Senior Associate, Director of Sustainable Design, Miller Dyer Spears Architects
As the BSA gets ready to celebrate the 2021 BSA Design Award winners, we are featuring profiles on individuals who served on the 2021 Design Award juries. The awards recognize remarkable achievements in architecture that serve as inspiration for practitioners, and elevate the potential for the positive impact that architecture has on our quality of life.
Tell us about your path to architecture and how it has impacted your career.
My path began early in my teens, living in NYC and observing the city. I was influenced by one of my high school teachers to pursue a career in architecture. While completing my undergraduate and graduate degrees, I gravitated towards projects that were impactful to the larger community and the people these projects served. A sense of place and belonging was one of the themes that I explored, and this helped me chart a path for my work that is focused on the betterment of the client, whether it is a public school in Boston or a private school in New Hampshire.
What are you working on now?
I'm currently working on various aspects of promoting decarbonization and sustainability at MDS. My interests range from embodied carbon and the LCA of buildings to material safety. As a Passive House designer, I'm also looking to integrate Passive House principles to our projects and hopefully build a Passive House project in the near future.
What interested you in becoming an awards juror?
I was curious about what was being submitted for these awards and was interested in collaborating with folks I have not had the pleasure of working with before.
What expertise are you excited to bring to this role?
I bring more than 23 years of experience as an architect and specialized expertise in sustainable design. Throughout my career, I have engaged in the continual evolution of design best practices for energy efficiency, decarbonization, and occupant health and wellness. As a Sustainable Design Leader at MDS, I have the tools to review the entries and judge them based on the criteria for the award.
What do you think is the most important aspect of a successful project?
The most important aspect of a successful project is that it exceeds the goals set by the client, while also contributing to the health of the planet and its inhabitants.
What does “design excellence” mean to you?
Design excellence is reached when the impact on the climate is at the forefront of every decision the team makes, and when we help our clients to understand how important our work is to the planet's future. Buildings designed with this mission in mind will produce a product that is delightful and serves the users.
Why do Design Awards matter?
They matter because they show our colleagues that caring about design is important, and design that is innovative and meets all challenges—while addressing the needs of the clients—should be recognized.
If you could create any Design Awards category—realistic or fantastic—what would it be?
How about a Design Award that emphasizes equity? The Sustainable Awards criteria mention equity, but it could be something that is honored in its own way.
Have you won any award(s) from the BSA or another establishment? What elements from that project would you like to see shape the future of the profession?
Yes, several years ago one of my projects received a citation in the Accessible Design category. For that project, we created a welcoming urban school for a student body that includes a large number of students with some form of disability. We strive to design environments that remove all barriers, are welcoming to all students, and celebrate each individual’s desire to learn and thrive.
How has design improved your daily life?
Design is all around us and impacts all we do on a daily basis. Good design brings a smile to my face.
What is the most effective step you’ve taken in your work toward a more sustainable built environment?
Continually looking to improve myself and to work with others with a similar mindset.
What do you see as the largest barrier to equity in the profession? What are the solutions you'd like to see?
There is such a small number of people of color in the profession. If we foster more diversity, it can help all of us understand how we can better contribute to the conversation about design and equity. We must encourage youth of all backgrounds to apply to architecture school and stay in it, so that we as a profession can stay relevant in the future. We also must show in architecture schools and in our firms that a lot of the inequities we see in our communities must addressed. Also, sustainability and addressing climate change is a social justice problem. People of color have been, and continue to be, more severely affected by the impacts of climate change.
What is your favorite Boston-area building or structure?
The MIT Chapel— I spent a lot of time there as an undergrad.
If you could collaborate with anyone in the profession, who would it be and why?
Amanda Sturgeon—she is a champion in our industry.