Contract - April 2009 - (Page 68)

practice a three-pronged approach Keys to building a sustainable design practice By Elizabeth Meek, Richard Tepp, and Meredith Elbaum, Sasaki Associates Virtually everyone in design agrees that our profession must take a leading role in the sustainability revolution. But how do we take the excitement and idealism that have suffused the movement over the past decade and translate them into a practice model that has sustainability at its core? In 2004, Environmental Building News identified three modes of “Greening Your Firm”—what the publication called “Client-Driven, Top Down and Bottom Up.” At Sasaki, we’ve found that these three—design driven by client demand, full financial and organizational support of the firm’s top decision-makers, and grass-roots idealism—must be combined and synthesized into a whole that is greater than the sum of its parts. Let’s briefly explore a three-pronged approach we will call Strategic Client Alliances, Firm Leadership Support, and Ideas and Idealism. Strategic Client Alliances A team can only take a project so far without the client’s commitment to sustainability. In the current environment, we’re hearing a lot about “green economics,” and in fact we are seeing on the client/tenant side a demand for sustainability that makes it a compelling emerging business model. Two current Sasaki corporate real estate clients illustrate this. Bently Holdings, which owns four buildings in the San Francisco Bay Area, is increasingly finding that prospective tenants in that market are demanding LEED-certified space. We are now in the process of obtaining LEED EBOM (Existing Buildings Operations and Maintenance) Gold and Silver certifications for two of their multitenant leasing properties, 240 Stockton, located on Union Square, and Belvedere Place, located in Mill Valley, just north of San Francisco. Bently sees the properties as opportunities both to reduce costs while “doing the right thing” by conserving energy and water. Sasaki’s Watertown, Mass., office, mean- while, is working closely with National Grid, a major power company, on its New England main office to carefully select a lighting strategy that is 40 percent better than code and to work on a sustainable materials palette for its offices region-wide. For National Grid, this is part of a wider corporate goal to be a role model for clients on environmental responsibility and energy conservation. Firm Leadership Support Financial and organizational commitment from top firm leadership must be combined with those actually practicing green design within their own design specialty on a daily basis. There is a growing trend toward hiring directors of sustainable design and in some cases forming an entire department dedicated to the cause. Sasaki, for example, recently created a principal-led Sustainable Solutions Group. Investing in energy modeling software, educating employees, and developing strategic alliances with research institutions all require allocating non-billable hours and providing in-house research grants. None of this can be done in employees’ “spare time.” Furthermore, firm leadership—be they architects, planners, interior designers, or engineers—must combine leadership with the actual practice of sustainable design throughout the disciplines of the organization. This is the only way to ensure growth of the firm’s sustainability portfolio. Ideas and Idealism Most people gravitate to design out of a passion to make things better. This idealism must be nurtured and harnessed to the good of the firm and, by extension, to the greater good of society and the Earth. The excitement and energy generated about green design must be spread throughout the firm. For a design firm, sustainability truly must begin at home. Whether large or small, firms need to promote an atmosphere of learning and knowledge advancement. At Sasaki we host an annual GreenDAY, in which experts and speakers in numerous green design fields are brought in from around the country for a full day of seminars, charettes, and work sessions. Our two offices—in Watertown, Mass., and the Union Square district of San Francisco—are LEED-EB Gold and LEED-CI, respectively. On quotidian basis, both offices are used as living laboratories of green design. Approaches to energy conservation, daylighting, and recycling are explored on site; characteristics and performance of materials and other products are tested and retested in real time, both indoors and out. Successful ones we apply to projects; less successful ones we share with colleagues as “lessons learned.” In the same spirit, sustainability informs firm-wide corporate decisions: Subsidizing employee mass transit cards, priority parking for low-emission and hybrid vehicles, comprehensive firm recycling, even selecting fair-trade coffee in a blind taste test. By working in examples of sustainable design, Sasaki designers are motivated to carry this work into their own projects. “Build a better mouse trap, and the world will beat a path to your door,” said Ralph Waldo Emerson. The world definitely has found green design, and crucial demand from the tenant and client is less of a trickle than a groundswell, one that will naturally favor design firms that are passionate and well-prepared. The idealism and excitement of the early green design movement remain but today are being translated into compelling and profitable business models, both for design firms and their clients. Elizabeth Meek, IIDA, LEED® AP, is a principal at Sasaki in Watertown, Mass.; Richard Tepp, AIA, LEED® AP, is director of interiors in the San Francisco office; Meredith Elbaum, AIA, LEED® AP, is director of sustainable design and is also based in Watertown. Give us your feedback on this story at 68 contract april 2009

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Contract - April 2009

Contract - April 2009
All Purpose
Pure Platinum
View From Above
Pioneering Spirit
Lead By Design
A Rank Above
Designers Rate: Green Products
A Three-Pronged Approach
Ad Index

Contract - April 2009