by Bruce Fowle
At the AIANYS 2016 Saratoga Design Conference, Bruce S. Fowle, FAIA, LEED AP, recipient of the State Chapter’s 2016 President’s Award, used his time on the podium to preach the critical importance of green design. His remarks follow.
If there is one lesson that I have learned over and over, it is the importance of being informed and prepared. I have often said, and read, that the key to sustainable architecture is not in the bells and whistles – it is the hundreds of nitty-gritty decisions that one makes on any given project. Everyone at the table must be totally on top of the green game. No discussion should occur without the people who can and will make the right – the greenest – choices. That is why my firm, FXFOWLE, has been striving since 2004 to have 100% of our staff, including our support teams, LEED-accredited. Why haven’t we been able to get to 100%? Because we have no choice but to hire staff from offices and schools with no such requirement. It’s very frustrating. We give our new hires six months to take the exam and learn how to talk the talk.
None of this is to suggest that design excellence is not equally important. The most sustainable structures in the world are the loved ones – they last forever – and they raise the human spirit. Green can, and should, be beautiful. To me, a building cannot be truly beautiful if it is not green.
I have been fortunate to be in the right place at the right time on numerous occasions, but where I have been most effective in making a difference is where I, and my team, have developed the expertise and awareness to seize a given moment to make something happen. Every day I see missed opportunities that I attribute to ignorance and lack of will, even with the tightening of laws and all the talk about climate change, loss of habitat, and rising sea levels. Let’s stop kidding ourselves – our profession continues to drag its feet. We can and should be doing so much more. We cannot blame it all on clients if we don’t have the strength of our own convictions.
My greatest hope is that in future President’s Awards ceremonies, my so called “non-traditional” accomplishments will have become mainstream. And, most importantly, that our profession embraces the idea that architects are in a unique position to contribute to the well-being of our society and our planet – and all the creatures that inhabit it.
This is a very special award for which I am eternally grateful and extremely proud.
To be recognized for my contributions to the non-traditional areas of architectural practice is very meaningful – not only because it rewards me for my efforts, but it also rewards so many others who have helped educate, support, and encourage me to try to make a difference. This includes my wife, Marcia, who introduced me to the critical issue of birds colliding with buildings, and my three daughters, Margaret, Suzie, and Abigail (now an architect in Portland, OR), who studied environmental science in college and encouraged me to attend parents-day lectures, read, and learn about what was happening to the world around us. I am appalled when I think about how ignorant we all were.
The list includes people in government, like Hillary Brown, FAIA, who started the green movement at the NYC Department of Design and Construction: Joyce Lee, FAIA, at the city’s Office of Management and Budget (and a former President’s Award recipient); and Laurie Kerr, FAIA, who continues to write the new laws that put our city, state, and nation at the forefront of saving our planet. (Before I go on, you may want to note the gender of those I have listed so far!) Clients like Douglas and Jody Durst whose courage and vision moved us forward into designing the world’s first green skyscraper – and more. The list goes on and on, but none of this would have been possible without the support and innovative spirit of my partners and staff at FXFOWLE, who are represented here today by Partner Mark Strauss, FAIA, and Associate Erin Crowe, AIA.