Exclusive Interview: Thomas Leppert

Tom Leppert is the former Chief Executive Officer of Kaplan, Inc., a subsidiary of Graham Holdings Company and one of the world’s largest education providers. He had oversight of the company’s operating divisions: Kaplan Test Prep and Kaplan Higher Education in the United States, and Kaplan International based in London, UK and with operations across Europe, Asia and Australia until his resignation in July 2015. Leppert served as mayor of Dallas, Texas from 2007 to 2011, and previously worked as CEO of the Turner Corporation, the largest commercial builder in the U.S.

Leppert
Leppert

During his career, Leppert also held positions at McKinsey & Co., Trammell Crow Company, Bank of Hawaii and Castle & Cooke Properties, Inc.

In October of 2015, Milpitas-based View, the leader in dynamic glass manufacturing, announced Leppert has joined its board of directors, and we used the opportunity to speak to him about his role there as well as the evolution of sustainable building.

TR: As someone who has been active in the green building industry for much of your career, what was it about View that enticed you to learn more about the company?

LEPPERT: The genesis of my joining View is centered around my experience in the building industry and my appreciation for what View is doing. View caught my eye because it’s making a product designed to disrupt and revolutionize the building industry, which is often resistant to change. Dynamic glass affords real advantages in reducing energy needs, minimizing mechanical capital costs and improving the work environment.

I think View’s vision intersects a number of important trends today, especially in green building and employee productivity. View’s product will be at the forefront of green building, which is gaining more and more traction in the building industry. As the industry continues to focus on minimizing energy use and designing buildings that are environmentally minded, View is positioned to make major contributions. More and more, the emphasis in design and construction is on creating environments that foster well being for the individual and increased productivity for the organization. View dynamic glass has demonstrably shown its benefits in all these area.

Glass should connect us with the outside, but a lot of times during the day and year we introduce artificial tools to glass, such as blinds, that take away from the original intention of windows. But View’s dynamic glass takes away the glare and neutralizes the heat to foster a better environment for people to do their best. All in all, View’s mission enticed me and made me want to be a part of implementing this revolutionary product into modern green building.

TR: What do you hope to accomplish by joining the company’s board of directors?

LEPPERT: I hope I can contribute a thorough understanding of the construction industry and can help the View team understand our key markets, including client, developer, builder, architect and sub-contractor. I also hope to help increase the successes of View’s marketing and sales efforts.

Pulling from my personal experience, I plan to help the team navigate the nuances, challenges and resistance to change riddled throughout the building industry. I’ve served as CEO in six different industries, so I know firsthand the universal strategic challenges of managing a business and how to financially structure a company for growth. Drawing on my knowledge of the industry, I hope to assist a company that’s already made great strides in the construction marketplace continue to grow its footprint.

TR: Where do you see the most opportunity for View in the coming years?

LEPPERT: While I see enormous opportunities throughout the building industry, I think the best initial opportunities are in the owner-occupied, commercial market. This type of client better understands and can translate directly the benefits of dynamic glass. They directly benefit from lower capital costs, lifecycle expense reductions in energy and the increased productivity and benefits that come from a dynamic glass building. Some examples in this area include companies building facilities for their operations, healthcare providers, higher learning institutions and even governmental facilities.

With that said, I think, over time, other segments of the commercial market will see dynamic glass become the standard and it will be demanded in any quality building. The benefits are clear and unmistakable.

TR: What does that future of sustainable buildings look like in your opinion? Will there be a time when “green building” is synonymous with “building,” and if so, how far off do you think it is?

LEPPERT: Fifteen years ago, I would have been identified as a pioneer in green building. “Green building” was viewed at the fringe and subject to skepticism in many parts of the industry. Educating people in the industry often proved challenging. But today, perceptions have shifted and now we see sustainability topics on the front page of newspapers and magazines. Additionally, many corporations are spending considerable resources to create better, greener working environments for their employees. They now understand the real and tangible benefits. The green building trend has come a long way in the past decade and is now firmly established.

I have no doubt that all people involved in the building industry today are aware of green building standards and methods to achieve them. Businesses now genuinely strive to build structures that can be recognized as green, as those standards signify a desirable added value.

The popularity of dynamic glass parallels the broader construction industry and will continue to rise as the desire for sustainability does. Though dynamic glass is fairly new to the market, this innovative product will ultimately become the desired choice projects of all kinds.

TR: How does technology impact sustainable building, and what role have you seen it play in the evolution of the movement thus far?

LEPPERT: If you look back at the last several decades, there are only two industries that have seen significant decreases in productivity: education and construction. In part, this can be traced back to not seeing some of the technical advancements that have helped other industries evolve in this regard. Despite the initial sluggishness, I see a growing emphasis on technology in construction and believe we’ll soon reverse the aforementioned trend. People across the industry are putting pressure on their colleagues to design more tech-savvy environments that enhance productivity, among other things.

We’re starting to see technology be pervasive across the board: in the architectural design stage, in the construction of a building and throughout the operations and maintenance of buildings. By bringing technology to windows and glass facades, View is the key player in the evolution of the built environment. Since there’s a natural flow of more companies using technology, I feel an enormous sense of optimism for what’s happening and what lies ahead in the building industry.