Perpetually Green

Sept. 27, 2006

As fall approaches, I can't help but think about the natural wonder of the changing seasons. As leaves change colors and are shed by trees, signaling the inevitability of winter, I'm happy to report that the forecast for the A&D community looks increasingly bright—and "green"—seemingly here to stay, year-round.

One prominent example of this comes to mind. Since its launch in 2000, the LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Green Building Rating System®, developed by the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC), has survived many growing pains, and now enjoys prominence as the leading standard for high-performance sustainable buildings, as reported by Katie Sosnowchik in this month's Fall EnvironDesign Journal feature story on our Top 10 LEED Projects (see page 32). LEED's success is most evident in the numbers: nearly 600 million square feet of building space has been registered or certified under LEED, impacting the design and development of nearly 5,000 buildings and interior spaces. There are LEED projects in all 50 states and in 12 countries. Additionally, more than 25,000 design practitioners have passed the LEED Accreditation exam.

We have selected these 10 recent LEED projects—many the first of their kind to be certified—because they demonstrate the ability and versatility of the rating system to forever alter the landscape of the built environment.

But changing the status quo isn't just about walking a straight and narrow path, as Holley Henderson, founder of Atlanta-based H2 Ecodesign, tells us in this month's cover story (see page 18); sometimes the path to sustainability takes sudden, unexpected turns. For example, Henderson began her career with a desire to be an artist; then she became an interior designer and teacher before she began to examine environmental issues. At one point in her career, she heard a presentation by Ray Anderson, of Interface, which ignited her passion for sustainability, and since then, she has utilized all of her experiences to become a consultant for key decision makers involved in the design and construction of buildings—giving design firms, manufactures, and building owners the tools and resources they need to create healthier environments.

While the path may not always be clear, Henderson argues that we instinctively know when we're not on the right one. When it comes to determining your own path, she says, "Ask yourself, fundamentally: 'What is your purpose? What is your legacy?' And what answer comes to your intuition, do that. We all intuitively know what we need to do. It's just the clearing of the noise, and (having) the meditative ear to hear it," she offers.

As contributing writer Robert McCall points out in this month's Commentary, "Glamorizing Green Design" (see page 48), "Achieving a measure of sustainability is more than about designing our way to one. It's about changing behavior too, and about helping your clients make the right choices." Those choices aren't always evident to clients, but as a designer, you are in a unique position to market sustainability in a way that can be attractive to them; a theory McCall examines in greater detail.

Ultimately, sustainability isn't a static event that leaves people unchanged. It is more than that. As Henderson points out, "There's something bigger than these isolated moments of design." Sustainability is dynamic; and if sustainable design is done properly, it is perpetual, even in those structures we consider transient.

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