This opportunity opened the door for work all over the world. While there, I discovered a need for low cost rural church buildings that would be smaller in scale and low in maintenance. On my own time I developed a passive solar, earth integrated church building that was designed to be cool in the summer and warm in the winter without the use of mechanical equipment. Solar panels would be placed on the south roof to power the lights, sound equipment, and outlets. It was a Net Zero facility. My presentation to church authorities was well received.
In 1983, the LDS Church hired me (now a registered architect) to relocate with my family to Bolivia, South America to design and build new church buildings. For two years I worked with local architectural professionals to teach them the level of effort expected for this type of work. I traveled to Chile, Argentina, Peru, and Brazil to select appropriate building materials. I traveled within Bolivia to observe construction at multiple project sites. While in Bolivia, I researched the temperature fluctuations of the Altiplano (altitude: 14,000 feet) to determine the best way to design a church building in such a harsh environment. After careful consideration I designed a passive solar building with a shed roof. Windows were provided on the high side to allow the maximum amount of sunlight (heat) into the building. The low end had few windows and was heavily insulated as well as the roof. Although an ideal design for the Bolivian Altiplano, it was rejected by church authorities for not meeting the desired image. However, my alternate design was approved and over 25 of these buildings were constructed throughout Bolivia. I designed a version for cool climates (i.e. La Paz, Cochabamba, and the Altiplano), with insulation, low roof, and few windows . . . and a version for warm climates (i.e. Santa Cruz, Trinidad, and Sucre) with roof top venting, oscillating fans, and constant air movement. These turned out to be very well received and accepted by the church patrons. Prior to returning to the USA, I designed seven new prototypical church buildings that could be used in any climatic region or altitude. Each one incorporated some form of passive solar design.
Upon my return to the USA I continued my research on passive solar design and environmentally sensitive design. In 1987, I began writing a book entitled “Ecotecture”, that focused on the need to move from a dollar driven bottom line to a more environmentally sensitive design approach (precursor to the Triple Bottom Line) . During this period I made presentations to the Sierra Club and other interested environmental groups. However, there was no US Green Building Council in 1987, no local LEED Chapters to present to, and no nationwide movement to encourage sustainable design. At the time it appeared to be a mountain too tall to climb. I decided to file away my notes and wait to continue my Ecotecture efforts. During the following years I explored clean room design, hotel design, US Embassies in Eastern Europe, and nuclear facility design requiring a “Q” level security clearance, as well as many other building types.
I came to practice architecture in Florida via Minnesota. In 2004, a headhunter discovered me and called to ask if I would be interested in moving to Orlando. His timing was excellent because it was the dead of winter . . . and if you haven’t heard, it gets mighty cold in Minnesota. I didn’t hesitate in expressing interest. He matched me up with a firm that was looking for a senior architect with government experience. We had many telephone conversations before I was flown to Florida for a face-to-face interview. I recall one phone call where he asked, “What do you know about Sustainable Design?” After an awkward pause, I tried my best to answer the question. If he had asked me what I knew about Ecotecture I could have told him, but the word “sustainable” was an unfamiliar way to say the same thing. By mid-2005, I had passed the LEED exam to become a LEED accredited professional (BD+C).
Having worked in all US time zones and climatic regions . . . and for a number of Architectural/Engineering (AE) firms, I finally decided to strike out on my own
and reconnect with my Ecotecture . . . now Sustainable Design roots. I have attended the USGBC Greenbuild Convention in Boston 2008, Phoenix in 2009, San Francisco in 2012, Philadelphia in 2013, and New Orleans in 2014 . I have also been invited to be a public speaker for the NPCA Convention in Houston 2009, and Charlotte, N.C. in 2011. I was asked to speak on LEED and Sustainable Design.
With the July 2012 launch of www.NetZeroMax.com, the website has achieved over 1.4 million “hits” with over 14,000 subscribers. Clearly, the enthusiasm for green building and sustainable design, along with building to Net Zero, is accelerating with each passing day. The technology and know-how is here . . . now to design and build your project to meet the demands and expectations of the 21st Century. dbs Architects PLLC can get you to where you want to go. Give us a call.