A Conversation With: David R. Drake, president & CEO of W2A Architects in Allentown
LVB: A few years ago, LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) was all the rage in design. Is it still as prominent?
Drake: No, LEED does not seem to be as prominent, at least locally. Many clients seem to have edged away from LEED because of the paperwork plus time and expense involved. Also, the building codes have been revised enough to mandate many of the LEED provisions related to energy usage/efficiency.
Thus, energy efficiency of new and renovated buildings has vastly improved without utilizing LEED. I think LEED is now more often being utilized or required by major institutions (such as larger colleges and universities), state and federal government clients, some major corporations and larger national developers.
There are also other sustainability organizations with their own rating systems that are being utilized in the design marketplace such as Passive House and Living Building Challenge’s Core Green Building Certification.
LVB: Are there other trends in green design?
Drake: Yes, Biophilic Design, the idea of design that more actively engages in direct and indirect experience with nature, is more important now. Also, the idea of net zero buildings has come to the forefront, with the intent to reduce and eventually eliminate carbon emissions in building construction and operation.
Another trend is mass timber construction which uses glulam beams and columns with cross laminated timber (CLT) panels for walls and floors. Mass Timber is a more sustainable means of construction than either steel or concrete construction plus readily provides the warmth of wood to interior spaces. Mass timber construction is also suitable for both low- and high-rise construction, having already been used on a 25-story building in the United States.
LVB: What industries are you designing most for now as less new traditional office space is being built?
Drake: Our primary clients currently include corporate / industrial entities for whom we are designing plant renovations and expansions including new production areas, employee welfare facilities, accessibility improvements and office spaces; municipalities such as Townships and Counties for whom we are designing renovations / additions and new buildings including maintenance facilities, forensic facilities, administrative offices, police and fire department facilities; and developers for whom we are designing multi-family or mixed use (commercial and multi-family) projects.
Other current clients include churches, early education centers and charter schools. We are also involved with some smaller residential projects.
LVB: What are some other facets of architecture and design that are timely?
Drake: Maybe not so timely are the supply chain issues and long lead times that persevere in the industry. Items such as HVAC units, elevators and electrical equipment including panelboards and switchgear have lead times of 40 to 50 weeks and are causing construction project delays. Design-wise we see the use of more natural materials (or at least natural appearing woodgrain finish products) and colors from nature. Building design itself is more varied than ever without any predominant design style, although there is a trend to break down facades of larger buildings into smaller parts to give the illusion of two or more structures.