2016 Sustainable Design


Barbra Batshalom
Sustainable Performance Institute

Blake Jackson
Tsoi / Kobus & Associates

Jacob Knowles
BR+A Consulting Engineers

Christopher Schaffner
The Green Engineer

Michael Fiorillo AIA
Director of Sustainable Design, Boston Architectural College

Jury Overview

This year’s jury examined 31 submissions to the program, 10 fewer than in 2013. We wished there had been more.

We were pleased to see a variety of building types represented among the projects: Library additions, small single family residences, high rises, and labs. This was an admirably diverse body of work that emerged from four continents.

Overall, sustainability codes were met. LEED certification was often offered in place of actual metrics, which was disappointing. In fact, about half of the projects claimed LEED Platinum, though this information alone did not seem reason enough for a project to be awarded. Many projects simply did not deliver data, especially those built several years ago. We hoped to see more integration of built and biotic processes, as well as descriptions of how and where users experience a building’s environmental factors. And it was surprising how infrequently site strategy was clearly defined.

We welcomed what seemed to be an increase in renewables, passive strategies, and net zero buildings that were beautiful. Also positive was a clear focus on creative enclosure solutions that explored how to achieve high performance through the architecture itself and not just the mechanical systems.

Throughout the day, we gravitated to work that demonstrated of a high level of technical accomplishment. We also sought the inclusion of quantifiable data, because performance cannot be evaluated through unsubstantiated claims. We applauded projects that foregrounded the user experience as part of a holistic sustainability strategy. Projects that fulfilled a social function swiftly rose to the top. When presented with a successful story about a building type that does not typically “go green,” we also took notice.

Eight projects ultimately emerged that met our criteria for design excellence. In each instance, we knew from the first page that the architects had “knocked it out of the park.” Each provided nice spaces for people to inhabit. By making these selections, it is our hope that we, a group of architects, contractors, and engineers, can help our peers understand that designing for performance should be intrinsic to their jobs, and provide suggestions about how to cultivate that awareness.

To future submitters, please spare us vagary. To be awarded, you need to be specific about design intent and quantifiable outcomes. When you don’t offer proof to back up your claims and pictures, we speculate that you are not using the many tools that are at your disposal. It’s also helpful to share information about your process, so that we can understand more of the design thinking that fueled your work.

As always, serving as jurors in a program such as this is a rewarding and educational experience for the jurors, and we wish to express our appreciation to the BSA for the opportunity to participate.