Living the Legacy

by Robert Nieminen

I remember participating as a judge on a well-known design awards panel not long after the news broke that Ray Anderson had been diagnosed with cancer.

Someone had thrown his name into the hat for his contributions to the industry as they related to sustainability, which made perfect sense. Everyone in the room agreed that the highly respected visionary of Interface was more than a deserving candidate for the award, but for a moment, there was an air of uncertainty lingering in the room.

Would anyone possibly think we were acting out of sympathy instead of impartiality? When the moment passed, we agreed with a resounding “no,” that this would not be the case. Anyone who knows the first thing about Ray Anderson knows that without his leadership the industry would not be as far along the path to a more sustainable future as it is today. And despite the many accolades he received prior to learning of his illness, there was no doubt he deserved to be recognized again.

So it was with particular sadness that I heard of Ray’s passing in August. As the news gained momentum across social media platforms, Interiors & Sources Managing Editor Adam Moore began working on a fitting tribute to Ray, which we published online with links to the stories he had written for us and that we had written about him, and a video of one of his many inspiring talks that succeeded in moving so many of us to carry the mantle of sustainability.

In hindsight, I’m glad the aforementioned judges’ panel agreed to honor Ray regardless of any concerns we may have had at the time, because you can’t look at the progress that’s been made in the greening of the A&D industry without acknowledging his vision. And as we focus on sustainable design in this issue with our cover story on our Top 10 LEED projects of 2011  and our Green Guide to Greenbuild special section, it’s clear that Ray’s dream of reducing his company’s environmental footprint to zero is becoming a reality, and that the industry as a whole is following suit.

Mission Statement

Interiors & Sources® is dedicated to the advancement of the commercial interior design profession. It connects design professionals with the projects, products, firms and associations that shape the built environment and promotes the value of design services in the creation of functional, sustainable and aesthetically-pleasing environments. Each issue delivers relevant and timely information that equips design practitioners with the knowledge and tools necessary to reach design excellence in their own practices. Editorial ideas and contributions are welcome from all members of the design industry.

The path to a truly sustainable future is not without its challenges, however. As we reported in our weekly DesignFlash e-newsletter earlier this year, the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) and its founders were named as defendants in a class action lawsuit filed in federal court on behalf of Henry Gifford, a mechanical systems designer and owner of Gifford Fuel Saving. The suit claimed that the USGBC is fraudulently misleading consumers and misrepresenting the energy performance of buildings certified under its Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) rating systems, and went on to claim that LEED is harming the environment by leading consumers away from using proven energy-saving strategies.

Fortunately, the United States District Court in New York City dismissed the lawsuit in its entirety in August, holding that none of the plaintiffs in the action had alleged or could allege any legal interest to be protected by their lawsuit. Rick Fedrizzi, president, CEO and founding chair of the USGBC, defended the organization’s mission, noting that “Thousands of people around the world use LEED because it’s a proven tool for achieving our mission of transforming the built environment.”

Case in point: the USGBC recently released a report highlighting positive green building policy advancements being made in all 50 states. The report, “Advancing Green Building Policy in the States: 2011 Victories from Alabama to Wyoming,” showcases actions that states are taking to transform the market, despite a struggling economy. The newly adopted policies are wide ranging, covering energy efficiency, investments in high-performance schools, and incentives for green homes and manufacturing facilities.

Ray Anderson once said that “progress may occur in fits and starts with occasional setbacks, but the direction in environmental ethics is well-established.” He understood at an intuitive level that going green was the right thing to do. He left us a legacy that will not soon be forgotten, but we need more leaders like him to continue the transformation from wasteful to sustainable.

“Change is often hard and sometimes painful,” he said. “Yet it need not be, as we have learned at Interface, and the pain that is in store for humanity and the species with which we share Planet Earth will be infinitely greater if we don’t change. But who will lead? Unless somebody does, nobody will. Why not you?”