Thursday, October 16, 2008

A seed

HOK has a policy to pay for all its design staff to take the LEED-AP exam. One of the things I particularly like the most about this policy is that it extends to our summer interns and part time staff, even though we know they they might not return to HOK when their formal education has been completed.

I like the thought that we plant the seed and hope that it grows, no matter where that person goes to work - the fact that we're changing the profession one student, one professional, one human at a time. As part of HOK's support for sustainable design education, I happen to teach firmwide web conferences around the LEED rating system and the design strategies behind it. Many tune in, but few follow up to let me know they passed their LEED exam or that they were able to use the knowledge in a constructive way on a project later. But I hope that I am making a difference nonetheless.

Today I got an email from a recent summer intern that not only passed the LEED exam before he left our firm to return to school for the fall (as did all our interns!) but he was able to share what he learned with his classmates when he returned to architecture school. The response was so positive, that the school is considering developing a semester-long course around sustainability and LEED at the demand of the students. An excerpt from the email is below - and it has made my year! I am including it in the hope that it inspires other students to take up the issue with their student organizations, and ultimately their academic institutions. (The photo is over the natural ventilation exhaust at Gaudi's Casa Mila in Barcelona, an example of something beautiful, functional and sustainable all at once.)

"Hi Anica!

I hope you are happy to know that last Tuesday I gave a lecture to the Roger Williams University School of Architecture regarding an overview of LEED and how to take the exam. Afterwards the AIAS conducted a survey on the interest of students on the subject of LEED and sustainability. Overwhelmingly the surveys came back with a high interest of making this subject a new focus in our upcoming curriculum.

From this Tuesday (the 14’th) to today, several members of the AIAS as well as myself have held a series of meetings with Dean ... discussing the huge interest of students pursuing LEED. Dean White, after having discussed the idea with the provost and president of the university, is fully committed in the possibility of offering an upper level class or series of seminars (as the issue is still in “brain storming mode”) discussing this topic.

As it stands now, the question remains – who is best qualified to teach this topic? The Dean has asked me in our discussions, my experience in learning the issue... he came up with the idea of furthering the “class” to possibly incorporate professionals and professors....possibly conduct a class or series of lectures for next fall (of ’09)."

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