Sustainable Design Still Not Mainstream Among Design Professions

DesignIntelligence, publishers of market intelligence for the architecture and design industry and creators of annual school rankings, released their 2011 Green & Sustainable Design Survey, which argues that despite all the talk, “sustainable design practices are not yet in the mainstream of architecture and design.” How is this possible? DesignIntelligence points to “inertia” along with “denial and resistance.”

According to James Cramer, editor of DesignIntelligence, some firms lack leadership, self-confidence, and are confused about which issues to address. Many have not embraced the idea that a total shift is needed. The sense of urgency is pushed back to another day. Many just aren’t stepping up to the plate. “They are not cognizant that architects, designers, and clients are the central elemental force – for better or for worse – with regards to the environment and a sustainable future.”

The group cites a few leaders in the green movement, including William McDonough, Ed Mazria (Architecture 2030), Bob Berkebile, Ray Anderson, and Amory Lovins (three architects, one product manufacturer, and one engineer. It seems no landscape architect or planner makes the cut). DesignIntelligence says these five have “all embraced sustainability when few others took it seriously.” Five firms, including Arup, HOK, BNIM, Perkins+Will, and KierenTimberlake are seen as out-front on sustainable design. “They exemplify a new species of design organization, a species that is alert, anticipatory, and intelligent.”

Despite the leadership of these firms, a sense of stasis is pervasive within the design professions. Of the professionals surveyed (more than 55 percent architects, 28 percent “executive staff,” 7 percent interior designers, 2 percent engineers, and only 4 percent landscape architects), some 63 percent were satisfied with their own firm’s progress on sustainable design. However, Cramer notes that less than half of new design projects meet LEED Gold or equivalent levels.

Cramer offers a whole set of useful recommendations for firms, many of which would also be applicable to landscape architecture firms. He says “principal leaders of organizations should find a way to walk the talk and be role models for sustainable design in their own ecosystems.” In addition, leaders need to focus on branding around sustainable design, offering higher levels of in-house continuing education, moving their staff far beyond LEED, thinking regionally about environmental impacts, committing to Architecture 2030, and pushing for green building codes and regulations at the local levels.

While DesignIntelligence’s results are geared towards architects (given they make up 55 percent of the survey), the results are worth browsing. They would have been even more interesting had the group published how many were actually included in the survey. Also, check out their article on “sprawl repair” by Galina Tachieva, a partner at Duany Plater-Zyberk & Co, and an interesting piece by Bert Gregory, CEO of Mithun, on moving toward green neighborhood design, along with other articles from the report.  

Another recent survey from DesignIntelligence covers Trends Forecast & Foresight Scenarios. Some 50 unnamed thought leaders from the architecture, design, and construction industries were surveyed and identified 16 key trends gaining steam over the past year. The top five trends include life-cycle design, BIM adoption, “productivity increases,” sustainable design, and “intelligent buildings.”

In terms of economic forecasts, the 50 respondents were far from bullish on landscape architecture for the year. According to the anonymous thought leaders, the profession faces the worst conditions among all design professions, with only 11 percent seeing positive growth for the field in 2011-2012, and more than 68 percent saying growth will be neutral. In contrast, the Bureau of Labor Statistics found in a recent report approximately 20 percent growth for landscape architects through 2018. Landscape architecture was seen by the U.S. government as one of the fastest growing arts and design fields.

Additional market analysis covers a variety of sectors. Growth was expected to be strongest in the health care facility, federal government facility, and transportation sectors.

Image credit: DesignIntelligence

3 thoughts on “Sustainable Design Still Not Mainstream Among Design Professions

  1. LT, ASLA 07/28/2011 / 3:52 pm

    It is safe to assume that architects make up the “anonymous thought leaders”. It is a faulty process to ask architects, with their bias, for a forecast on landscape architecture.

    The facts, as supported by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, show that landscape architects are, and will increasingly become more, in demand.
    Landscape architects have the insight, training, skills, and experience that are and will be needed to address design and planning challenges of the future. And, landscape architects have the ability and broad perspective that makes them the best leaders for teams that can fully understand the issues, and develop design and planning solutions that lead to meaningful results.

    Many architects may be hopeful that they can embrace the kind of work landscape architects are most qualified to do. More architects have lost jobs and left their profession since the downturn in the economy.

    I hope everyone will soon return to full productivity in a satisfying professional capacity.

  2. Craig de Pfyffer 07/28/2011 / 6:51 pm

    Most Landscape Architects, by their very nature, are practicing sustainable design.

    Craig de Pfyffer, ISA, Associate ASLA

  3. robot aspirateur de piscine soldes 06/26/2012 / 12:35 am

    The majority of the significant things in the world are actually accomplished by people who have kept on trying when there have also been no hope in any way.

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