USGBC: How long has your firm been in business and where are your offices located?
SM: This year marks our 42-year anniversary. Our offices are located downtown at 515 East Main Street. We are a local firm that provides services nationally.
USGBC: How many LEED AP work at your firm?
DesignGroup’s technical staff includes 23 LEED APs. We have a legacy of sustainable design that dates back to our firm’s beginning. We received our first AIA Design Award for a building designed according to sustainable principles in 1975. Our team strives to design buildings that contribute to the long-term sustainability of their contexts. Two of our colleagues in particular, Jack Hedge and Keoni Fleming, lead us in our efforts. Jack Hedge, design principal at DesignGroup, is a nationally recognized pioneer for sustainable design. In 2009, Jack was elevated to the AIA College of Fellows for his contribution to the practice of architecture in the area of sustainable design. He is a chairman and founder of the AIA Columbus Committee on the Environment and serves on the Board of Green Energy Ohio. Jack has received a number of sustainable design awards, including three Ohio Governor’s Awards for Energy Efficiency. Keoni Fleming, DesignGroup’s sustainability manager, has been a featured speaker for numerous presentations on sustainability, including DesignWeek Columbus, The Advisory Board, MORPC Summer of Sustainability, and Ohio Construction Conference. In addition to his role at DesignGroup, he is an adjust professor at The Ohio State University and served as the lead architectural faculty advisor for OSU’s 2009 and 2011 Solar Decathlon houses.
USGBC: What is the main benefit to you and your firm as a result of being involved in the USGBC-Central Ohio Chapter?
We find great value in the continuing education opportunities that the chapter offers. Our staff is able to maintain its LEED credentials by attending the quality programs that the USGBC provides. In addition, we gain exposure to trends and best practices, and access to networking with experts and like-minded professionals in our industry. We are proud to be associated with such a strong chapter and feel it is our duty to give back by adding value through heavy involvement in the chapter’s committees and programs.
USGBC: What types of projects are you focusing on right now?
It’s an exciting time at DesignGroup! We are currently working on the Columbus Museum of Art expansion and renovation project, which is pursuing LEED certification. Columbus is a great city, and we are honored to be a part of expanding one of its civic and cultural icons. Similarly, we are also working with the City of Columbus on a project in the heart of downtown, 111 Front Street, a facility that will bring many of the city’s departments under one roof, significantly improving their efficiency. We are in the works with Columbus City Schools on the Columbus Spanish Immersion Academy, a unique program that will serve students grades Pre-K through 6th. This August, a project we recently completed for CCS, Columbus Scioto 6-12, will host the Ohio Green Schools Rally 2014. This event is dedicated to the discussion of why green schools matter. Our colleagues who worked on the project will lead tours of the new facility, which is pursuing LEED gold certification and meets the performance standards of the 2030 Challenge.
USGBC: What future trends do you see in sustainability?
Increasingly, we are seeing decision makers implement sustainability requirements. For instance, the Green Schools program that the Ohio Facilities Construction Commission adopted in 2007 requires that all new construction of K-12 schools meet LEED silver requirements. As a result, Ohio is the recognized national leader in sustainable school design. Columbus Metropolitan Libraries has implemented a building program called the 2020 Vision Plan, which includes seven new libraries and three renovations in Franklin County that will prioritize sustainable goals and strategies set by the library. As succeeding versions of LEED have become more stringent, owners, architects, engineers, and the construction trades have all stepped up to the plate, delivering buildings that meet these requirements. Sustainable design is becoming something that is part of the basic equation of designing and constructing buildings.
USGBC: What do you see as the greatest challenges for developing a sustainable built environment?
As LEED-certified buildings increase in market share, LEED standards are becoming more exacting. At times, this can be a challenge, particularly when balanced against other concerns such as budget, schedule, and constructability. We embrace the opportunity to deliver buildings that can meet all of these requirements. At the end of the day, it’s about designing and building good buildings. That is why we are in this profession.