DesignIntelligence often hears from firm leaders that a candidate’s education in sustainable design is an important priority in their hiring decisions.

Because our world faces enormous environmental and climate challenges, we wanted to help students understand how sustainability and regenerative design practices can transform the A/E/C industry and the built environment. And we wanted to help them understand how they can present their ideas of sustainable design to a potential employer.

Sustainability was once met with vigor, igniting a movement in the A/E/C industry. A pivotal piece of this was LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design), which helped people to think differently about how they design and build relative to the natural environment and energy. But that vigor has waned somewhat and, while LEED is still relevant, it has become more limiting and is now often approached with a check-box mentality.

“Designing to meet code is not adequate. When we do, we are settling for
the WORST building allowed by law.” —Margaret Montgomery, NBBJ

The concept of sustainability has advanced greatly through the ideas of resilient and regenerative design. At the Design Futures Council Leadership Summit on Sustainable Design in Toronto, Craig Applegath of Dialog talked about his company’s resilient and regenerative approach: “[It is] reducing harm, adapting to climate change, and regenerating/repairing the damage we’ve done. Projects we’re working on in that arena: net positive buildings; resilient and regenerative building fabric; ecologically harvested wood construction.”

Another growing body of evidence suggests the built environment plays a vital role in human health. Design for health is also coming under the sustainability umbrella. Dan Watch of Perkins+Will said: “Healthy is part of sustainability.”

Sustainable/resilient/regenerative design and design for health are becoming fully integrated into some firms as a new standard of practice. And some educators have built curriculum where studio classes offer a sustainable/resilient/regenerative design and design for health component. For true success though, in practice and in studio, every project must have these concepts fully integrated.

This new reality is the message that DesignIntelligence wants to impress upon students as they enter professional practice. It is the reason we devised a model to evaluate sustainable design and design for health in our new Graduate Presentation Program (GPP).

Two years ago, DesignIntelligence launched GPP to help bridge the gap between students graduating from architecture programs and firms seeking talented architects. To evaluate the numerous students who would be nominated by participating schools, we needed core tenets to help guide us through the selection process. To better serve the students, the participating schools and the firms, we consulted with professional practice on these core tenets. These six characteristics emerged as our guide:

• Design Excellence
• Collaborative Work Ethic
• Ability to Positively Influence Others
• Sustainable Design
• Technology Adoption
• Design for Health

The student resumes and portfolios are evaluated against these six attributes. There have been exceptional examples of sustainable design, but design for health has been the most challenging area for students because it is the newest. DesignIntelligence recognizes this gap overall, but we have seen promising first steps from future professionals in the “design for health” category.

Students who met all or most of the characteristics received the Design Futures Council Scholar designation. Their work was shared with more than 300 architecture firms in the United States.

So how would we advise students on how to present their sustainable designs to a potential employer? Not surprisingly, our guidance centers around the attributes, characteristics and our expectations of a DFC Scholar:

• Demonstrate that you have already begun to deeply integrate sustainable principles and mindset into your work and are prepared to meet the challenges and responsibilities of sustainable practice in their professional careers.
• Show evidence that health is front of mind in your design process.


Lynn Barrett is the institutional affiliate liaison of DesignIntelligence. For more information about the Graduate Presentation Program, contact Lynn at:

Excerpted from DesignIntelligence Quarterly, 3Q 2018 edition.