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IIBEC Member Profile – Julie Palmer

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March 26, 2021
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.

Please describe your involvement with IIBEC.

I have been a member for 10 years. I have been heavily involved with the Delaware Valley Chapter for the last five to six years. I have served as both vice president and president of the chapter and I am participating in a new scholarship program the chapter is starting. I regularly attend the IIBEC Convention and other IIBEC educational programs. I really look forward to convention every year. In the future, I plan on getting my RRC and, as my time on the board of the Delaware Valley Chapter wound down, I found another opportunity to become involved as a region director.

Delaware Valley's Outstanding Chapter Award

The Delaware Valley Chapter received an Outstanding Chapter Award at the 2019 Convention.

If you could go back and re-live an event or one day at work, when would it be and why?

I don’t have a specific day or event that I would want to re-live. However, I have found without fail, it always seems to happen that I am outside working on the coldest and hottest days of the year. But I cherish those days when the temperature is perfect, there is a light wind, and sunshine, and the view is gorgeous. Those are the days that I am thankful for and that make me think, “This is a good day to be on a roof!”

Palmer is an avid gardener and enjoys a variety of outdoor activities.

What do you do with your free time?

I love being outdoors, hiking, biking around the neighborhood, and kayaking. I am now an avid gardener since I became a homeowner six years ago. I cook and bake. I read a lot…mostly fiction. My favorite book is The Devil in the White City by Erik Larson. The book is a non-fiction mystery/thriller/true crime set during the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair and involves an architect and a serial killer. The World’s Fair descriptions are detailed and fascinating, especially his descriptions of the architecture.

Tell me about your mentor when you started in the building enclosure field.

Jeff Levine. Believe it or not we have been working together for 18 years now. I still learn from him and turn to him with questions. I like to think we’ve reached a point, though, where he learns from me, too! Over the years, our relationship has evolved into something closer to peers and I have learned so many invaluable things from him. He also has a background in historic preservation, so we share an appreciation of historic buildings. We have made a good team for a long time and we still work well together.

Palmer and her mentor, Jeff Levine, at Levine Company.

What is one benefit you value about your IIBEC membership?

The educational resources are incredible. Articles, presentations, classes, and now the virtual learning. There is a wide variety of resources often exhibiting a level of technical expertise that is not available elsewhere. IIBEC raises the bar for the building enclosure industry to help achieve a higher standard of professionalism. The educational resources are just one example of that.

What is one thing our readers would not know about you?

I have a minor coffee addiction. I love coffee. I will drink it when its 100 degrees outside. I even love coffee flavored ice cream and the combination of coffee and chocolate in baked goods.

Palmer in a window-washing rig, 57 stories above center city Philadelphia, PA. “What a view from up there!” she says.

What’s the most adventuresome thing you’ve ever done?

I tend to be pretty un-adventuresome in my private life.

For me, what I do for work is adventuresome, like: climbing out of a church attic through a little hatch onto a low-slope roof 90 ft. in the air; climbing scaffolding on a church with an ornate metal-clad spire 170 ft. in the air; going up in a basket suspended from a crane to reach a bell tower clock face. A lot of people say, “I could never do that,” but to me, it’s just what I do.

What is one recommendation of a favorite book, article or podcast?

While The Devil in the White City is my favorite book for recreational reading, Copper and Common Sense is my favorite go-to resource for work. I have been missing my copy while I’ve been working at home. I use it all the time. It’s invaluable.

What is one thing that has gotten you through COVID-19?

I absolutely love being able to get outdoors. Doing site work, getting out in the yard, and enjoying some sunshine to keep the cabin fever down. Outdoors is everything for me.

Can you tell me about an interesting project you have worked on?

One project that I’m currently working on is the Academy of Music in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. It is a mid-19th century theater, listed on the Philadelphia Register of Historic Places and a National Historic Landmark, with brick and brownstone masonry facades and standing-seam metal roofs. Jeff and I are working with a great team of design professionals to rehabilitate the building enclosure. Our focus is the roofs. Currently, we are observing the execution of a scope of repair work that we designed for the metal roofs and, when funding becomes available, we look forward to helping the theater and the design team with roof replacement. It’s been a fun roof to be on. The attic is a maze of wooden catwalks, you can see the top of the domed auditorium ceiling, and you can climb up inside the cupola. It is incredible to see the winch system used to lower and clean the theater’s chandelier. I love getting to see these things people normally don’t get to see…artifacts such as old newspapers and graffiti from the twentieth century from someone who was up there doing repairs and signed a wall.

Palmer on the Roof

Palmer atop the Academy of Music building in Philadelphia, PA.

Overview photo of the Academy of Music building.

Rick GarnderIIBEC Foundation Development Officer Rick Gardner

Gardner has advocated for IIBEC’s foundations via fundraising, networking, and innumerable phone calls since 2014. You can reach him via email at