- Bill Starkey
4 Green Architects Who Have Pioneered the Sustainable Building Industry
Green buildings are constructions that, through their design, construction, and operation, eliminate or reduce their negative impact on the environment, even creating a positive impact in some cases. Green buildings preserve natural resources and protect against climate change. They also benefit the people that live and work in them, improving quality of life.
To be classified as “green,” a building must meet specific criteria, including running on renewable energy; being constructed from ethical, sustainable, non-toxic materials; using water and energy efficiently; incorporating waste and pollution reduction measures; providing good indoor air quality; prioritizing the occupants’ quality of life; and being adaptable to a changing environment.
Here, we look at a selection of the world’s most influential green architects and the stunning buildings they have helped create.
1. Frank Lloyd Wright
Many cite Frank Lloyd Wright as the “Father of Green.” His innovative, organic architecture focused on creating buildings that appear to be part of their natural surroundings.
This world-renowned architect designed numerous iconic buildings, including the scurvy Guggenheim in New York City. In the early 1900s, Wright created a variety of green structures, including his stucco-and-stone home in Wisconsin; the concrete Unity Temple in Illinois; and Fallingwater in Pennsylvania, a house constructed from concrete, glass, and stone that stretched over a waterfall.
Today, 24 buildings designed by Frank Lloyd Wright are designated National Historic Landmarks. In 2008, his Wisconsin home, Taliesin, was submitted for World Heritage Site status by the US National Park Service.
2. Norman Foster
British Norman Foster founded Foster + Partners in 1967. The architectural firm has been recognized with hundreds of citations and awards for architectural excellence, establishing a worldwide presence over the years.
A believer in sustainability, Norman Foster points out on his website that buildings consume half of all energy, as well as being responsible for half of all global emissions. Foster says that means it is the responsibility of all architects to change these numbers. Foster and his associates are currently working on the Masdar project in Abu Dhabi, creating a zero-waste, zero-carbon city, the first such entity on Earth.
Foster’s past projects include the Willis Faber Dumas Headquarters, a green building that was completed in 1975, long before green building was en vogue. Requiring the scale of an office tower, but still sympathetic to its local surroundings, this three-story-high construction is located in Ipswich, UK.
The blot-shaped building’s flowing edges adhere to the surrounding Medieval street plan, culminating in a building shaped by its surroundings, its all-glass façade remaining black during the day and translucent at night. Rich in amenities, including a roof cafeteria, lawn, and swimming pool, the construction demonstrates Foster’s progressive approach to workplaces. It conceived of a corporate culture that mixes work and play long before Google and other giants jumped on the bandwagon.
3. Peter Busby
Canada’s leading green architect and one of the most successful on the international stage today, Peter Busby heads a large multinational architecture firm in San Francisco. He has been involved in numerous sustainable building projects, including Dockside Green in British Columbia, an expansive development that was completed in 2011. It was celebrated for its green initiatives, including a water treatment system, biomass gasification, and car sharing program.
A philosophy major with an arts degree, Busby’s tenacity and desire to have a positive impact on the world shaped his architectural career. Through his work, he has influenced how people live and how they treat the environment, as well as impacting how cities are formed. First in Canada, then throughout the world, Peter Busby continues to inspire new generations of architects.
4. Richard Buckminster Fuller
Architect, engineer, philosopher, geometrician, futurist, and inventor of the geodesic dome, Richard Buckminster Fuller was an early proponent for sustainable living. He believed in the necessity of humanity recognizing the importance of its interconnectedness with—and reliance on—local biomes. Regarded by many as lightyears ahead of his time, he is the man behind Disney’s Epcot Center, along with a catalogue of other Space Age structures.
Encompassing a hemispherical lattice-shell structure, Fuller’s geodesic dome design was patented in 1954. The dome was adopted in several iconic structures, notably Science World in Vancouver, the Distant Early Warning Line in Canada, the Gold Dome in Oklahoma City, and the Stephan Center at the University of Notre Dame.
Fuller has been described as one of the first architects to recognize the modern world as an ecosystem to be reconciled with nature. Fuller was talking about energy, fossil fuels, pollution, and food in the mid-1960s, long before the sustainable building movement took root.
He established himself as one of the first systems-thinkers, and he was a forerunner of green architecture. His career achievements were documented by the Oscar-winning filmmaker, Robert Snyder, in The World of Buckminster Fuller. In the film, Fuller tells his story in his own words, in a “personal, inspiring message from Fuller to our fragile world.”