Architect Profile: Jason F. McLennan
Jason McLennan knows green architecture. McLennan, 38, of Seattle, Wash., is the author of The Living Building Challenge, an international green building program, and co-creator of Pharos, an advanced building material rating system in North America.
Jason McLennan knows green architecture.
McLennan, 38, of Seattle, Wash., is the author of The Living Building Challenge, an international green building program, and co-creator of Pharos, an advanced building material rating system in North America.
McLennan is currently working with Cascadia, whose mission is to “lead a transformation toward a built environment that is socially just, culturally rich and ecologically restorative.”
A Background in Green Architecture
Jason F. McLennan is known as an international leader in the green architecture movement and he has lectured on sustainability across the United States and Canada. His work in the sustainable design field has been published or reviewed in dozens of journals, magazines, conference proceedings and books including Architecture, Architectural Record, Dwell, Plenty, Metropolis, New York Times, The Globe and Mail, National Geographic, Time, The World and I and Environmental Design + Construction. He is the author of four books: The Philosophy of Sustainable Design, The Dumb Architect’s Guide to Glazing Selection, The Ecological Engineer and his most recent book, Zugunruhe – The Inner Migration to Profound Environmental Change. The Philosophy of Sustainable Design has been used as a textbook in over 70 universities and colleges and is distributed widely throughout Europe and North America; it is considered one of the seminal texts of the green building movement.
McLennan is a former principal at BNIM Architects in Kansas City, one of the founders of the green design movement in the United States where he worked on many of the leading high performance projects in the country including LEED Platinum, Gold and zero energy projects. At BNIM he created the building science team known as Elements, which set new standards for energy and resource efficiency on many of its projects in various building types.
“I was greatly enjoying the work in the firm but needed to do more than working on one building at a time,” he said. “I got this opportunity to lead Cascadia and decided it was right thing to help teach others.” Frequently a keynote speaker at important conferences all over the world, McLennan was also recently a finalist for the prestigious Buckminster Fuller Prize.
McLennan said Cascadia’s mission is to lead a transformation toward a built environment that is socially just, culturally rich and ecologically restorative.
Cascadia Green Building Council is one of three original chapters of the U.S. Green Building Council and, as a chapter of the Canada Green Building Council as well, is the only international chapter in North America. Incorporated in Oregon in December 1999, the chapter covers Oregon, Washington, Alaska, and British Columbia, but also includes members from as far away as Idaho and Montana. Cascadia is now part of a new umbrella organization called the International Living Future Institute (ILFI) that also oversees the Living Building Challenge the world’s most stringent and progressive green building standard.
“Adopting the Living Building Challenge was the first thing our board did when I joined the organization,” he said. “I gifted the program to the organization, which has since spawned a whole movement towards deep and profound sustainability.”
Cascadia is named for the Cascadia bio-region, which covers land that drains to the Pacific Ocean through the greatest temperate rain forests on the planet.
“Members of the Cascadia council and now the ILFI are leading the way in creating a roadmap for sustainable building, one that the rest of the nation can use as well,” McLennan said.
Close to 100 Living Building Projects have now emerged all over North America and in several other countries around the world. Grassroots support is growing quickly and huge shifts in policy and manufacturing is likely next as projects respond to the challenge’s stringent requirements. Like LEED before it, the Living Building Challenge is creating a whole new paradigm for the design and construction industry. The LBC was launched in 2006 as a challenge to go much further towards true sustainability. The institute has so far certified 4 leading edge projects with 3 projects getting the rare “Living Building” designation. “It’s a very exciting step since these building are all net zero energy and net zero. They retreat, reuse water on site, and are built with non-toxic materials. We’re pushing the boundaries. It’s a pretty exciting time.”
McLennan said Living Building Challenge has become a “giant leap forward.”
“People assume they can’t afford it or it’s too difficult,” he said. “It is challenging, yet there are architects, builders and engineers who can figure out how to design for this performance. Now they are getting built and certified. People need to get past their gut reaction of what’s possible and what’s not possible.”
The Living Building Challenge can be downloaded at www.ilbi.org.
“We have so many different programs, and the Living Building Challenge is just one,” noted McLennan, “We have project and partners around the world. We also serve members by helping the U.S. and Canada Green Building Councils meet their goals in the Pacific Northwest. We strive to become a leading force in green building by forging alliances with organizations that have a stake in the future of this region.”
Cascadia Chapter Branches
To overcome potential challenges associated with serving such a broad region, Cascadia Chapter Branches have been established to provide networking and continuing education opportunities for members and industry professionals in their immediate marketplace, he said.
“Regularly scheduled meetings within each Branch will provide access to green building research and emerging issues that are pertinent to our region and locale,” McLennan said. Currently, Branches are active in Alaska, Vancouver, Vancouver Island, Thompson/Okanagan, the Kootenay Rockies, Seattle, Tacoma/Olympia, NW Washington (Bellingham area), Inland Washington (Spokane area), Portland, Eugene, the High Desert region (Bend area).
“We are greatly expanding our message to other countries. Translated into Spanish and soon French, we hope to bring these ideas to many places,” McLennan said. “Part of what’s next is how we expand what we do around the world.”
McLennan said Cascadia tries to show people that what they’re talking about is a solution for all building types, indeed for whole communities.
He said that many of the first people doing this are institutions ability to raise money to cover the initial first cost premiums associated with projects performing at this level. “We do have a lot of schools and institutional facilities,” he said. “They plan on being around for 50 years or more. They have time to recoup the investment, and reap the benefits. And raise the money.”
McLennan is not all work. He has a family, too. He and his wife, Tracy, have three boys and a girl between the ages of 3 to 15.
“We love living in the Pacific Northwest,” he added. “We do many things in the outdoors, like hiking. The kids are in sports; and we have a new dog. I like playing tennis, but I wish I had more time off for vacations - work and family keep me more than busy.”
For more information, visit www.CascadiaGBC.org and www.ilfi.org.