Sustainable Design Leaders Explore Their Profession

The video projector (lower left) sat idle throughout the A&D Sustainable Design Leaders Summit, where participants engaged in direct conversations captured on flip charts.

Photo: Barbara Ciesla, HOK
In late July, sustainable design directors and coordinators from 46 architecture and design firms gathered in Colorado Springs to compare notes and share best practices. Meredith Elbaum, AIA, of Sasaki Associates in Boston and Nellie Reid from Gensler’s Los Angeles office spearheaded the event after they realized that: (1) they have both been trying to figure out what their job entails, so there must be others with the same question; and (2) fleeting conversations in the halls at Greenbuild were not satisfying their hunger for sharing ideas.

Early in 2008 Elbaum and Reid approached BuildingGreen for help in identifying their peers at other leading firms and facilitating a gathering of these professionals. It sounded like an idea whose time had come, but it was still hard to believe it when, six months later, a group of 50 highly motivated people came together.

We will share summaries of the conversations when they’re available—look for an announcement via email in a future edition of the BuildingGreen Bulletin and a session at the May 2009 American Institute of Architects Convention. Meanwhile, here are a few highlights:

• Shifting away from the traditional phases of the design process—schematic design, design development, etc.—to a simple “percent of completion” structure as in AIA’s new Integrated Project Delivery scheme is helpful in getting attention on key decisions early in the process.

• Convincing reluctant clients to go green is unnecessary—many green strategies should be incorporated as a matter of course.

• We’re not alone! Participants found it reassuring and affirming to learn that others were struggling with many of the same challenges, such as finding the right consultants, getting building information models connected with energy simulations, and maintaining a team’s commitment to green strategies that were developed in early charrettes.

The group shared a strong interest in continuing to function as a network but without the burden of a formal organization. To that end, participants organized regionally and convened a leaders’ council to determine next steps.

Published August 28, 2008

Malin, N. (2008, August 28). Sustainable Design Leaders Explore Their Profession. Retrieved from https://www.buildinggreen.com/op-ed/sustainable-design-leaders-explore-their-profession

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December 30, 2009 - 12:45 pm

Exciting to see the impact of great leaders like Meredith and Nellie (and the other 46!). Hopefully the conversation continues...
Would like to add to the mix the new Green Firm Certification program - first to have 3rd party recognition for firms who have put in the effort. Our Sustainable Performance Institute that provides Certification would love to have ongoing input from any design/construction professionals who are passionate about transforming practice. We will continue to share the data we find and reflect back to the community as well!

November 16, 2008 - 5:10 pm

How might a sustainability director tap into this network? Is there another session planned?