Q: What are some of your responsibilities in your current position?
WA: I am the Principal at LAYER Architecture – a firm I started with my partner Jeffrey Lew over two years ago. Together, we work on a variety of projects from church and library renovations to additions and renovations of office buildings in North Philadelphia and Scranton. I am also currently working with a fellow Green Building United member at a farm preserve to help them incorporate sustainable strategies into their agricultural and preservation goals.
Q: Why are you passionate about sustainability?
WA: Sustainability has been important to me since I was a kid. During the energy crisis of the 1970s, I followed my parents around the house turning off lights and insisting we use less electricity. My parents thought it was a humorous fad, but it sparked an interest and opened my eyes to see how we simply threw out things after just using them once. (Where did all that stuff go?)
When I was in middle school, I started a neighborhood recycling business, collecting neighbors’ newspapers and delivering them to the local recycling center. I continued to pay attention to energy and recycling concerns and was always excited and wondered why we weren’t doing more when new programs were announced. As an architect, I look for opportunities to incorporate sustainable strategies into my professional life because I want my professional work to more directly reflect my values. Even today I am always excited when projects adopt specific sustainable strategies. But, I also feel that I could and should be doing more to address climate change. So, by being involved with Green Building United, I decided I needed to develop a more holistic approach to combining my love for design with my need to address sustainability issues.
Q: Why did you decide to get involved with Green Building United?
WA: I’ve been involved with Green Building United on and off since the organization has been around. More recently, I got involved with Green Building United because it was a great way to meet like-minded people and to explore new sustainability ideas. I started working with the Living Building Challenge (LBC) Community a little over five years ago, and more actively about two years ago. Green Building United, which serves as the umbrella organization, provided the opportunity to learn more. As I talked with people at the International Living Futures Institute, I learned that LBC is more than the most rigorous certification program – The Living Building Challenge also includes an important approach to advocacy and a simple but effective philosophy that suggests a way to interact with people and the planet. It has directly affected how I approach design and how we talk about projects with clients. Even if a project is not a deeply green effort, we know every project is an opportunity to move toward a more sustainable future.
Q: What are you doing to advance green building and a sustainable built environment?
WA: I occasionally teach at Drexel University, and the students have a real hunger. Students want to talk about sustainability and to directly incorporate it into their work. I’ve used the Living Building Challenge with my students as an example to talk about sustainability and to encourage their own thinking. Simply stated, I’m trying to show students that including sustainable thinking in their practice is a valuable design opportunity. If we change the discussion from just optimizing designs and making buildings more efficient to finding ways to do the most good for the project and community, students begin to see that sustainable design is no different than good design.
Q: How has Green Building United shaped your perspective on sustainability?
WA: By getting involved, I realized that if we are really going to address global warming and climate change, it’s not just a matter of creating sustainable buildings; it requires advocacy and getting the word out to our communities, to the building industry, and to politicians. This is our generation’s challenge, and we need to address it at all levels – including local, state, federal and international. When I first got involved with Green Building United, advocacy wasn’t at the forefront of my mind. But I’ve seen that making policy changes can have an impact and can encourage changing the way we work and live.
Green Building United Membership offers a range of benefits such as free happy hours, discounted tickets to our Sustainability Symposium, reduced prices for green building workshops, free webinars, and more! To become a member or upgrade your membership package, visit our Membership page or email Leah Wirgau at email@example.com.
Wolf Arendt is a Principal at LAYER Architecture with 25 years of experience. He has served as a leader on a variety of projects and has broad experience in commercial, university, and cultural projects along with thorough knowledge of design, technical management, documentation, and construction. He also has an active interest in linking sustainable strategies with everyday practices.
Wolf is a Registered Architect in Pennsylvania and New Jersey and a LEED AP with a Building Design and Construction specialty. He regularly serves as a review critic at local architecture schools and participates in conferences and organizations focused on sustainable building and design issues.