IIDA Perspective - Spring/Summer 2014 - 47

Ken Wilson, FIIDA,
FAIA, LEED Fellow
Principal, Perkins+Will,
Washington, D.C.
Ken Wilson, a
design principal in the
Washington, DC office
of Perkins+Will whose
portfolio includes
architecture, interiors,
graphics, and product
design, is the only
architect in the United
States to have been
named a Fellow in
the IIDA, the AIA, and
the Green Building
Certification Institute.
His projects have been
published internationally and have received
over 90 national and
local design awards.
In 2005 he was named
"Designer of the Year"
by Contract magazine,
regarded as one of
the industry's
highest honors.

The concept of sustainability is pretty
different now than it was twenty years ago.
How much has the meaning of sustainability
changed for designers?
Twenty years ago, sustainability-I don't
think people knew what that meant.
Was the term even in use then?
I've tried to think back to what I was doing 20
years ago, and I don't think I'd even heard that
word then. You might have heard of "green
design," but "sustainability," probably not.
I think the first time I ever heard the term was
in 1995, in a lecture by Bill McDonough. He didn't
coin it, but he helped popularize it-although
ironically, he later tried to get away from it,
because he didn't feel like "sustainability" was
the right word to describe green design. But I
think the word is pretty well established now.
What did the concept of sustainability, if it existed
at all, entail at that time?
Up until then, there were so many things we
did just by rote, particularly in the use of materials. No one considered how much waste they were
producing, or the environmental impact of the
manufacturing of a material, or the disposal of
that material. The closest anybody had come
to it was in considering energy. In the '70s, energy
became an issue with the oil embargo; people
started thinking about energy efficiency,
insulating, doing passive solar, etc. But it was
just one part of it. Current-day sustainability
considers this idea of the triple bottom line,
which I think McDonough did coin: environmental responsibility, social equity and financial
responsibility. It's all of those together, not just
energy. In the past, that just wasn't on the radar.
Of course, that's all changed dramatically.
How so?
The main thing is that sustainable thinking
has become integrated into best-practice design.
It's in building codes now. The District of Columbia
just passed a green building code that probably
sets the highest bar for sustainability in any
jurisdiction in the country. To simplify it, it
means that any project over 10,000 square feet
essentially has to meet LEED requirements.
That would have been unheard of a few years ago,
and it's pretty revolutionary right now. But
sustainability has already become completely
embedded in the way we think about design.

How is that thinking manifested? Is it primarily
materials selection?
Over the years, out of convenience, people
have said that it's mainly materials selection,
or it's daylighting, or it's indoor air quality, or it's
energy conservation. I think what the current
movement has said is, "It's really all of those. If
you just take one and focus on it, you're not going
to be successful." It's a synergistic approach,
and the U.S. Green Building Council's LEED rating
system has done the most to promote that. When
it was issued in 2000, it provided a common
lexicon for talking about sustainability-it put
everybody on the same page in terms of defining
what sustainability was and what it should
include. It considers site selection, water efficiency,
energy efficiency, materials and indoor environmental quality. Those five things are what LEED
is built around, and it's helped everybody get to
a place where we understand that sustainability
is really all of these things.
It's a lot to keep track of, which must mean that
the intellectual requirement for designers is
exponentially greater than it was 20 years ago.
That's true, although it didn't happen overnight.
But designers tend to embrace change. You don't
want to come into the office and do the same
thing over and over again, because it would
get boring. People are drawn to this profession,
I think, in part because of the problem-solving
aspect. In 1999, pre-LEED, I did my first truly green
project, which was the headquarters for
Greenpeace. I was excited, because I thought,
"In this project, we will re-think every single
thing that we do and ask a lot of questions."
For example, we were thinking about a wood
floor, but if we used wood, it meant we'd be
cutting down trees, so should we even consider
wood as a material? In this case, the client had
a lot of information and expertise. We met with
their forest campaign group and they said,
"Absolutely you should consider wood. It's just
that you have to do a sustainably harvested wood
that's certified by the Forest Stewardship Council."
I didn't even know what that was at the time!
[Laughs.] So we learned a lot from Greenpeace,
about several different aspects of sustainability
throughout that project.
You were lucky that you had that client then.
Absolutely. That project was used as a case
study by the Rocky Mountain Institute and the
AIA and other organizations. It received a lot
of press and got into textbooks. It was really
a forerunner for a lot that came afterward,
which was a whole lot of change.

PERSPECTIVE

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Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of IIDA Perspective - Spring/Summer 2014

Contents
IIDA Perspective - Spring/Summer 2014 - Cover1
IIDA Perspective - Spring/Summer 2014 - Cover2
IIDA Perspective - Spring/Summer 2014 - 1
IIDA Perspective - Spring/Summer 2014 - 2
IIDA Perspective - Spring/Summer 2014 - Contents
IIDA Perspective - Spring/Summer 2014 - 4
IIDA Perspective - Spring/Summer 2014 - 5
IIDA Perspective - Spring/Summer 2014 - 6
IIDA Perspective - Spring/Summer 2014 - 7
IIDA Perspective - Spring/Summer 2014 - 8
IIDA Perspective - Spring/Summer 2014 - 9
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IIDA Perspective - Spring/Summer 2014 - 11
IIDA Perspective - Spring/Summer 2014 - 12
IIDA Perspective - Spring/Summer 2014 - 13
IIDA Perspective - Spring/Summer 2014 - 14
IIDA Perspective - Spring/Summer 2014 - 15
IIDA Perspective - Spring/Summer 2014 - 16
IIDA Perspective - Spring/Summer 2014 - 16A
IIDA Perspective - Spring/Summer 2014 - 16B
IIDA Perspective - Spring/Summer 2014 - 17
IIDA Perspective - Spring/Summer 2014 - 18
IIDA Perspective - Spring/Summer 2014 - 19
IIDA Perspective - Spring/Summer 2014 - 20
IIDA Perspective - Spring/Summer 2014 - 21
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IIDA Perspective - Spring/Summer 2014 - 23
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IIDA Perspective - Spring/Summer 2014 - Cover3
IIDA Perspective - Spring/Summer 2014 - Cover4
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