HOK’s Leigh Stringer Talks Green

By Stacy Straczynski, Associate Editor

StringerStraczynskiLG I attended my first event for Contract Magazine last night—a book signing at the AIA in New York City(the building is actually located just several blocks away from my office) for The Green Workplace: Sustainable Strategies that Benefit Employees, the Environment, and the Bottom Line.

I was lucky enough to be able to snag some time prior to the event with the book’s author Leigh Stringer, LEED professional, vice president of leading architecture firm HOK, and editor for TheGreenWorkplace.com blog. Stringer filled me in on some of the high points of her book, such as how sustainable design isn’t limited to architecture alone but can transcend boundaries to all aspects of business and how human behavior will be a driving factor to the success of sustainability going forward. I was captured by Stringer’s passion for sustainability and how her eyes were always aglow when we touched on topics that really inspired her.

One interesting point she made was how there is a direct correlation between today’s green building efforts and the economy. She, like others in the industry, fears that the drive to save money by StringerLG conserving energy (which does offer great savings to the bottom line) may quickly fade once the recession comes to an end. But she does make the point that this ebb is to be expected. Even though the green movement may wane slightly—people are already feeling a bit drowned out from the “greenwash”—Stringer feels that its inherent notes of innovation are here to stay. Such innovations already have led to inventions such as edible utensils and erasable Xerox paper that aim to rethink our current way of life.

Additionally, Stringer touched upon the future of design and believes sustainability will be one of the driving factors to growth and innovation in not only buildings and interior design but in technology, as well. She mentions further research and experimentation into biomimicry—an attempt to mimic the designs found in nature—to further improve upon sustainable ideas and to conserve energy. For example, a termite mound stays at a consistent internal temperature of 87 degrees at all times of the day (even when the desert reaches temperature of over 100 degrees during the day and plummets due to underground channels and flaps to regulate the air flow.

Ultimately, Stringer feels that the challenges green designing has presented to her and HOK, as well as the industry as a whole, has revitalized a previously stagnant market. Now, designers once again have a pressing reason to think outside the box with big picture ideas with Transformative Design and pushing the limits of what’s been done before, as well as their own limits of creativity.

(Read an excerpt from The Green Workplace on this topic, and check ContractMagazine.com on Tuesday for our exclusive Q&A with Stringer.)

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