Member Spotlight: Shannon Pendleton

By LeAnne Harvey

Posted March 4, 2020


We’re spotlighting Shannon Pendleton, founder of Sanderson Architectural and a founding Council Member of the Green Building United Passive House Community. Shannon shares her thoughts on the role of a designer, her concern for affordable housing, and the importance of working together to solve the climate crisis. 

Please describe your current position.

I’m the Sole Practitioner of Sanderson Architectural, emphasizing Architectural Design, and Passive House Consulting. My work is typically mission driven, sustainable, residential and light construction. Most days I’m either designing for clients, or working pro-bono.


What is Sanderson Architectural doing to advance a sustainable built environment?

Sharing and trusting the process. It’s so important to set clear goals. To do that, listening, learning, and educating clients on their options and then defining the unique advancements their project can achieve is just the start. The opportunities are always different. Each project has a totally different site, history, set of goals, or different team. As designers, we have to be “process stewards” so the client, design and build teams remain invested and responsible for protecting the goals from beginning to end.

Why is green building and sustainability important to you?

It’s a measure of doing what’s inherently right. In its evolution, green building has gone from an intuitive process, to a defined measure of all natural and man made things involved in the building process. I love that we can quantify it, and the benefits and impact our projects will have.

Which sustainability topics do you feel are most pressing at this time?

For me it’s the housing crisis. We all know Americans are the 2nd largest energy users & 40% of that energy is invested in our buildings and operation. With our city’s declining housing stock destined to deteriorate or be replaced, we’re exposing the poorest among us to severe illness and homelessness. The sustainable design and advocacy that’s required to solve this crisis in a fair and energy neutral or positive way, is the largest problem I think we face as a nation. Sustainable designers need to design for equity and affordability, low carbon solutions, low utility bills, low maintenance, and resilience during power outages. How we reconstruct or replace these homes will determine the health of our neighbors, communities, nation, and influence in the world.

What resources or advice have you found most helpful in your green building profession?

A Youthbuild student asked a room of Green Building United sustainable professionals recently, “To make a difference, is it one person acting alone, or is it many people working together?” This reminds me how heavily I rely on the network of organizations and their talented staff members working to lift up our entire community. Locally my resources are: Green Building United, Delaware Riverkeeper Network, The Philadelphia Citizen, AIA Philadelphia, Philabundance, Habitat for Humanity Philadelphia, GRID, Philly thrive... I know there are others I’m not thinking of. Beyond Philly I follow 475, Rocky Mountain Institute, Building Science Corporation, PHIUS, Clean Energy Finance Forum, Passive House Accelerator, Living Future Institute, Environmental Leader, Environment + Energy, Building Green, GreenHome Institute, Building Science Podcast, NAPHN... I get too many emails to read but FOMO prevents me from unsubscribing!

As co-facilitator of Green Building United’s Passive House Community and founder of the former
GPPHA, what inspires you to work toward making Passive House mainstream?

The idea that each new building can be on a healthy path to zero energy. I like Passive House because it’s the fastest, most affordable and most comprehensive tool available for getting to zero. For the majority of designers, builders, and homeowners looking to build to current code, adding passive house design and certification to their workflow is not a big lift. It’s nearing cost neutrality, and uses readily available building materials. Once the methods of Passive House catch on, it won’t matter what it’s called, as long as it’s performing as designed.

How has being a member of Green Building United impacted your personal and professional life?

Green Building United connects me with the people who are helping. The volunteer work is very meaningful & while it takes time, I wish I could give more time to it. Professionally, being a member actually saves me time. I know I can call or email the colleagues I’ve met through Green Building United right now, with any question and get a number of great responses. The project I’m working on now while it’s main goal is certifying as a Passive House, we’re using Living Building as a guide. Having the Living Future Community’s expertise made our job easier. Our wall panel system was developed by other members I met originally through our Passive House Community. These friends connected our team with their local, custom, off site fabrication company, who we all then introduced to our local General Contractor. Right now we’ll be on site discussing the job, and start talking about the next Green Building United it gets pretty interconnected pretty fast. We actually have a time management mantra in our Passive House Community Council, “Keep
non-profit after 5”. Sometimes we stick to it, and sometimes we don’t, but addressing a climate crisis alone is depressing. It can be hard to find the answers or see the difference you’re making. As a member of Green Building United I feel like I’m part of a climate fighting team.

Do you have any other exciting initiatives underway?

Yes, our community is working with Habitat for Humanity Philadelphia to learn about their goals and how me might help them. We’re also workingon ideas to involve more students and provide more training, and we’re starting to think about the next generation of local leaders who will be teaching all of us.

Is there anything else you would like to share?

If you’re a person that’s interested in getting more involved in Passive House, get active! Come and join us at our Council meetings and charrettes!

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Shannon integrates sustainable design with a strong focus on client advocacy. Pairing building science with historical reconstruction, Shannon designs spaces appropriate to their communities, and adaptable through generations. Drawing upon her experience in educational, cultural, spiritual, civic and residential design, Shannon started Sanderson Architectural in 2003 to focus on sustainable, finely crafted, and multi-generational design. Shannon is a founding Council Member of the Green Building United Passive
House Community, and a Volunteer Instructor at Bryn Athyn Church School.

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