, I will remember Lynn the next time I choose to just get over it, and “volunteer a little more loudly."