BNIM - AIA Firm of the Year
by Brian Libby
To become one of the first two buildings to receive full recognition under the Living Building Challenge, the Omega Center for Sustainable Living in Rhinebeck, New York, had to meet a stringent set of criteria, including generating all its energy from renewable resources, and capturing and treating all water used onsite.
For BNIM, the architecture firm that designed the building, this recognition of extremely sustainable design was one more notch in a long track record of environmentally sensitive architecture.
The Kansas City, Missouri-based firm has received the AIA Architecture Firm Award from the American Institute of Architects for 2011. The award is the highest honor the AIA bestows on an architecture firm. BNIM cofounder Bob Berkebile sees the firm's selection as a clear statement encouraging green building design as a tool in the battle against climate change.
"I think the reason we got this award is the AIA had to pick someone to acknowledge that this is the future," he ventures.
A pioneering advocate in the green field, Berkebile sees the chance to improve upon the possibly dire ecological outcomes forecast for the next century as a quintessential challenge and reward of being an architect. He was the founding chairman of the first AIA Committee on the Environment (COTE) in 1990 and a founding board member of the U.S. Green Building Council a few years later. BNIM also helped develop the USGBC's Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification system through several pilot projects.
BNIM practices what it preaches; rigorous sustainability is intrinsic to its work. The Omega Center project and nine others designed by BNIM have earned LEED Platinum certification, and another nine have received other LEED ratings. The many awards received by the firm include five Top Ten Green Project nods from AIA/COTE.
"I can honestly say that no firm has done as much to place the profession on its current trajectory towards a truly sustainable future as BNIM," wrote Richard Fedrizzi, CEO and president of the USGBC, in a letter recommending the firm for this award.
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