Meet the Insider: Nancy Novak, Chief Innovation Officer at Compass Datacenters

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The construction sector is one of the highest producers of carbon emissions globally. Data from the World Economic Forum indicates the construction industry "accounts for 38% of total global emissions, with buildings equivalent to the size of Paris being built every week."

There is a clear and urgent need for us to become more eco-friendly. The good news is that with the right tools and technologies, we can succeed in building a more sustainable future—without compromising cost, quality, and productivity. 

Here to talk about how to do just that is Nancy Novak, Chief Innovation Officer at Compass Datacenters. In her role, Nancy takes charge of implementing technology and lean practices that help the company create more value and increase ROI, all while being more environmentally responsible. 

As part of our Digital Builder Insider program, she'll be challenging construction professionals to re-examine their existing practices and find ways to be more innovative, sustainable, and inclusive. You can expect her columns to start conversations and prod you to come up with solutions beyond the status quo. 

Keep reading to learn more about Nancy.

​​Tell me about yourself and what you specialize in? 

 I’ve worked in the construction industry for over 30 years. During that time, I’ve been involved in a range of projects including the rebuilding of the Pentagon after 9/11 and the construction of the launch pads for the Atlas V rockets. As the Chief Innovation Officer for Compass Datacenters, my responsibility is to identify the cutting-edge technologies, lean practices, and cultural initiatives that enable the company to continue to execute on our vision of being a disruptive force in the data center industry.

How did you get into the construction industry?

If you’ve heard the term “family business” you know it’s not uncommon for children to follow the career paths of others in their family like siblings, grandparents or parents. Well, my dad was a contractor, so I chose to pursue a career in the construction industry. From the time my sister and I (I’m a twin) were old enough, we were spending time on jobsites—steel-toed shoes, hard hats, and everything. I don’t know exactly when I chose construction as my desired vocation, but I also don’t recall considering many alternatives. 

Why are you passionate about sustainability and digital transformation in construction?

I think we’re in the middle of a period of accelerated evolution in the construction industry. Technology is enabling us to design and build facilities faster than ever before. At the same time, environmental concerns have catalyzed innovation in the materials we use in construction as well. New products like low emission manufactured concrete and alternatives to traditional components such as rebar are driving changes to building specifications, schedule development and reductions in the materials required to build the facilities themselves. When you couple these with advancements in areas such as pre-cast components and off-site manufacturing that are enabling more women to enter the industry, it is an exciting time to be in the construction business. 

What can readers expect to learn about from you?

My hope in authoring this series of columns is to help organizations begin to re-examine everything from their processes and procedures to their personnel decisions. I think in many instances, it’s easy to fall into a “We’ve always done it this way” mindset. That makes it difficult to undertake a level of self-examination where people are asking themselves things like, “Is this the right way to do this?” and “What changes do we need to embrace to remain competitive?” In a sense, you could say my goal is to be a conversation starter. 

What’s one “tool” you can’t live without and why?

That’s an easy one. I can’t live without Revit.

Lauren Ginsberg

Construction Content Marketing Manager, Autodesk Construction Solutions