Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Interview with Colin Rohfling, Sustainable Design Leader with HOK Chicago

Colin Rohfling, Sustainable Design Leader at HOK Chicago, has many talents and made significant contributions to the design and building industry. Not the least of which was his critical role in facilitating the LEED NC Platinum Certification of the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST) in Saudi Arabia. For those of you who doubt you can save significant amounts of water and energy in tough climates, think again. Colin took a few minutes out of his very busy day to share with us some thoughts about the state of sustainable design:

Q: How have recent legislation or corporate/federal mandates changed the way your organization addresses environmental issues?
A: They have made my presence necessary in every one of our (HOK's) marketing meetings. Whether the sustainable scope of a project is minimal or comprehensive, there is always a sustainable project requirement mentioned in the majority of RFPs that we receive.

Q: What green / sustainability-related project are you working on now that you are most proud of?
A: I am most excited about my projects that have the potential to influence the future of their particular industries and locations. They are exemplar projects or large scale and complex program. These characteristics have typically been accompanied by a large carbon footprint. By working on projects of this size, I am able to mitigate a larger amount of potential harm to the environment. Two such projects are the 6.5 millions square foot KAUST project in Saudi Arabia (the world’s largest LEED Platinum project) and the 1 million square foot Ohio State University Cancer and Critical Care Center (which upon completion will be one of the world’s largest LEED health care facilities in the world).

Q: What has inhibited you or your organization from making more progress on the sustainability front?
A: Lack of education and understanding on all fronts, including internal design management, external consultant management and client management. If all parties involved do not have a collective wisdom about the benefits of a sustainable design project, then the project will not be executed appropriately. If only everybody on the team had the time to acquire a degree in economics and run life cycle cost reports for every design decision, it would make things a lot easier.

Q: What advice would you give others in your position trying to make a difference for the environment?
A: Reinvent and re-engage in new and creative ways as often as possible. In a market that is ever-changing, your approach and cache of knowledge needs to change just as often. Be sure to engage different stakeholders in ways that speak to that unique group of people. One rusty old sustainable design benefit presentation may work for design professionals that are new to the movement, but it won’t work for the CEO of a Fortune 500 company, or your engineering partner for the project.

Q: What is your favorite source for sustainability/environmental trends or information?
A: The HOK Sustainable Design workspace. Where else can you find the collective knowledge from 30-40 other design professionals that share the same passions that you do? With over 500 posts in the past 2 years, I still haven’t had time to read and incorporate all of that knowledge into my projects.


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marko said...
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