By Rick Gardner
Julie Palmer is a senior associate at Wiss, Janney, Elstner Associates, Inc. (WJE) in their Philadelphia office. Her area of specialty is historical roofing with a background in historic preservation. She has a master’s degree in historic preservation from Columbia University as well as a Master of Architecture degree from the University of Pennsylvania and an undergraduate degree in interior design from Syracuse University. As of March, 2021, Palmer has just been elected IIBEC’s director of Region I.
How did you get involved in the building enclosure field?
I like to call it a happy accident. No one graduates from college thinking “I can’t wait to be a roofing consultant!” I intended to go back to school for a master’s degree, so I was thinking I just needed a job for a year or so. Someone suggested that this small building enclosure firm might be good fit for me. I met with Jeff Levine who showed me some of the work he was doing, and I thought, “I could do this for a year.” I ended up working there, and later with a firm Jeff started on his own, for five years by the time I graduated. I never guessed that I would love working in this industry so much.
Tell me about what you do during your day-to-day?
I am creature of habit. I get up early with a 6:30 AM start. For now, my morning train commute has been eliminated, so I’m either out in the field, at my office or some of both.
I work on a variety of projects and wear many hats. I am a designer, detective, and sometimes a teacher. As a designer, I work primarily on existing buildings, both historical and modern. As a detective, I work to solve the roofing mysteries my clients bring to me, finding leaks, identifying problems and solutions, etc.
Finally, I have become a teacher since joining WJE, helping younger associates at our office who are growing and developing their own expertise. I am teaching and mentoring them about what I know about the roofing and building enclosure industry. Also, I sometimes take on the role of teacher when educating my clients to help them understand issues with their buildings.
What is one tip that you have for others interested in pursuing work in the building enclosure?
The biggest tip I can think of is relevant to any industry: Never stop learning.
Our industry is constantly changing. Codes and standards change, new products are introduced, and technology advances. You need to keep up with the changes, keep learning and keep questioning in order to serve your clients’ needs and contribute to the industry as a whole.
What is your favorite part of your job?
I love the time I get to spend outside, doing construction site visits, condition assessments, surveys, and leak investigations. A fulltime job behind a desk would not be a good fit for me. I love having the mix of the two.
What is you least favorite part of your job?
Accounting. Numbers in general have never been my strong suit. In any profession, you will always have some accounting responsibilities, but it will never be something I enjoy.