A Passion For Sustainability

To celebrate the grand opening of our new office, our team hosted an open house networking event. We gave tours, had delicious food and drinks, and spent the evening with great company. What better way to show off a new space? 

Though the primary reason for hosting the event was to celebrate all of the monumental changes our company has made over the past year, (a new name, new office, and of course, our 100-year anniversary), we wanted to make sure our guests left with more than just full bellies. 

At VISSI Architecture + Design, we view ourselves as more than just people who design buildings. Each one of our visionaries has their own unique background and passions. One thing that many of our architects are passionate about is sustainability and Associate Troy Harris is no exception. In fact, we have even given him the nickname, “Lean, Mean, Green Energy Machine”. Though, we promise he’s actually really nice. No room for meanies in our office!

To add to our evening of celebrating and networking, we decided to share a presentation on ways for the real estate industry to build more sustainably. The presentation entitled, Getting Into The Green Scene: Building For Tomorrow Using Today’s Technology, was presented by none other than the Lean, Mean, Green Energy Machine himself.

Lean, Mean, Green Energy Machine

But first, a little background on Troy. Troy is an Associate here at VISSI and has been on our team for almost 15 years. He is LEED AP and a licensed architect. He is also an active member in AIA: American Institute of Architects. He loves spending time with his family in the great outdoors, whether that’s skiing, gardening with his kids, or visiting state and national parks. So, naturally, climate change and global warming are big concerns for Troy. He was the perfect choice to lead our presentation on green building. 

Getting Into The Green Scene

The presentation opens with a chart from Yale University entitled “Global Warming’s Six Americas: Five Year Trend”. Climate change is often viewed as a confrontational topic, but as the chart shows, less than 10% of American’s are dismissive of the issue. Most of the country fall somewhere in the middle. The alarmed group is increasing; however, many still feel paralyzed, unsure whereto even start. As Troy said in his presentation, “the topic of climate change needs to be discussed more so we can not only educate the disengaged, but also help people move out of paralysis and into action”. 

In order to think globally, we have to act locally. As AEC (architecture, engineering, construction) and real estate professionals, climate change poses several concerns for property owners. Harsher storms bring flooding, wind and hail damage, and utility outages which can become incredibly frustrating and costly.

But where do we go from here? Troy suggests that we consider two approaches. First off, buildings account for 40% of energy consumption and 33% of greenhouse gas emissions. Therefore, cutting your properties energy usage would combat climate change. Second, property owners of all types should look at how you can make your properties more resilient to withstand the harsher and more frequent severe weather events. And with both approaches, the sooner you invest in these changes, the better. Even small changes are a step in the right direction.

Think Globally, Act Locally: Our Projects

Even though Troy is the resident green energy fanatic in our office, he’s not the only one on our team with a passion for preservation. VISSI Architecture + Design completed the documentation and specifications for a LEED Silver Unleashed by Petco fit-out in Arlington, MA and handled the submission of the design information to USGBC for review. The property owner was taking the steps to build a LEED certified shell building and Petco took the opportunity to do the same with their fit-out.

Similarly, we completed documentation and specifications for a ShopRite in Howard Park, MD that had to follow the Baltimore Green Standards. These standards follow closely to LEED but provide different opportunities.

More recently, our team design our first Net-Zero building. This is a project that is currently in construction and is about 67,000 SF three story self-storage building in Carbondale, CO. Carbondale has adopted the International Green Construction Code which is similar to LEED without as much paperwork and fees. During planning, the municipality requested that the building be net-zero. To read more about our first Net-Zero project, click here.

To close our presentation on getting into the green scene, we wanted to show our audience ways they could get involved. We made sure to highlight that all our projects that we featured were all ground up projects. But it is imperative that we also think about what we can do about existing buildings. As Troy noted, "the most efficient building is the one that already exists, but when remodeling, it is the most cost-effective time to make energy improvements.”

How Can VISSI Help

Here's where we can help. We can help meet:

-a rating system, such as LEED

-going net-zero

-making small changes

-or putting together a sustainability plan (much like a business plan for your business)

-we can also help guide you to available incentives

It wouldn’t be an effective presentation without giving some homework! As recommended by Troy, a great read on our changing climate and how to get involved is “Saving Us” by Kathrine Hayhoe.

For a copy of all our slides and helpful links to all books and resources mentioned in both this blog and our Getting Into The Green Scene presentation, click here.