This week’s ‘Five Minutes With’ features Sabrina Kanner, EVP and Head of Design and Construction at Brookfield Properties, whose project – Five Manhattan West – is a 2020 Awards Finalist for Excellence in Repositioning or Redevelopment.
Who has had the greatest influence on your career and what was the best advice he or she gave you? Early in my career at Olympia & York, I was fortunate to have a wise mentor, Otto Blau. With his guidance, I was able to find the confidence to believe in myself. His gift of acknowledging my contributions was formative to my career. He was also married to a doctor and provided a clear example of how to successfully balance the personal and professional aspects of life. Later in my career, I had the pleasure of meeting Beverly Willis, an eminence in the design and construction world. Beverly was an accomplished builder decades before I started my career and faced- and faced down- gender discrimination in an extremely male-dominated industry. She founded the Beverly Willis Architectural Foundation (BWAF), which creates a forum to acknowledge, respect and value the contributions of women to the building industry, and thereby improving the industry for women and men to come. Her energy and perspective at 91 are a guiding force to me now. Her ability to use her personal strengths to improve a flawed culture – and create something positive from something negative – is something I admire and try every day to emulate.
What qualities do you think are essential to be an effective leader? I think it is essential to:
Persevere with a focus on the team’s collective objectives.
Acknowledge the value of team members’ contributions.
Be passionate about your mission; if you are a passionate leader, you will build a productive team that enjoys what they do.
Listen. Communicating is very important, but listening is essential.
As a ULI NY Awards nominee, what makes you most proud of your project?
First, I am proud of Five Manhattan West as a model of sustainable development: the decision to acknowledge the embedded carbon and retrofit the existing structure rather than tear down and rebuild dramatically limited the amount of net new carbon released into the environment. The installation of an extremely efficient glass façade together with variable frequency drives on every mechanical component in the building and a state-of-the-art Building Management System reduced electrical consumption by 50% and steam consumption by almost 60% in peak months, significant progress in the effort to increase energy efficiency. The lobby design simplified the entry sequence and allowed for an elegant ADA entrance. I am enormously proud of the fact that the building, an ugly duckling that was under-elevatored, with deep, dark floor plates, became a light-filled sought-after property to which people enjoy coming to work. The character of the building was transformed with this renovation, and will continue to improve as the retail opens next year and the public is able to enjoy the connecting public open spaces of Manhattan West, including Five Manhattan West’s “porch,” the breezeway on the southern side overlooking the High Line’s spur. The transformation has been deeply rewarding to me and my team!