written by:
September 29, 2008

If green design were easy, everyone would be doing it. And though it makes sense in theory, actual implementation is often easier said than done. How to make all design become sustainable design was the question posed this past weekend at West Coast Green, a conference about green innovation held in San Jose, California.

WestCoastGreen

Increased education, considering both material and social aspects of sustainability, and even asking the United States Green Building Council to offer LEED certification for citizens were some of the suggestions offered at a discussion moderated by Autodesk director of sustainability Lynelle Preston Cameron. On the panel: Ken Hall, a LEED-certified architect at Gensler; Alberto Villarreal, a senior designer at Lunar; and Rocio Gonzalez, a senior project engineer and visual design and communications coordinator at Swinterton Builders.

What are the greatest obstacles to sustainable design?
Ken Hall: We have this tendency to want to link one cause with one effect; that’s an 18th-century way of thinking. We’re in this huge, interrelated, complex system and so we need intent and ethics but also a whole-system way of thinking.
Alberto Villarreal: As consumers get more educated, they will demand more eco-friendly products. Companies are becoming more aware of that, and they are coming to us requesting sustainable design.

How do you deal with that in the meantime?
AV: Simple projects like tableware or furniture are easier to tackle but consumer electronics have hundreds of processes and materials. Some companies have manufacturing plants all over the world and controlling all of that is very complex. So, with some companies, we’re taking incremental steps like getting rid of toxic materials, getting rid of paint on plastic parts, but for other clients who come in with a full sustainability initiative, they can create a whole new sustainable product right away.

How do you see this transformation in your industry, Rocio, is it slow or radical change?
Rocio Gonzalez: LEED certification is part of our initiative, and we have 260 certified professions—so it’s not difficult to create a team who has green knowledge. We also look for that same green quality in our building and daily office activities: 100 percent recycling at the job site, steel water bottles and silverware at the office and the job site, and we even have people in marketing studying for the LEED test so they understand sustainability as well.

Sustainable design is not necessarily easy. How are you able to implement it in your work?
RG: The key is to not be afraid of testing it out. Technology allows us to do many different things so you choose a project and tackle the most complex part of the project. We do not have to model the whole project but just tackle that area and text it. My subcontractors question what the benefit is if we’re not getting paid extra by the owner to test the sustainability potential of that part of the project. But innovation takes risks. If we just tackle one area and we see the benefits then they are willing to participate next tie and gradually it becomes part of our daily delivery process.

When you’re designing a building, Ken, do you think of just “green design” or are you thinking of LEED certification?
KH: We work with four tiers of sustainability: it may not be a LEED project but there’s a basic level of sustainability we work to achieve on every project, then there’s better than basic, best, and then transformational practices. Our goal is to drive transformational practices down to basic practices, maybe drive LEED silver certification down to our basic practices.

Wal-mart plans on eventually selling only sustainable products. How will this affect industrial design, Alberto?
AV: It’s a big challenge because part of their business model is based on selling low-priced products, which means someone else is paying for them: the manufacturers in China and others. Sustainability is not only about materials or carbon footprint but a sustainable social system. I’m interested to see how they tackle that part of the operation.

Is education the sweet spot for turning the spark into the fire?
KH: Architects need to embrace building science and not be afraid of a little physics, how heat moves through a building. I think the USGBC should create a LEED certification for citizens because this is about getting our society on board with sustainability. There are basics that every human being needs to learn about the situation we’re in today.

Photo courtesy of West Coast Green; L to R: Ken Hall, Alberto Villarreal, Rocio Gonzalez, and Lynelle Preston Cameron

Join the Discussion

Loading comments...

Latest Articles

Concrete floor, white walls, Bend sectional sofa, Metropolitan chair by B&B Italia, and Arper pouf in living room of Rhode Island family vacation home by Bernheimer Architecture.
Create comfortable areas to lounge, sit, eat, and entertain with these designs.
February 12, 2016
São Paulo apartment dining room with local wood floors and HAY chairs
From concrete to wood, these South American homes enjoy nature inside and out.
February 12, 2016
Custom cabinetry and trim in Chicago apartment renovation.
The Second City is second to none when it comes to inventive modern architecture, from Louis Sullivan to the present day.
February 12, 2016
Kitchen of 1956 midcentury modern Palm Springs home.
Celebrate Palm Springs Modernism Week, which runs from February 11–21, with a look at some of our favorite modern desert oases.
February 12, 2016
Gustav bicycle by Coh&Co
Designmuseum Danmark unveils a permanent collection highlighting new developments in Danish design.
February 12, 2016
A Seattle studio's courtyard
Every week, we highlight one amazing Dwell home that went viral on Pinterest. Follow Dwell's Pinterest account for more daily design inspiration.
February 12, 2016
Chalet in the French alps
An innovative glass addition adds contrast to a timber mountain lodge in France.
February 11, 2016
Aumas' assorted collectables.
Bright colors and vintage furniture are abound in these French homes.
February 11, 2016
Kogan designed a number of the built-in furnishings, including the headboard and cupboard in the master bedroom.The cupboard is deliberately reminiscent of a mid-century stereo speaker. The vintage lounge chairs are by Percival Lafer.
Need to relax? Make your bedroom an oasis from the rest of the house.
February 11, 2016
Modern Florida seaside home with corian island, dornbracht faucet, cees braakman combex chairs and marble knoll table in the kitchen
Read more about Knoll's impressive career here, but in the meantime, explore just a few of her works in these contemporary homes.
February 11, 2016
Modern small box home in Mexico
Letting the warm climate indoors is a common thread through these diverse dwellings.
February 11, 2016
Modern white cabinets under the stairs with skylight above
What could be better than a modest-sized house in a quaintly historic city?
February 11, 2016
dining room lighting
These renovations connect rustic, classic, and modern design in Italy.
February 10, 2016
12362509 211441865858796 1743381178 n1
Each week, we tap into Dwell's Instagram community to bring you the most viral design and architecture shots of the week.
February 10, 2016
modern outdoor garden room plastic polycarbonate
From colorful living rooms to a backyard retreat, Belgian designers reimagine vernacular forms and materials for the modern world.
February 10, 2016
Tel Aviv kitchen with custom dining table and Smeg fridge
Would you go for an out-of-the-box palette for your major appliances? See how these kitchens tackle the trend.
February 10, 2016
Exhibition view, of Klaus Wittkugel works at P! gallery, New York
On view through February 21 at New York's P! gallery, a new show explores the politics of Cold War-era graphic design with a presentation of works by Klaus Wittkugel—East Germany's most prolific graphic designer. Curator Prem Krishnamurthy walks us through the highlights.
February 10, 2016
Reclaimed cedar and gray-stucco home outside San Francisco.
The new kid on the block in a predominantly Eichler neighborhood, this Menlo Park home breaks the mold and divides into three pavilions connected by breezeways.
February 10, 2016
A third floor addition and whole-house renovation modernized a funky cottage on an unusual, triple-wide lot in San Francisco.
From modern interiors hidden within historic structures to unabashedly modern dwellings, these seven renovations take totally different approaches to San Francisco's historic building stock.
February 10, 2016
Delphi sofa from Erik Jørgensen and gyrofocus fireplace in living room of Villa Le Trident in the French Riviera, renovated by 4a Architekten.
The Aegean's all-white architecture famously helped inspire Le Corbusier; these five dwellings continue in that proud modern tradition (though not all are as minimalist).
February 10, 2016
San Francisco dining room with chandelier and Eames shell chairs
Brooklyn-based RBW's work—from diminutive sconces to large floor lamps—shape these five interiors.
February 09, 2016
Glass-fronted converted garage in Washington
These garages go behind parking cars and storing your drum sets.
February 09, 2016
Modern Texas home office with sliding walls, behr black chalkboard paint, concrete walls, and white oak flooring
From appropriated nooks to glass-encased rooms, each of these modern offices works a unique angle.
February 09, 2016
picnic-style table in renovated San Francisco house
From chandeliers to pendants, these designs make the dining room the most entertaining space in the house.
February 09, 2016
Midcentury house in Portland with iron colored facade and gold front door
From preserved masterworks to carefully updated time capsules, these homes have one thing in common (other than a healthy appreciation for everything Eames): the conviction that the '40s, '50s, and '60s were the most outstanding moments in American architecture.
February 09, 2016
Modern living room with furniture designed by Ludovica + Roberto Palomba
These oases by the sea, many done up in white, make stunning escapes.
February 08, 2016
A Philippe Starck standing lamp and an Eames chaise longue bracket the living room; two Lawrence Weiner prints hang behind a pair of Warren Platner chairs and a table purchased from a River Oaks estate sale; at far left of the room, a partial wall of new
Texas might have a big reputation, but these homes show the variety of shapes and sizes in the Lone Star State.
February 08, 2016
Montigo gas-burning fireplace in spacious living room.
Built atop the foundation of a flood-damaged home, this 3,000-square-foot Maryland home features vibrant furniture placed in front of stunning views of a nearby estuary.
February 08, 2016
Studio addition in Seattle
An architect couple sets out to transform a run-down property.
February 08, 2016
West Elm coffee table, custom Joybird sofa, and matching Jens Risom chairs in living room of Westchester renovation by Khanna Shultz.
Every Monday, @dwell and @designmilk invite fans and experts on Twitter to weigh in on trending topics in design.
February 08, 2016