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Cara Carmichael




Cara’s background in both architecture and engineering has served as the cross disciplinary foundation for her passion of working on strategic energy design and master planning in buildings and portfolios. Cara helped shape the strategic creation and operation of the RetroFit Initiative within RMI. She led the content development and launch of the RetroFit Depot, an online industry resource about deep retrofits - benefits, processes, case studies and tools to prove the economic viability of deep commercial building retrofits. She continues to lead an effort focused on implementing a deep retrofit business model within Energy Service Companies and targeted architectural, engineering and consulting firms. Coupled with her ability to create high-level net zero energy masterplans and deep retrofit value propositions, Cara enjoys working at a tangible, project level to apply integrative design solutions and turn theory into practice on actual projects.

Currently, she is leading RMI’s efforts to design a new, next generation deep green headquarters for RMI in Basalt Colorado. She is applying Integrated Project Delivery and quantifying some of the value beyond energy cost savings the building will provide to create a replicable process and financial model for other small building owners to follow. A few of her other recent projects include Ford’s Green Dealership program, GSA Net Zero Renovation Challenge and working with a global healthcare company to create a net zero energy roadmap for one of their R&D campuses based on the principles of aggressive efficiency and finding the most cost effective balance point between energy efficiency and onsite renewable energy generation.


Prior to joining RMI in 2005, Cara worked at ENSAR Group, a sustainable design consulting firm, providing general sustainable design consulting, energy modeling and analysis, daylight modeling and analysis, charrette development and LEED consulting. She consulted on a variety of projects including K-12 schools, universities and national park facilities, and she assisted with the development of sustainable design guidelines locally and internationally. Cara also managed project data for an in-depth laboratory case study evaluated by the Green Building Tool, an international green building rating system. She has managed the LEED process for over 15 certified projects including the LSR Preserve (which achieved LEED NC v2.1 Platinum), the Hawaii Gateway Energy Center (LEED NC v2.1 Platinum), the University of Denver College of Law (LEED NC v2.1 Gold) and the University of Colorado Memorial Center (LEED EB Silver).


  • Masters of Civil Engineering, Building Systems Engineering, University of Colorado, 2009
  • Bachelors of Environmental Design, University of Colorado, 2003


  • LEED Accredited Professional (LEED 2.1, 2.2 NC and LEED AP O+M)
  • Green Points Certified
  • American Institute of Architects IDP Program

Professional Associations/Affiliations

  • Colorado College, Presidential Advisory Council on Sustainability 2006-2007
  • LEED EB Core Committee 2005-2007
  • Sustainable Travel International 2005 (assisted with the development of training material for auditors)

Select Publications

  • “Net Zero Energy in Existing Buildings: The Right Process to Get There,” Issue brief coauthored with Johnson Controls Institute for Building Efficiency, May 2013.
  • “Analyzing the real cost for green solutions in Labs,” Environmental Design and Construction, July 2008, Roundtable participant
  • “Barriers and Breakthroughs for multi-tenant developments” Solar 2008 conference proceedings
  • “LEED Platinum for Rocky Mountain Institute,” Solar 2006 conference proceedings
  • “Hawaii Gateway Energy Laboratory,” Solar 2006 conference proceedings
  • “Sustainable Innovation Design Strategies” Article in FMJ November/December 2004, Coauthor

Select Presentations

  • “Deep Energy Retrofits,” Guest lecturer for CU Graduate level renewable energy policy course, May 2013.
  • “Tenants and Landlords Working Together to Overcome the Split Incentive”, Greenbuild International Conference and Expo, November 2012
  • “Tenant/Owner/Landlord Sustainability Perspectives”, Colorado Real Estate Journal 2012 Green Building Summit and Expo, October 2012
  • “Energy Service Company-the Federal Landscape”, CleanTech Fellows Institute, October 2012
  • “Reinventing Fire and Deep Energy Retrofits”, Colorado Real Estate Journal 2011 Green Building Summit and Expo, September 2011
  • “Deep retrofits and Performance Contracting”, USGBC CO Chapter Rocky Mountain Green Conference, April 2011
  • “Deep retrofits and the Empire State Building”, Johnson Controls Engineering Summit, January 2011
  • “Greening Tenant Landlord Interactions: Demonstrating Transformation”, Solar 2010 Conference, May 2010
  • “Integrated design and how it affects the HVAC engineer”, ASHRAE Rocky Mountain Chapter Conference 2008, August 2008
  • “LEED for Commercial Interiors in Action”, Greenbuild conference, November 2006 (voted in the top 10 presentations at the conference)
  • “LEED Platinum for Rocky Mountain Institute”, Solar 2006 conference, July 2006
  • “Integration in LEED”, Women in Design, August 2005
  • “Daylighting Design”, USGBC Colorado Chapter Fall Greening Conference, September 2004
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