I read a recent article in Fast Company (Architects Started Caring About What Their Buildings are Made From. That’s a Good Thing) and was excited to hear a voice talking about the importance of the architect’s influence beyond design.

The current model* of the general architectural process is design (technical or otherwise), schematics, document production, project management, set delivery, and construction administration.

*Yes, there is a lot more to the process but I am trying to be concise

The construction administration process is straightforward.  It is a site visit to ensure the design intent is seen through to the final build.  It is creating a punch list for items that need attention before turnover and wrapping up the project.

What the Fast Company article puts forth is that the architect takes on a more influential role during construction and is a green solution.

The article reads:

“Rather than just specifying that their project’s general contractor uses a particular brand of exterior cladding or color of ceiling panel and hoping for the best, some architects are designing their buildings around specific types of new materials and structural systems. They then work with their builders to find these materials from the best source. More than it has for decades, the material life of buildings is becoming a greater part of an architect’s work.”

“Architects are the foremost specifiers of materials,” says Kathleen Lane, managing director of climate action and design excellence at the American Institute of Architects. “It was always part of an architect’s job. But this is now an expanded ethic.”

This speaks to what I feel is a positive shift in the build process that has been needed for a while.  It is so different from the current standard that it could be called a disruption!  It is setting the architect as the primary for both design and build.

And the AIA has lent it support.  They have created the Materials Pledge.  Ask architects to commit to green materials, not just environmentally but that “Applying more intentional materials specification across your portfolio can contribute to better indoor air quality, less construction waste, and other crucial benefits.”

And it is not just theory.  The Fast Company article shares two examples.


The designers of a new timber-based terminal at Portland International Airport, take this idea to the complicated realm of the materials supply chain. The gigantic roof they’ve created for their project is a feat of engineering that uses emerging architectural materials. Made entirely out of mass timber products, the nine-acre roof is an example of the ways designers are pushing new materials beyond humble expectations.

 But how the roof came together is maybe an even more impressive part of the project. ZGF developed a highly specialized system to track the provenance of each piece of wood being used on the project, identifying foresters who use sustainable practices. To ensure the environmental benefits of using wood on the project were not outweighed by transportation emissions, all the wood was sourced from within 300 miles.


The firm has created a new design approach that brings long-term thinking to the design of its projects. Whole Life Carbon Accounting is a new service the firm is applying to its projects that evaluates, measures, and seeks to reduce carbon emissions through the full life cycle of a building.

From a biased point of view, this pledge, and the great work by these two firms have started a positive shift in the role of the architect.  A role where the architect has a greater influence in the development of spaces, influencing the entire built industry with a green, sustainable, and design-forward sensibility.