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Sunday, June 04, 2023

From Kurdistan to Gainesville: UF professor spends career creating green buildings on campus

<p>Bahar Armaghani</p>

Bahar Armaghani

Bahar Armaghani always wanted to be an engineer but society wanted different.

Growing up in Kurdistan, a semiautonomous region of Iraq, being a female engineer was not an option, said Armaghani, 62. Women were expected to be nurses or teachers.

So that is what she did. After college, she became a teacher and then a principal, she said. At 26, she and her future husband came to the U.S., and she saw it as her chance to pursue her passion.

When deciding to get her bachelor’s in environmental engineering, she was inspired by her homeland’s beauty and its preservation, she said.

“I have been here for maybe 35 years, and I still have those images in my head about that beautiful place,” she said.

After graduating from UF with her bachelor’s in 1997, Armaghani later returned and earned a master’s degree in civil engineering, she said.

She brought these degrees together when she worked to integrate the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design program into UF’s construction standards in 2001, making the university the first to do so in Florida, she said.

“This green building movement started to focus on what are the things that we need to do to decrease [environmental] impacts,” she said.

Armaghani said the three main factors that can decrease a building’s energy consumption are operation and maintenance, energy and water use.

The first campus building was certified in 2003. Sixteen years later, 75 UF buildings are certified, she said.

The program, which is a voluntary building rating system that helps improve building performances and decrease environmental impacts, shaped her work when she became a project manager at the UF Planning, Design and Construction division in 2003.

From 2003 to 2016, she handled more than $380 million across about 120 projects at UF, she said. She contributed to buildings such as Library West, Southwest Recreation Center and O’Connell Center.

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In 2014, she was announced as a LEED fellow, which represents a mastery level of the program and recognizes outstanding leaders in the field, she said. She is one of four to receive it in Florida and the only woman.

In 2006, she began lecturing in the UF College of Design, Construction & Planning, she said. Last May, she became the director of the Sustainability and the Built Environment program in the college.

Chimay Anumba, the dean of the college, said Armaghani’s creation of the UF Green Building Learning Collaborative, an advisory board for the program, has opened up opportunities for students.

“She has the best interests of the students at heart, and she’s always trying to think of new ways to improve the quality and visibility of the program,” he said.

Bahar Armaghani

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