No. 14 . 16 August 2000 
ArchitectureWeek
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Greening a Profession

by Ross A. Leventhal

The architecture profession is experiencing tremendous pressure to change the ways it perceives and shapes the built environment. A growing awareness of environmental issues by both architects and owners is fueling this change. In five years, I predict, today's perception of "best practice" will be a source of amusement.

For now it is rekindling an interest in "green," sustainable, earth-friendly, and high-performance design—the vision should not be limited by one title. The examples shown here are some recent projects at NBBJ, a large international firm of over 800 employees, responsible for $612 million in construction last year.

The Demand Side

Consumer preferences are helping turn green building into a mainstream idea. Today's business leaders who were teenagers in the 1960s were exposed to "radical" ideologies that focused on the negative aspects of our society. Several generations since then have been profoundly affected by fuel shortages.

Now health issues are compounding ideological convictions. A recent study indicates that most instances of cancer are caused by environmental factors. To those who remember Love Canal, this conclusion is hardly a new idea. Considering how much time we spend inside structures, it's not surprising that there is an increasing call for healthy workplaces and homes.

However, as young high-tech companies seek naturally ventilated, daylight-flooded working environments, they are not necessarily searching for a green building. It is more likely that they simply want their employees to be happy and productive during their long workdays.

This demand for design quality translates into simple economics. An increase in quality results in an increase in demand and leads directly to the potential market rate of the property. The question of when the supply of green buildings will meet the demand is not an issue considering how much room for improvement remains. Consequently, we should expect a huge acceleration in, and the spread of, green building practices.  

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