Here in hunt country, conserving open space and protecting the land is a deeply held and practiced philosophy, and business. With modern building technology and new materials available, the potential to build green has never been more possible and practical.
Candidate for Mayor of Middleburg Vincent Bataoel and his wife Nelina Loiselle are both working hard to have a positive impact on their surroundings. Vincent, who is from the Southside of Chicago, has a teaching, science, and government policy background. Nelina, who was raised in rural Iowa, is the creative design wiz with an eye for detail. It was Nelina’s idea to blend their talents to form their company, Above Green, that would help architects conserve resources.
Their first contract ten years ago was back in Iowa for a business called Cambridge Investments Research. At the time, Vincent was a teacher for his college’s Environmental Science program. Nelina had seen in the local paper that Cambridge was building a new office and told Vincent to give them a call to see if they needed help making their office sustainable.
“They said yes. It was between us and a competing architect who had been in town for a long time,” Vincent recalls. “We were the underdogs but they sensed that they’d be more comfortable working with us.” So they got the job, but it wasn’t long before they both realized that they had to move from Iowa in order to keep the company going strong.
Vincent remembers their story with a smile: “Because we had a job going with the Marine Corps at Fort A.P. Hill (north of Richmond), I said ‘maybe we should move to the east coast’, and Nelina said ‘Sure, but it has to be Middleburg’.”
Nelina was a rider who had been reading the Chronicle of the Horse for years and dreamed of riding her horse here. The two initially landed in a log cabin in The Plains and later bought a historic home in downtown Middleburg once occupied by Willie Hall. Hall was the stonemason who built the original Middleburg Bank building, now the King Street Oyster Bar. Vincent was instrumental in getting Rick Allison, a partner in Loudoun Restaurant Group, to open an oyster bar in what is arguably the most elegant and impressive building in Middleburg.
Above Green is now a national company with a team of six project managers and engineers in a spacious studio on Jay Street. Their experience is remarkably vast — including a 21st-century library in New York City, an Army Reserve Training Center at Fort Knox, multiple office buildings in Washington DC, and a Wellness Center in San Francisco.
Over the past several years, Vincent has been recruited to speak at conferences around the world, including Curacao and Qatar, as an expert in a particular field called LEED Certification.
LEED is an acronym that stands for Leadership Energy and Environmental Design. It is an internationally recognized program that verifies the level of high-performance buildings. There are four levels of Certification: Certified, Silver, Gold, and Platinum. Each level corresponds to the building’s ability to save energy, use sustainable materials, and preserve natural resources.
According to Vincent, “the goal of a high-performance building is to use resources more efficiently, especially in terms of the precious resources — land, materials, water, and energy.”
Above Green’s portfolio includes projects that are “net zero” (which means off the grid with respect to energy and water usage). The company says that it does most of its work in urban areas where the object of sustainability is to“do no harm”; an emerging step beyond that is “regenerative building”, the goal of which is to actually leave the environment in better condition than when it was found. The company has one such project on several acres in downtown Houston.
In addition to their leadership in business, Vincent and Nelina have begun a legacy of public service in Middleburg. Nelina was formerly Co-chair of the Town’s Go Green Committee. For the past four years, Vincent has been the Chairman of the Economic Development Advisory Committee and is an emerging candidate for Mayor of Middleburg. He serves on local boards for the Aldie Heritage Association and Middleburg Music Festival International.
Above Green has also been active in the community. They’ve been a sponsor for Town events including the Middleburg Healthy Eating Active Living 5k race, and a supporter of local non-profits including the Windy Hill Foundation, A Place to Be, the National Sporting Library and Museum, Sprout Therapeutic Riding Center, and Middleburg Humane.
When asked about what’s next for the company, Vincent, who leads execution and long-term planning for the business, said: “We’re comfortable at the size we are, and we have a vision for a bright future: it’s all about quality of life.”
Their three rescue dogs, Rico, Charlie, and Wexley, obviously agreed, snoozing away in the corner of the conference room. Each day, the three dogs accompany Vincent and Nelina on their four block walk to work through downtown Middleburg. Ahh, small town life at its finest.