Following his BLA, Aaron Petri earned a dual Master’s degree in Landscape Architecture and Urban Planning in 2009. He is now Design Assistance Specialist performing energy audits for the University’s Smart Energy Design Assistance Center (SEDAC). SEDAC is managed by UIUC, the 360 Energy Group and is sponsored by the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity in partnership with ComEd and Ameren Illinois Utilities.
As a Design Assistance Specialist, Petri reviews the construction plans, heating and cooling systems, and a year’s worth of utility data for each building he is assigned. He then creates an energy and economic analysis model using specialized software so that he can design a plan to reduce energy costs. Sometimes the solution can be as inexpensive as applying weather stripping to windows, other times it can be as extensive as replacing boilers, windows, or adding additional insulation to an entire building. Any measure that can save energy is considered.
Petri believes that the hybrid education he received at UIUC, as well as the support he received from the faculty in LA and DURP, has led him to where he is today. He began working at SEDAC initially as a research assistant while studying for his master’s degrees. His advisor, Brian Deal of the Department of Urban Planning, originally suggested SEDAC as an ideal environment in which to garner a broad range of experience. He also credits Professor David Kovacic, his favorite professor, for igniting his interest in natural resources, a field in which he hopes to eventually pursue a PhD.
Below is a statement by Professor Kovacic, recalling Petri’s activities within and impact upon the Landscape Architecture Department:
I met Aaron Petri when he was a sophomore in LA250, the environmental site analysis course. Aaron stood out even then as an excellent self-motivated student. However, it was as a graduate student that I saw his passion for sustainable design develop. In the Sustainable South Farms vertical studio (2007), Aaron was part of a cooperative group formed to complete the course objectives. When these highly motivated students combined their efforts, something remarkable happened – working together they formed a “critical mass” of creativity that I’ve seldom seen as a professor. Aaron was one of three graduate students that decided to take the sustainable farm studio a step further and to apply what they had learned to their masters’ thesis research projects. In addition they helped to develop a research proposal that funded their work. As part of his thesis, Aaron also worked with the research team to develop the Illinois Farm Sustainability Calculator, a model that determines the energy and carbon costs of farming practices for an entire farm (www.ideals.illinois.edu/handle/2142/13458). This work was the central focus of Aaron’s thesis: “Developing a regenerative agro-ecosystem on the Dudley Smith farm.” The Illinois Farm Sustainability Calculator developed in large part by these three students cooperatively was quite an accomplishment in itself. The calculator alone, only a part of these three students’ thesis research projects, took months of intensive research to complete. It was created through the meticulous analysis of a tremendous amount of information, and continues to be used by researchers and classes to further agricultural sustainability studies.
As a successful alumnus, Petri enjoys what he is doing. His job takes him all around Illinois, conducting site visits and meeting interesting people. He learns a lot each day amongst the engineers and architects who make up the bulk of his work colleagues and who, he concedes, “have an edge, they know more about motors and have taken more relevant classes.” Still, he encourages those soon to be entering the job market to “be flexible… and don’t limit yourself to applying for jobs that just say “landscape architect” on them.”