First days tend to be full of paperwork, tours, and introductions. For Autumn Kayl, TSP’s new architectural graduate in Rapid City, the whirlwind of information also included face time—not FaceTime—with decision-makers from Monument Health’s dermatology and plastic surgery clinics.

“I’ve been working on a few different projects and using my skills in Revit already. And I got to go to a client meeting, which was exciting,” Autumn said. (Just to get it out of the way here, she wants you to know “it’s ‘kale,’ like the vegetable.”)

The North Sioux City native earned her Bachelor of Fine Arts from South Dakota State University, where she majored in architecture, helped design a passive house, and picked up a construction-management minor. Autumn joins us fresh from earning her Master of Architecture at Kansas State University. She reports to Director of Architecture Brian Johnson.

“I really loved SDSU and the people were amazing,” Autumn said. “I think I just wanted to branch out and see what other programs were about. K-State is one of the top in the nation, and I fell in love with the campus. It was strange, going from such a small new-ish program into such a large and developed one.”

Those deep roots gave Autumn the opportunity to build on her sustainable-design knowledge by working on a net-positive house. Her class partnered with Habitat for Humanity to learn the whole process from the inside-out.

Autumn hopes to embed strategies from those experiences in the projects she designs at TSP. Her capstone efforts at both campuses reinforced the idea that smart, sustainable features don’t have to add expense to a budget.

“You can go green without breaking the bank—if you do it correctly,” she said. “I learned so many skills and tactics about developing a structure’s envelope. I want to make a building perform at the highest level possible for as long as possible, so they aren’t torn down and create wasted materials. Maybe they’re used for their original purpose, or added to and renovated, or maybe they can be redeveloped into something entirely new that wasn’t originally envisioned.”

The Black Hills Region’s snowy winters and sweltering summers provide plenty of inspiration for efficient buildings. Autumn knows the extremes well, having visited every summer since her junior year of college.

“My best friend’s parents moved here, and they have this beautiful cabin,” said Autumn, who also has an uncle in the area. “The Black Hills definitely were my goal, but I just wanted to be back in South Dakota. I missed it.”

Autumn is an avid hiker, and she took to the trails at Crazy Horse Memorial during her first weekend in her new-but-familiar city. She grew up “very outdoorsy—kayaking, fishing, just out doing something almost every weekend.” She’ll have help: Her parents met in Rapid City when her father was stationed at Ellsworth Air Force Base and mother was attending college. They’ve given her a long list of locals-only spots for drives and walks.

“They’ll ask, ‘Have you been here? Have you done that? Go find this. Go drive around,’ ” Autumn said. “My dad says some of his favorite memories of his time in the Air Force here were just hopping in the truck and coming up on old mining towns or abandoned, out-of-the-way places. There’s so much to do.”

When it’s time to recharge, Autumn reaches for a book or her latest bargain buy. Her mom got her into antique refurbishing, and her apartment is filled with new-again old furniture. “I just reupholstered a couch and restuffed it,” Autumn said. “An old couch that would have went to the dump, now like new!”