LATEST NEWS  Green Building

March 18, 2005

Panelists offer insight at B.C. Construction Show

Sustainability has become a buzz word

Overcoming the challenges of creating sustainable environments through a collaborative approach was the focus of this year’s international architectural roundtable at the B.C. Construction Show in Vancouver.

Dorothy Barkley, executive director of the Architectural Institute of B.C. (AIBC), moderated the event attended by more than 100 architects and representatives from the building industry.

She set the stage for the discussion by noting creating sustainable environments a few years ago was considered “cutting edge.”

“Today, sustainability has become a buzz word — it’s in common use by many and is more complex than ever anticipated with a myriad of different rules,” she said.

Four panelists from Canada and the U.S. offered insight into their sustainability success while respecting cost restrictions, environmental sensitivity and client objectives.

The common theme among the panelists was the need for integration and collaboration in sustainable designs as well as applying sustainable principles within their own practices.

Jim Brown, principal of Seattle-based LMN Architects, said sustainability is not a simple overlay of green guidelines but involves the integration of sustainable design objectives into the entire design process through construction and through the life of the building.

Sustainability through the life of the building is often overlooked, he noted.

Although the LEED rating system has become a common standard for green building measurement, Brown said there are challenges to the system.

LEED is currently based on a typical office building, making it difficult to use for very large and very small projects.

“It’s an imperfect tool,” he said. “But having said that, it’s really the best method we have to measure sustainability of buildings.”

Brown highlighted three LMN projects and their green features including the Vancouver Convention Centre Expansion.

Among the many innovative features for the new centre are a living roof system, a blackwater treatment system and integration of the building into the surrounding urban and green landscape.

Brown summarized the keys to sustainable design as: integration, getting owner’s commitment, early design workshops that include everyone, establishing sustainability goals early, using LEED as a rating system and having a plan for documentation.

Tony Franceschini, president & CEO of Stantec, Edmonton, agreed with Brown about the life-cycle approach to sustainable design, saying architects should take a holistic view to project delivery that extends 20 or even 30 years from the time of construction.

Franceschini said Stantec uses an integrated service delivery model to effectively provide sustainable design services to its clients.

“We are able to deliver what most people call a triple bottom line of economic, environmental and social,” he said, noting Stantec is a multi-disciplinary team that has been committed to sustainability for three decades.

Franceschini also emphasized the need to apply sustainable principles within your own business.

“It’s quite important that you walk the talk and that you practice sustainability within your organization,” he said.

Stantec’s Edmonton and Vancouver offices are certified LEED silver. In addition, the Vancouver office is the first North American design practice with an ISO 14001 environmental certification.

HOK is also committed to sustainability and has integrated it into every aspect of its business, said Richard Williams, vice-president, Urbana Architects (HOK affiliate) in Toronto.

In his presentation, he echoed Brown’s comment about sustainability being more than a collection of best practices.

“Sustainability is much more fundamental to the design process — it’s not a bunch of tricks and overlays,” he said.

While plenty of good information exists, Williams cautioned there are many different metrics for sustainable design and there can be information overload.

Speed to market is forcing new fields of collaboration, including advanced design bid, said Don Kasian, president and principal, Kasian Architecture Interior Design & Planning in Vancouver.

Kasian acknowledged sustainable design is mainstream now, identifying leadership as critical for success.

He recommended architects “give up control” because the integrated design process has led to project teams growing larger with more specialists than five years ago.

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