AIA Convention Highlights

Weber Thompson’s Director of Sustainability, Myer Harrell, recently attended the AIA National Conference, where he presented as part of the panel “Living From Seattle’s Living Building Pilot Program.” The conference was filled with inspirational speakers and educational programs. Below, he captures some of the highlights.

At the first keynote of A’17 (the 2017 AIA Conference on Architecture), titled Anticipating the Need: Design that Cares, Pritzker Prize-winner Alejandro Aravena engaged the architect-filled audience by drawing diagrams on a white board to reinforce ideas as he spoke. Continue reading “AIA Convention Highlights”

Healthy Materials for a Better World


It’s amazing what humans can achieve when we are faced with a dilemma. Our current environmental predicament has sparked a surge of creativity from designers leading the way to a brighter, more sustainable tomorrow. I’ve been tremendously inspired by the groundbreaking standards put forth by the Living Future Institute, and was excited to attend the Living Product Healthy Materials Summit at the 2016 ILFI unConference.

When I attended the Living Future Conference a few years back, there was a lot of discussion about how difficult it would be to actually meet the Living Building Challenge (LBC). Some felt that it was something they may never be able to achieve. Incredibly, what seemed so difficult to achieve a few years ago has become a new standard in sustainability.

A wide variety of industry professionals presented on how they are implementing the LBC, and using the Declare label to show transparency. With manufacturers and specifiers working together, real change is happening. A presentation on the Healthy Materials Collaborative shed light on the local group of architects and designers working to advocate for healthy building products.

Weber Thompson has been part of the Healthy Materials Collaborative (HMC) since its recent founding. Through the HMC, Weber Thompson has been able to further our sustainability goals and break down barriers to healthy, sustainable buildings. Our tremendous experience with LEED, Built Green, as well as current LBC and Passive House projects is helpful to other HMC members trying to achieve these rigorous building standards.

This year, we are combing through our entire materials library, to make it easier for our designers and architects to specify healthy materials. We are asking manufacturers to show transparency with their products so that we can make informed design decisions. We are also asking manufacturers to label their products with sustainability information so we can easily see which products meet green building standards. Continue reading “Healthy Materials for a Better World”

The Difficulty of Quantifying Green Design


What is the value of green design? How do we quantify it? How do we sell it to project owners, operators, investors and tenants? 

In today’s Green Building special section of the Daily Journal of Commerce, Weber Thompson Senior Associate Myer Harrell AIA, LEED AP BD+C, Homes, raises some questions in search of making a business case for green. We know green buildings are better buildings, but can we prove they make good financial sense as well? Continue reading “The Difficulty of Quantifying Green Design”

‘Leadership Jazz’ at Greenbuild 2014

With more than 30 LEED accredited professionals on staff, there’s always at least one Weber Thompson attendee at Greenbuild, the USGBC annual international conference and expo. This year in New Orleans, Myer Harrell represented the team and gathered as much of-the-moment information about green building as he was able. Here are a few of his thoughts.

This year’s theme at Greenbuild was ‘Leadership Jazz,’ which was woven throughout the many seminars, lectures, and activities held throughout the week. Special Set sessions have gained momentum as a format – forty sessions were offered with enhanced room layouts, audio/visual support, and technology to further engage the audience, as well as additional guidance from volunteers and staff leading up to the event. Additionally, discussions of social equity permeated many conversations. For example, pilot credits in LEED were announced in a session titled “Getting Credit for Doing Good.” Continue reading “‘Leadership Jazz’ at Greenbuild 2014”

Beignets and green buildings: the Greenbuild Program Working Group retreat

Image by Flickr user ChuckYeager.
Image by Flickr user ChuckYeager.

Earlier this month I spent a few days in New Orleans, and not just for the beignets at Cafe Du Monde (although I had some of those, too). This was a retreat with the Greenbuild Program Working Group (PWG), which “oversees the development and delivery of educational programming intended to meet the needs of attendees to the annual Greenbuild International Conference & Expo,” the US Green Building Council’s annual conference since 2002. As a Silver member company of USGBC, Weber Thompson boasts thirty-five LEED APs and GAs out of fifty-eight employees; a number of whom have attended multiple Greenbuilds.

The session selection process is rigorous; there are at least four rounds of review each year before the 100+ educational sessions are finalized. The first round is a raw score by volunteers on an online platform (the call for this usually goes out around Greenbuild each year, so mark your calendar for November 2014 to apply). The second round is a qualitative review by subject matter experts, facilitated by the PWG. The third round is amongst PWG members who meet in person in Spring in the host city of Greenbuild. Continue reading “Beignets and green buildings: the Greenbuild Program Working Group retreat”

Sharing lessons and successes from SKTOD

Parking Garage at SKTOD designed by Weber Thompson.

Planners, Architects, and Developers came together yesterday in Bellevue to hear WT Senior Associate, Mindy Black, present at the Washington APA conference. The session was a panel presentation about the South Kirkland Transit Oriented Development and included three other speakers: Gary Prince, King County Metro TOD Manager; Janice Coogan, Senior Planner with the City of Kirkland; and Paul Inghram, Comprehensive Planning Manager for the City of Bellevue. Continue reading “Sharing lessons and successes from SKTOD”

Making our cities livable requires landscape architects: Report from the 2011 ASLA Conference

US Cities will undergo major transformation in the coming years. In 2008, the world reached the tipping point where more people live in urban areas than rural. By 2050, it is expected that 70% of the world’s population will live in urban areas while in developed countries like the United States, it will be closer to 90%. Will that growth improve our quality of life?

Yes, if landscape architects are at the table.

At the ASLA 2011 Conference in San Diego the theme was Landscape Architecture Rising. Based on the content of the presentations, landscape architects are playing a critical role in reimagining our cities, making them more sustainable, more socially connected, and more connected to nature, our food, and each other, improving our health and, well, our happiness. As Charles Montgomery, a Vancouver Journalist and the conference’s opening speaker said “the green city, the low carbon city, the social city and the happy city are all the same place”.

The death of sprawl was a common theme. The infrastructure for it can no longer be afforded. Higher density is our future; but density in itself is not enough. “We have to rebuild our cities; they are not done. We have to invest in infrastructure and the next generation has to correct our screw-ups…and invest in the public realm,” said speaker Martha Schwartz, FASLA. It is the spaces between the buildings – the public realm – that will sustain our lives and make living in cities, actually livable. Continue reading “Making our cities livable requires landscape architects: Report from the 2011 ASLA Conference”

What’s next for urban ag in buildings?

One of Weber Thompson’s vertical farming projects: Eco•Laboratory

In Spring of 2011, Weber Thompson will host a series of multi-disciplinary charrettes to investigate the challenges associated with integrating commercial food growing with private development. Supported by recent conceptual design work such as the Eco-laboratory and Newark Vertical Farm, and bolstered by government initiatives such as the Seattle Urban Agriculture Ordinance (#123378), the firm will invite experts and stakeholders in sustainable building, engineering, business, and agriculture to attempt to answer these questions, and more:

  • What is a viable business model around building-integrated agriculture?
  • What are the financial, social and environmental values in this building type?
  • What might a pilot project in Seattle look like?

Stay tuned for findings from these charrettes in late 2011.