Architecture of Sustainability

Friday, April 21, 2006

ArchNewsNow Article Features Conference

See an article on "The Architecture of Sustainability" conference previously published in

Green Design as Great Design: The Architecture of Sustainability A design competition and conference seek to merge technical ingenuity and compelling design.
by Kyle Copas February 28, 2006

The Architecture of Sustainability” conference coming up May 4-7, co-sponsored by the American Institute of Architects (AIA) Committee on Design (CoD) and Committee on the Environment (COTE), promises to open new forms of dialogue between design excellence and environmental innovation, and marks an unprecedented collaboration between the two committees. “The combination creates a perfect synergy,” remarks Greg Mella, AIA, LEED, one of the conference co-chairs and a COTE representative. “Sustainability enriches design just as much as design enriches sustainability.”

Green, Vitruvius or Est Viridis?

The conference evolved out of separate events held by the groups last year; the conference steering committee includes current CoD chair David Brems, AIA, CoD advisory group member David Greenbaum, FAIA, and Lance Hosey, AIA, LEED, of COTE. The cross-committee cooperation also reflects their belief that the combined concerns of CoD and COTE comprise entire architectural agenda: is it durable, is it useful, and is it beautiful?

Sea Ranch, the setting for last year’s CoD conference, brought issues of sustainability into sharp relief. “It’s arguably the only sustainable building among the AIA’s 25-Year Award winners,” Brems remarks. In July, discussions at the AIA’s green building summit in Washington turned toward the architect’s role in sustainability. “Like it or not, designers often distinguish between the science of building and the art of architecture,” says Hosey. “In recent years the construction industry has done a great job of raising the level of debate about the science, but what of the art? Regardless of how efficiently we use resources, if design doesn’t inspire people, it will not last. If we get it right, sustainable design promises to bring art and science together.”

By treating green design as a cultural and an architectural concern rather than a solely technical matter – “the junior chemistry set of methods and materials,” they joke – the organizers hope that “The Architecture of Sustainability” will create fresh ideas about the ethical and aesthetic implications of design. The speaker list, which includes Will Bruder, AIA; Jeanne Gang, AIA, Edward Mazria, AIA, and Grimshaw’s Andrew Whalley, AIA, among others, embodies the merger of technical ingenuity and compelling design.

House and Home

An important piece of the puzzle is the competition being held in conjunction with the conference. “House for an Ecologist” (registration deadline: March 17) will build on the success of CoD’s 2004 New Home on the Range competition which expanded the committee’s outreach efforts toward younger participants. The current competition challenges designers to develop a residence for a fictitious Ecologist in Residence at the National Conservation Training Center in Shepherdstown, West Virginia – the site for two days of the four-day conference.

The exercise’s straightforward site and program emphasizes non-technical approaches to sustainable design and enables entrants, in Hosey’s words, “to get to the form quickly.” COTE’s Top Ten Measures for Sustainable Design, developed as the basis for the AIA’s annual green building awards program, serves as a loose guide for the competition. This approach encourages architects to consider such guidelines as a driver for design and not just a tool for evaluating performance after the fact. The competition jury – Peter Bohlin, FAIA, Bohlin Cywinski Jackson; Allison Ewing, AIA, LEED, Hays + Ewing Design Studio; Susan Szenasy, Editor, Metropolis magazine; and James Timberlake, FAIA, LEED, KieranTimberlake Associates – speaks precisely to this combination of aesthetic and ecological integrity.

Process of Evolution

Both the competition and the conference anticipate the need for architects to adapt to changes in the design process that alter the traditional role of the designer as a singular visionary. At a conference planning session Mella noted, “We have great design ideas coming from engineers,” after which the others laughingly expressed the need to suppress this bit of apostasy. “Let’s not get carried away,” Greenbaum admonished.

Brems cited one of his projects as testimony to the strength of integrated design. The goal for the Utah Olympic Oval, site of the 2002 Olympic speed skating events, was to create the world’s fastest sheet of ice. Working within a tight not-to-exceed budget, the design team recognized that creating ideal conditions for athletes required an unprecedented level of climate control. As they studied how to minimize the volume of the building to the greatest extent possible, project engineers at ARUP evaluated several possible structural designs. In the typical course of events, the most expensive option – a cable suspension system only three feet deep – would have been discarded, but the benefits it brought to the mechanical system and a reduction in the amount of steel required led to a surprising conclusion: the lowest cost building was the one with the most expensive structural system.

Experiences like this, not to mention the ones that lie ahead at the conference and with the competition, offer only an initial glimpse of the insights required to “make green an inboard aesthetic,” as Greenbaum describes it. By beginning to change the premises of the discussion and chart the shifts in attitude over time, “The Architecture of Sustainability” could change how designers think of green building.

Kyle Copas is a writer and documentary film maker in Charlottesville, Virginia, where he has been Director of Communications at William McDonough + Partners since 2001.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Conference Agenda

AIA Committee on Design and AIA Committee on the Environment present:
The Architecture of Sustainability
Date: May 4-7, 2006

Location: Washington, DC and Shepherdstown, W.Va.

Through educational sessions, panel discussions, and tours, this conference will explore the effect of sustainability on both the art of architecture and the science of building. Join us to examine the process of integrated design and how it makes better buildings. Conference topics will include the following:
Is sustainable design an oxymoron?
Is sustainability part of an architectural or environmental agenda?
Does the renewed interest in the environment affect both the style and substance of architecture?
What is the relationship between sustainability and form-making?
What has been the impact of sustainable design on the world?
What lies ahead for our profession, and what are our responsibilities as influencers of the built environment?

Steering Committee
David Brems, FAIA, Gillies Stransky Brems Smith, Salt Lake City (2006 Chair, AIA Committee on Design)
David Greenbaum, FAIA, SmithGroup, Washington, D.C.
Lance Hosey, AIA, ATMO/AtelierModern, Washington, D.C.
Greg Mella, AIA, SmithGroup, Washington, D.C.


6:30–8:00 p.m.—2006 AIA Top Ten Green Projects: Awards PresentationNational Building Museum, Washington, D.C.Since 1996, this juried competition has celebrated the best in sustainable design.

For more information, see the AIA/COTE 2005 Green Project Awards Web page. The program will include a presentation of the 2006 AIA Top Ten Green Projects, information about the Top Ten Green Projects performance metrics, and "lessons learned" offered by competition winners and jury members.The 2006 Top Ten jury includes Kevin Burke, AIA, William McDonough + Partners; David Miller, FAIA, The Miller/Hull Partnership; Kath Williams, PhD, Kath Williams + Associates; Kevin Hydes, PE, Stantec Inc. (formerly Keen Engineering); Catriona Campbell Winter, The Clark Construction Group; and RK Stewart, FAIA, Gensler, and 2006 AIA first vice president.

To register for this event on the National Building Museum Web site,

Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.
The impending energy crisis: Is it real? What does the future hold if we continue on our current path? How are innovation and technology addressing the environmental crisis? How is sustainable design measured? What technological innovations might alter our relationship to the environment? How can planning and design contribute to environmental goals in ways that other professions cannot?

2:00 p.m.—Welcome and Introductory Remarks
Corcoran Gallery of Art, Auditorium

David P. Brems, AIA, Gillies Stransky Brems Smith, Salt Lake City (2006 Advisory Group chair, AIA Committee on Design)
James L. Binkley, FAIA, United States Postal Service (2006 Advisory Group chair, AIA Committee on the Environment)
David B. Greenbaum, FAIA, SmithGroup, Washington, D.C. (conference cochair)

Opening Presentations
2:15–3:15 p.m.—Buildings and the Environment: Where Are We Heading?
Edward Mazria, AIA, Mazria Inc., Odems Dzurec, Santa Fe

3:30–4:30 p.m.—Measuring Green: Sustainable Design MetricsLEED, AIA/COTE Top Ten Green Projects, and more
Nadav Malin, BuildingGreen and Environmental Building News
Susan Maxman, FAIA, Maxman Partners, Philadelphia
Henry Siegel, FAIA, Siegel & Strain, Berkeley

4:45–5:45 p.m.—How is Design Innovation Bettering the Environment?
Will Bruder, Will Bruder Architects, Phoenix

6:00–8:00 p.m.—Reception
8:00 p.m.—Dinner on your own
A list of local restaurants will be available on the conference Web site. Return transportation to hotels on your own.

Is "sustainable design" an oxymoron? How do environmental concerns contribute to overall design philosophy? In what diverse ways have designers embraced sustainability to enrich their work?

Meet at AIA Headquarters, 1735 New York Avenue, NWMetro stops: Farragut North (Red Line) or Farragut West (Orange/Blue Lines)

7:45–8:45 a.m.—Continental Breakfast, AIA Social Gallery, 2nd Floor

8:45 a.m.—Buses depart from AIA headquarters

9:30–11:00 a.m.—Project Tour: NOAA Satellite Operation Facility, Suitland, Md. (Morphosis/Einhorn Yaffee Prescott)

1:00–3:00 p.m.—Tour: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service National Conservation Training Center (SmithGroup)
National Conservation Training Center (NCTC)
698 Conservation Way, Shepherdstown, W.Va.

3:00–3:30 p.m.—Sustainable Design: An Oxymoron?
Gregory A. Mella, AIA, SmithGroup, Washington, D.C.

3:30–6:00 p.m.—How Environmental Concerns Shape Design PhilosophyIn what diverse ways have designers embraced sustainability to enrich their work? The sessions will feature presentations by renowned European and American architects and a panel discussion of comparative design philosophy and practice.

Session 1: American Perspective
Peter Bohlin, FAIA, Bohlin Cywinski Jackson, Wilkes-Barre, Pa.
Ralph Johnson, FAIA, Perkins & Will, Chicago
Mark Reddington, FAIA, LMN Architects, Seattle
Joe Valerio, FAIA, Valerio Dewalt Train, Chicago

Session 2: European Perspective
Daniel Sibert, Foster & Partners, London
Andrew Whalley, Grimshaw, New York and London

6:00–7:00 p.m.—Reception

7:00 - Dinner

8:00–11:00 p.m.—Evening entertainment

Does the integrated design process alter the traditional role of the architect?—Advances in engineering and its role in the design process—How do architects use other innovative project delivery methods, such as mass customization?

7:30–9:00 a.m. Breakfast
Registration for one-day attendees

9:00–9:15 a.m. Introduction: Process
Lance Hosey, AIA, ATMO/AtelierModern, Washington, D.C.

9:15–10:00 a.m. Integrated Design and Sustainable Communities
Russell Perry, AIA, SmithGroup, Washington, D.C.

10:00 a.m.–12:00 noon—Integrated Building Design Team: A Case Study
Genzyme Headquarters, Boston
Christof Jantzen, Behnisch Architects, Los Angeles
Greg Otto, Buro Happold, New York
Byron Stigge, Buro Happold, New York

12:00 noon–2:00 p.m.—Lunch and Committee on Design Business Meeting
Participate in the committee’s annual nominations for the AIA Gold Medal, Firm Award, Twenty-five Year Award, and Honorary AIA Fellowship, and learn about current and future COD programs and initiatives.

For details about AIA Honors and Awards submission guidelines and deadlines, see

2:00–4:30 p.m.—Re:Form
How is sustainability a driver for architectural form? What new methods and materials are being employed?
Lance Hosey, AIA, ATMO/AtelierModern, Washington, D.C.
Jeanne Gang, AIA, Studio Gang Architects, Chicago
James H. Timberlake, FAIA, Kieran Timberlake Associates, Philadelphia

4:45–5:30 p.m.—Emerging Practitioners of the Architecture of Sustainability
Susan Szenasy, Metropolis Magazine, New York City

5:30–6:30 p.m.—Design Ideas Competition: “A House for an Ecologist”
For competition guidelines, see the Call for Entries. Speakers will include competition winners, as well as the jury members:
Peter Q. Bohlin, FAIA, Bohlin Cywinski Jackson, Wilkes-Barre, Pa.
Allison Ewing, AIA, Hays + Ewing Studio, Charlottesville, Va.
Susan Szenasy, Metropolis Magazine, New York City
James H. Timberlake, FAIA, Kieran Timberlake Associates, Philadelphia

7:00 p.m.—Dinner

8:30 p.m.—COD/COTE Member Slide Show
Moderators: Ronnette Riley, FAIA, and Michael A. Mense, FAIA
The annual member slide show is intended to foster a dialogue among members about recent projects. This year’s slide show will feature member projects that exemplify the architecture of sustainable design. The format is an informal slide (Powerpoint) presentation. Each participant will briefly describe his or her work as the images are projected. Click here for slide show requirements.

What lies ahead for our profession, and what are our responsibilities as influencers of the built environment? What trends are emerging?

7:30-8:30 a.m.—Breakfast
8:45 a.m.—Bus to Gannett/USA Today (Kohn Pederson Fox and Michael Vergason, Landscape Architects)McLean, Va.
10:30–11:30 a.m.—Presentation and Tour: Gannett/USA Today and campus
11:30–12:30 p.m.—Concluding Panel Discussion
12:45 Buses to Dulles Airport (arrival approx. 1:30 p.m.), Reagan National Airport (arrival approx. 2:00 p.m.), and downtown Washington, D.C. (AIA headquarters, arrival approx. 2:30 p.m.)

Please plan for flight departures from Dulles after 3:00 p.m.; Reagan National, after 3:30 p.m.