Sunday, April 29, 2012

Meeting with Kirsten Childs

Kirsten Childs, the Director of Facilities Planning & Interior Design for Croxton Collaborative Architects, is joining our class tonight to share with us her sustainability agenda. The soft-spoken woman comes around to exchange a handshake and a warm introduction. She has been involved in the initial development of the LEED rating program and her work in the field of sustainability has been recognized nationally and internationally. Her architecture company now stands as a pioneer in the field of sustainable design and was responsible for the renovation of the century old National Audubon society building back in 1991, a model of environmental architecture and design. Childs points out that the concept of “sustainable design” did not exist during this project and it was difficult to name the new approach of designing with the environment in mind.

The designer starts the dialog discussing the circadian cycle and how paramount it is to design for people to have access to daylight and the seasons. Her approach to any project starts with “the givens”:  the existing environment, solar orientation, wind orientation, waterways, local fauna & flora.

She describes how an interior designer’s role is to enhance human well-being, thermal comfort and daylight. These are paramount concerns in the design of our built environment. Therefore the transient pattern of sunlight in relation to the building is a main instrument in her design approach. As an advocate of Biophilic design, I could not agree more.

To illustrate her point, the designer reviews a few projects she has worked on including the gut renovation of a bankrupt “big box” store, turned into Library- community center. To optimize the site assets and opportunities, the once unsustainable shopping center was totally reclaimed to address two important needs of the town:  the first one being the restoration of the biodiversity of the land and water. The second being the need for the community to flourish and for children and adults to meet, relax, read, and study. I wish we had more great examples like this one showing the real potential at the fate of consumerism era giants.  I personally rejoice in the idea of seeing the end of fake cheap shopping.  As we all know, there is no such thing as cheap and eventually we must pay the price for “everyday-low-price” consumption. We are beginning to see this now with the lack of durability in our products that need to be replaced frequently, or the environmental disasters we frequently experience today due to our overuse of “cheap” oil. 

While Childs points out the importance of safeguarding endangered species, potable water resources, as well as enhancing indoor environmental quality and daylight access, she also has a holistic approach to design. Her method of designing in the built environment raises questions such as: Can it be built on a compromised land? How can I maximize the natural asset of the site? What is the cultural and historic significance of the place?

To conclude her presentation she reminds us of not only the importance of LEED but also the necessity of humane design. She believes that the ­­­successes of these concepts usually does not depend on architects but on interior designers and WE are the ones who must take a stand to achieve such design. 

Well... Thank you Ms. Childs for taking a stand for us!

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