PSFK talks to architect Eric Corey Freed about applying design thinking lessons for sustainability.
PSFK is excited to welcome architect Eric Corey Freed as a speaker at PSFK CONFERENCE SAN FRANCISCO. Eric is the founder of organicARCHITECT, a firm designing and developing comprehensive solutions for a post-carbon economy. Over the last 20 years, Eric’s work has gone beyond green building to to include advising operations and training staff on issues of sustainability and LEED. On November 1st, Eric will discuss engineering solutions that go beyond form and embed sustainability into all areas of a business.
How is organicARCHITECT different from traditional firms?
For the last 150 years, architects have really done a poor job at showing their value to society. As a result, architects have really been less and less involved in the design and building process, and we really only have ourselves to blame. What I’ve been trying to do is show that the critical thinking skills architects have are important, and are of value, and are needed, now more than ever. By expanding the scope of what I do from just design, into operational sustainability, manufacturing sustainability, and policy sustainability, I’m just applying those same design skills to different types of problems.
To me, it just keeps me intellectually interested in what’s going on. I find that the same design thinking lessons still apply for sustainability.
What’s your goal?
In short, my goal is to make every building a green building. Not just the ones I design, but every single one. Initially I started off by doing that through education, teaching, and writing books. Now I’ve realized that we can’t just educate everybody and expect them to get on board. What we need is to change the codes and change the laws. That’s where my interest in public policy has come from. Currently, I’m drafting new parking regulations that address keeping the site cool by having water permeate back into the ground, and minimizing the amount of parking spaces we provide, so that way we encourage an incentive for the correct behavior. To me, that’s tied to the larger issues of sustainable sitting, and making it easy for every building to be a green building.
From operations to staff training, your consulting service is helping companies embrace sustainability throughout all levels of their organization. Why is this important?
We really need to get back in touch with our buildings, and connecting them back to nature, and understanding those systems better.
If you really think about the impact that a building has on the environment, it will be in the operation of the building. The two years of design and construction are pretty small, but everything else that goes into the building from energy, to human resources, and supplies is where the real environmental footprint lies. I believe that the future of architecture and design isn’t just building a building, and then handing it off and walking away. I think the future of architecture is that we look at the entire life cycle of the building, which would include its operations.
It started off with looking at training the staff and making the building work better. Now I’ve really been exploring new financial models using crowdsourcing and crowdfunding to invent ways to better operate and run the buildings.
Can you think of an example to help illustrate?
For years we’ve had this idea that people could lease solar panels, and that a company would retain ownership of the panels, and sell you that power through what’s called a Power Purchase Agreement, or a PPA. For the last five years, I’ve been doing the same with schools where if you get five or more schools together, we can give them free solar panels. All they have to do is just agree to buy the power, and everybody wins. The schools get free clean energy. The investors get a little tidy return on their investment, and everybody is happy.
But I thought, what if we could design a system where we could give solar panels to everybody for free? In return, they just agree to buy the power from us. Imagine if we could create a system where we could incentivize architects to give solar to all of their clients. The architects could even get a little residual income from that.
That way they would want to do it. They would be encouraged to do the right thing. They would get paid to do it. Everybody’s happy, and it would free us from the coal, fossil fuel hegemony that’s currently going on.
How did you get involved?
As much as I loved design, it started to feel very selfish. Even though I was designing green buildings, I was really only affecting the two to four people that live there, so for the last 10 years I really had this desire to have a greater impact with each project, and that’s what’s led me into the larger arena of consulting.
Please join us on November 1st to hear Eric discuss designing and developing solutions for a post-carbon economy at PSFK CONFERENCE SAN FRANCISCO.