Architecture Brands the Green Standard

Event: Brandism Series: Brand as Sustainability
Location: Center for Architecture, 05.23.07
Speakers: Michael Buckley, FAIA — Director, Columbia University Program in Real Estate Development; Andres Escobar — founder & principal, Andres Escobar & Associates; Robert F. Fox Jr., AIA — partner, Cook + Fox Architects; Alberto Foyo — principal, Alberto Foyo Architect; Kenneth Lewis, AIA — associate partner, Skidmore, Owings & Merrill; Christopher Sharples — founding partner, SHoP Architects
Moderator: Susan Szenasy — editor-in-chief, Metropolis
Organizers: Anna Klingmann, Assoc. AIA; AIANY

Conde Nast Building

The Conde Nast Building, designed by FXFowle Architects, pioneered the green brand when it was constructed in 1999.

Jessica Sheridan

As NYC experiences a surge in building projects with “starchitecture” branding, it is also becoming an epicenter for green initiatives. The fifth in a six-part series, this panel targeted the possibilities of using “brandism” to promote sustainable thinking — how starchitecture can help forward sustainable building, and how environmentalism has become a brand in itself.

Environmental responsibility is on the verge of becoming a design mandate, with new software making performance-driven design even more attainable. Architects can model dynamic environments in real time and share with the client how sustainability positively impacts the bottom line over time. Already, the international housing market is experiencing a shift towards green, though dollar-driven Americans still equate green with high costs. Among renters, however, green demand is high and perhaps will cause a “trickle-up” effect.

Corporate developers are currently way ahead of their residential counterparts, who often eschew green measures in favor of speed. In order to target these developers, architects must devise a quick version of sustainable building, which can in turn be used as a marketing tool.

With innovative branding, green can be seen as a cost-effective solution. LEED has already had success branding itself as a model of eco-responsibility. By coupling the mandate for responsibility with the reality of energy savings, architects can send a message to clients that green makes sense on multiple levels.

To achieve this, the panel proposed government tax credits based on units of “greenness”; branding architects as sustainability experts; and rethinking curricula at universities. Car companies use celebrities to market hybrid cars to consumers. Likewise, architecture can use branding to market itself as a product with a message of eco-responsibility and cost-efficiency.