Welcome to DeepGreen

Sustainable design has always delivered superior performance and livability. Today, there is a new standard. A higher bar.

By Richard Cuebas, AIA, LEED-AP

The shift is already happening, and it is HUGE. The surprise is that such few in the design and construction industries have yet to get the memo.

Though wait a minute. Perhaps we shouldn’t be all that surprised. The transformation is so recent, and people tend to react so slowly to massive change, that it might just be perfectly understandable for THIS massive change to be passing us by.

Problem is, we as an industry and as a society stand to pay a monumental price unless we adjust. Rapidly. Price as in cost incurred, and price as in livability unrealized. We, for one—the team at Integra Architecture—have decided not to let it pass us by, or pass you by, and have turned it instead into the third pillar of our design practice.

The challenge is RESILIENCE, or the ability to adapt to and resist fast-growing and always unpredictable climate impacts already affecting life as we know it.

The American Institute of Architects says in its website that “architects have a responsibility to design a resilient environment that can more successfully adapt to natural conditions and more readily absorb and recover from adverse events.” As such, the organization supports “policies, programs and practices that promote adaptable and resilient buildings and communities.”

So do we, which is why it gives us enormous pleasure to launch DeepGreen as our proprietary platform delivering, among other benefits, “adaptable and resilient buildings and communities.”

And not just because it is a “responsibility”. Better: because it is desirable. It’s a no-brainer. What we find particularly exciting about DeepGreen is that aside from delivering resilience, it integrates performance and livability—seamlessly.

It is, in effect, the new way we design, and we believe it ought to be the new way the world designs.

I promoted the practice as President of the Puerto Rico AIA Chapter last year, including speaking at an event held by the Rockefeller Foundation’s 100 Resilient Cities Initiative when San Juan was selected as one of the program’s 100 cities.

Now, we integrate it with the other two pillars of our practice. Performance and livability have been default drivers for years, as I said in the opening. The former is where we, and the industry more broadly, maximize profitability for our clients in every property we help build, whether commercial, residential, urban or infrastructure.

As LEED designers, we’re thrilled that performance nowadays equals sustainability: energy and water efficiency that reduces the need for expensive building systems, zero waste to the extent possible, indoor air quality and non-toxic materials to enhance worker productivity, and more.

Designing for livability is also exciting, and inherently green: beautiful public spaces for people to gather, pedestrian corridors for proximity to work and play and less need to drive, generous use of green assets for aesthetics and value, ready access to public and alternative transportation, buildings that give us feedback about their environments, urban farms for better health and stronger local economies, and so much more!

And now there’s resilience, the new imperative. As the AIA reminds us, resilience doesn’t just protect a property from climate impacts. In so doing, it doubles as performance through much improved risk management, which generally leads to reduced insurance premiums and a faster turnaround when disaster strikes, minimizing business and life interruption—as the AIA says, “to not only bounce back, but forward.”

Perhaps the most uplifting design opportunity in resilience is the role of a property’s stakeholders, the people who work, live, shop, study, play or simply visit a building and urban district, plus everyone AROUND the property. Again, the AIA: “Vulnerability assesses the capabilities and interdependencies of individuals and communities associated with risk. A resilient building in a vulnerable community isn’t truly resilient. Infrastructure, utilities, food supply and services are all necessary for adequate functionality.”

In other words, as architects, the new design paradigm must include making the entire built environment around a building or urban development more resilient, which in turn necessitates incorporating the views and needs of the people in the vicinity.

It is a new holistic, even humane vision, one we at Integra—with our in-house architecture, engineering and education capabilities—are absolutely embracing.

And when we take resilience and INTEGRAte performance and livability, we’re in the future, today. In a deeper place. A greener place.

The new standard. A higher bar.

Posted on August 10, 2016 in General

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About the Author

Richard Cuebas is co-founder and Vice-President of Integra Design Group, Managing Member of our Charlotte office, and leader of the firm's Sustainability and Interior Architecture practices.
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