The ArchRecord Interview: Thom Mayne on Green Design
The 2005 Pritzker Prize winner, whose Santa Monica-based firm Morphosis has won plaudits for the aesthetic originality, cultural sensitivity and overall sustainability of its buildings, rejects the notion that green buildings have to look a certain way and bristles at overly specific green building standards. A keynoter at this year's Greenbuild conference in Chicago, Mayne practices ecologically sensitive design but refuses to be co-opted by any particular movement. LEED is far from perfect, in his estimation. A simpler system, grounded in bottom-line metrics and weighted toward a building's long-term performance, would be more to his liking.
TM: LEED should give performance requirements and let the architect solve the problem. The point system doesn't scale. A bike rack and air conditioning get you the same point. I'd much rather see BTU and CO2 requirements and let the professional community solve the problem. If you give proscriptive requirements, it stagnates new development and research. It's like taking a blue book test. You don't need to know the subject. Because architects deal in creative problem solving, some of that will be curtailed by proscriptive systems.
I also think the LEED point system is overladen in the construction phase versus lifetime energy consumption and secondary effects.
TSB: As a designer, how much and how directly do you track the post-commissioning life of your buildings and does LEED and sustainability in general affect that process?
TM: The San Francisco building will be monitored for two years. We're always looking at the performance of buildings and looking at their operation by users. We need to know the habits of users, how they're affecting performance. It's hugely important. There' more involvement (with green buildings) and it's a good thing. That's how we learn.
TSB: Are architects paid enough to do that kind of post-commissioning follow-up?
TM: We need the response for our own research and development.