Despite all of the advances in material construction and design that have come about over the past few years, the A&D community is still not at the point where sustainability has become synonymous with groundbreaking interiors.
“If it’s not beautiful, I’m not going to sell it. And that’s just the bottom line,” famed product designer Lori Weitzner of Weitzner Limited once said. Despite giving lectures and talks about integrating green design and materials into her work, those are still words that she lives by. Her products have become sources of inspiration for designers in all fields, as they successfully integrate environmental consciousness with innovation.
Similarly, firms that sign onto projects aiming for certification through the U.S. Green Building Council’s (USGBC) Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) rating system are all faced with the same question: How do we make sustainability exciting?
Creating new user experiences should always be a goal with any project, but when the deliverables are even more specified thanks to LEED requirements and points, it can be difficult to achieve. The designers of Interiors & Sources’ 2011 Top 10 LEED Projects rose to the aforesaid challenge with a commitment to pushing the industry one step closer to the day when green design equals an originality that raises the bar.
Many of them did it simply by selecting unique materials, like those found in the new Stylex showroom (#9) in Chicago’s Merchandise Mart. Designed by Eastlake Studio, this LEED Silver project features a display case for the company’s SAVA chair, built of laminated, recycled sheets of cardboard, stacked horizontally for strength. Interior mirrors line the openings that house the chairs, allowing visitors to see them from many different perspectives. Even more visually striking are the pivoting panels, also of recycled cardboard—partially stripped to expose the honeycomb structures within—which separate the front and back of the space.
Innovative elements found in Gensler’s renovation of Terminal 2 at the San Francisco International Airport (#4) were inspired by the desire to reduce waste. The terminal’s “hydration stations” are designed to allow travelers to easily fill up reusable water bottles for the trip ahead. According to Gensler principal Jeff Henry, SFO’s ultimate goal is to stop selling bottled water all together, but for now, the stations serve to educate and inspire the public to start creating environmentally friendly habits of their own.
Pratt’s Myrtle Hall Building (#2) in Brooklyn, N.Y., designed by WASA/Studio A, had an even bigger charge on its horizon: reinvigorating the Fort Greene and Clinton Hill neighborhoods of Brooklyn, which lost much of their energy after the closing of the Brooklyn Naval Yard in the mid-1960s. Thanks to the use of light and glass—including a four-story atrium with views into and through the building from both sides—WASA/Studio A has succeeded in creating “a gateway to the campus for the community,” according to Rip Rapson, president of the Kresge Foundation, which funds and supports sustainable projects.
So let’s take cues from the following 10 firms and projects. And we’ll consider 2011 to be a winning streak for the LEED rating system that should continue for many years to come.