It’s time to say it. There is considerable new progress being made by the professions.

Upgrades in sustainability leadership and services are now being delivered by a clear majority of professional service providers. Once, just a few firms and organizations were leading the way and setting the pace. Now, as this issue of DesignIntelligence explores, you will see that more and more firms are developing the expertise and the sciences for breakthrough new relevance. New strategic priorities are more profoundly important than ever. For this reason, we see instances of radical realignments in the nature of sustainable solutions underway. In some cases, as firms improve their design and service delivery they will be transforming ordinary organizations into powerful stewards of the environment. 

Recently I visited eight new modern houses in Atlanta on a tour of homes sponsored by the American Institute of Architects and an advocacy organization called Modern Atlanta (MA). It struck me as extraordinarily significant that so much progress in sustainability has been made at the residential design level. It all seems to be unfolding without drama as a natural consequence of design agility and responsibility. Architects, designers and contractors are working together with product manufacturers implementing strategic innovation for clients that not too long ago would be considered science fiction.

Now it seems to us that we have arrived at a time when leaders in our industry can give an even louder voice to sustainable solutions. And for good reason! As we ponder today’s situation and look ahead, we see that now is the time for us to work for the future that we have been speaking and writing about. This is a future that can be bright, despite the naysayers and pundits.

Developing Your Own World Class Strategy

This year’s sustainable design survey shows that significant progress has been and is being made. We’ve organized the results into the following business categories to assist your own strategic planning:

1. Data Perspectives to understand change in sustainability services

2. Portfolio and competitive perspectives

3. Profit and business model dynamics

4. Role model perspectives

5. Range of next step solutions

As you will see in the survey results and the articles that follow, we examine elements of both continuity and disruption. In today’s fast-changing and dynamic performance cultures there are new value propositions unfolding. As you read and digest the information that follows, we encourage you to ask how it is of relevance to you and what your own organization can learn — and do. Think about the differentiating characteristics of sustainable design in terms of the following: 

1.   Greater speed

2.   More effectiveness

3.   Increasingly responsible

4.   More creative

5.   More comprehensive

With these five categories you have a way to organize opportunities and measure what you value. In fact, you can turn previously subjective analysis into more objective and measurable data, solutions and calculated professional opinion.

In the pages that follow you will interact with our latest research and analysis on the state of leadership in sustainable design. There are many new ideas brought forward which you can translate into your own unfolding reality. Design is such a great tool to actualize your ideas. We believe that the future belongs to those professionals who possess creative skills to infuse leadership into the challenges we face.

Professionals are reclaiming their position as the world’s leading authorities on sustainability by making strides in technology and quality and by inventing unique and innovative solutions.

Leadership is emerging to achieve high performance. Based on survey results and from our perspective here at Greenway Group, currently the most influential and effective organizations are the following:

1.   USGBC

2.   AIA


4.   Architecture 2030

5.   Rocky Mountain Institute

6.   Building Green

7.   ULI

8.   ASLA

9.   CSI

10. GBI

Those outlier organizations that are also influential and effective as recognized by the members of Design Future Council include the following:

1.   City of Austin, Texas

2.   Regenerative Network

3.   NIBS

4.   Joslyn Institute for Sustainable Communities

5.   City of Portland

6.   Hennepin County, Minnesota

7.   City of San Francisco

8.   Living Building Challenge

9.   Cascadia Green Building Council

10. Board of Regents, University System of Georgia

Each year we ask members of the Design Futures Council to tell us about the firms that they most admire in sustainable design, and why. Here are those frequently mentioned as role models:

1.   HOK

2.   Perkins & Will

3.   BNIM

4.   Kieran Timberlake

5.   SOM

6.   Mithun

7.   Miller Hull

8.   Gensler

9.   Lake Flato

10. Foster and Partners

We asked questions about individual role models in sustainable design, those who inspire the future. The following leaders top our charts for 2012:

1.   Bill McDonough

2.   Ed Mazria

3.   Bob Berkebile

4.   Amory Lovins

5.   Peter Busby

6.   David Suzuki

7.   Janine Benyus

8.   Phil Enquist

9.   Bill Odell

10. Rives Taylor

There are also notable outliers who have signal influence and voice, promoting and implementing sustainable design in their own spheres of community:

1.   James Timberlake

2.   David Gottfried

3.   Cecil Steward

4.   Peter Calthorpe

5.   Mary Ann Lazarus

6.   Michael Braungart

7.   Bill Reed

8.   Rod Kruse

9.   Robin Guenther

10. Jason McLennan

Again this year we studied the role models in sustainable or high-performance design in college and university education. While most schools achieve honorable mention status and are held in high repute in their regions the following are most often cited as national leaders:

1.   Carnegie Mellon

2.   Harvard University

3.   (Tie 3) U of Cal, Berkeley

4.   (tie 3) U of Oregon

5.   (tie 5) U of Minnesota

6.   (tie 5) University of Texas

7.   (tie 5) University of Virginia

8.   (tie 8)University of Pennsylvania

9.   (tie 8)Oberlin College

10. (tie 8) Virginia Tech

There are always passionate architects, designers, and specifiers who have found sustainable products that they feel brand loyalty toward. The leaders in 2012 are Interface, Herman Miller, Steelcase, Johnson Controls, Milliken, GE, Certainteed, Armstrong, Hydratech, USG, and Oldcastle BuildingEnvelope.   

As a rule, architects and engineers have found that many construction companies are slow to adapt to new energy and sustainability standards. But there are exceptions. Most notably the following are mentioned for establishing a leadership role in sustainable design and for their compatibility with designer’s core values:







We often take for granted that owners of buildings and clients of new projects can easily see what we see so clearly.  But instead it is often invisible to them or they have come to believe that sustainability is nothing more than political ideology. It is not. My advice? Keep your antennae up and continue to advocate for the future. I’m reminded of a quote attributed to Albert Schweitzer that goes something like this: “In everyone’s life, at some time, our inner fire goes out. It is then burst into flame by an encounter with another human being. We should all be grateful for those people who rekindle the inner spirit.” We are grateful for the many leaders noted in this issue of DesignIntelligence and for so many others who are taking the lead with agility and increasing responsibility.

Here at the Design Futures Council, we’ll be doing all we can to magnify the message that green and sustainable design is the clear path forward to best ensure tomorrow’s quality of life. What we do today, will influence the Earth’s future generations and their well-being. The design professions and the PACE Industry (Product Manufacturers, Architects, Contractors, Engineers) have progressed by spending a lot on research and development. Thanks to a commitment to service and quality the industry has an ample powerhouse of leadership. We no longer need to be in search of fleeting moments of inspiration.  Look around. It is now ever-present to be tapped and to be regenerated, by you.