This interview is with Adam Wilmes, who is a LEED AP BD+C credentialed Architect with Populous and a member USGBC (U.S. Green Building Council). We cover the topics of LEED building practices, personal environmental stewardship and global impact of smart sustainability.
Total Reading Time: Less than 7 minutes.
1. What are a few things that you have changed in your personal life that make you more green?
Adam: I’ve always been dedicated to living a sustainable life – architecture has certainly encouraged that. From a personal standpoint, I believe it’s the little details that lead to living ‘green’ – from recycling, to using less water, to turning the light off when I leave a room (that is, if it doesn’t have an automatic sensor!).
2. In your opinion, what are three things that anyone can do at home to help our environment?
Adam: Recycle, use less water, and turn off the lights when you leave a room…
3. In Kansas City, there are numerous tools to help all of us be better at recycling. Deffenbaugh (our local waste and recycling company) makes it easy for us to sort our trash from recyclables;and Ripple Glass has hundreds of containers throughout the city making it easier for everyone to recycle glass. What is your favorite local recycling resource that makes it easier for you to be better at recycling?
Adam: The recycling bin provided to me by the city I live in. Again, it’s just a little thing, but having that separate bin is a physical signal that encourages me to do my part in the city-wide recycling and waste reduction effort.
4. In your personal time, what green or eco topics are you looking at or reading about online?
Adam: Recently, I’ve been investing a lot of time reading about asset-based projects for under served communities, and how efforts in sustainable design aid those communities in their long-term use of the projects. Working with my colleague Greg Sherlock here at Populous, we are using that information to find a synergy with the civic, large-scale public realm facilities that Populous is so well known for.
5. Populous has been a Cells for Cells partner for 6 years now…besides recycling cell phones to help families who are battling cancer, what other community projects is Populous involved with?
Adam: We’re involved with a number of local organizations, primarily focusing on supporting sports programs for disadvantaged youth, downtown and River Market neighborhood-related initiatives and area arts programs. Additionally, Populous employees spend many hours giving lectures and critiquing work at area architecture schools. The firm also provides 10 employees per year for the ACE Mentor program – a program designed to gear more women and minorities into the architecture profession. We support more than 20 organizations, through both financial and volunteer commitments.
6. You have offices worldwide…Do you see differences in the attitude towards recycling in those other parts of the world? What differences do you see?
Adam: Each of our offices is dedicated to recycling and other green initiatives within their daily operations. So in that sense, I suppose the general attitudes are the same. I know one unique aspect of our Kansas City office is the use of waterless urinals in our men’s bathrooms.
7. How do you encourage your employees to be more green in their time at the office?
I do my best to lead a sustainable life while I’m at the office or working at a project site. I believe that encourages others to do the little things as well. We learn sustainable behaviors from those we’re surrounded by; so by turning of the lights, recycling and using less water, I think I help inspire others to do the same.
8. How do you help the companies that you work with become more environmentally responsible?
Adam: Our role as designers is to do our best to educate our clients on the many ways that operating their facilities in a sustainable way is both environmentally and economically beneficial, whether that facility is a professional baseball stadium or a world-renowned convention center. We present them with sustainable design solutions that result in increased operational efficiency and reduced costs.
9. Populous is known worldwide as THE company that builds stadiums and arenas, and you just built the Target Field in Minneapolis. What makes it the greenest ballpark in America?
Adam: The credit for Target Field must first go to the dedication of the Minnesota Twins organization to sustainable design and building operations (it’s the only MLB stadium to have two LEED certifications). Target Field is a great example of long-term commitment: from Target Plaza and the enormous amount of open (and green) space it provides in the heart of Minneapolis’ downtown, to the use of local and recycled building materials, to the highly efficient light fixtures used throughout the stadium, it was an honor to take part in a project where all parties saw the short- and long-term benefits of sustainable design.
10. How many millions of people walk into your stadiums and arenas throughout the world? Are you able to influence them? How?
Adam: At last estimate, we believe at least 520 million people have stepped foot in a Populous-designed venue. That provides us with an incredible opportunity to not only create memorable experiences for fans across the globe but to encourage sustainable behaviors and exploration of the impact of those behaviors. Working with teams is crucial to this. While our designs may be sustainable and even be accompanied by signage and explanations of how the facility functions in a sustainable fashion, the teams can have a tremendous impact over fan behavior by implementing recycling programs, displaying sustainable messages on video boards throughout games and thinking of innovative ways to challenge fans to be more sustainable. The Portland Timbers of the MLS are an example of a team who has done this very effectively.
11. What is the coolest innovation that you have been able to apply to one of your projects?
Adam: At Target Field we buried a large rainwater cistern below the playing field that runs the entire length of the outfield warning track. This cistern collects all rainwater that falls within the site of Target Field, and is then reused for various water needs throughout the stadium. What makes that reuse possible is an eco-sponsorship and marketing deal between the Minnesota Twins and the company Pentair, which provides the equipment to filter the water stored in the cistern. This is such a great way to educate the fans who attend games at Target Field on the benefits of water conservation and reuse. And that, to me, is cool!
12. How does a LEED certified building affect me as a sports enthusiast?
Adam: If you are a sports enthusiast, an appreciation more than likely exists for the way a great athlete performs every night at the highest level. We see our sports, entertainment and venue projects the same way – through many projects we’ve learned how to make buildings perform at their highest level and look to continue to innovate and discover new ways to design these highly visible projects even better.
13. When you renovate a giant facility, what happens to the old building/construction materials?
Adam: As architects, we do our best to see that as much of that debris or waste is recycled as possible. Some materials are more difficult than others (gypsum board, for instance). However, for another project I worked on, Marlins Park in Miami, Florida, the effort was made to recycle nearly 100% of the stadium previously on that site (the famed Orange Bowl). In other venues, like with the renovation of McCamish Pavilion at Georgia Tech, we’ve been careful to repurpose materials that would otherwise be discarded. At McCamish, we took the old court and used it to cover walls in the entryway and club spaces. In that sense, we’ve seen first-hand the success associated with large-scale recycling efforts around the country.
14. Is building a LEED certified building more expensive?
Adam: In terms of initial costs, our experience says that yes, there is a slight premium for sustainable buildings,of which we primarily use LEED as our rating system to document those efforts. However, in my time with Populous, I’ve seen that premium steadily decline as the design and building industries become more familiar with how to deliver a high-performance, sustainable building for the public realm. After all, we had to walk before we could run. In addition, we have been able to calculate the long-term benefits of a sustainable building and have seen that often, the reduced operating costs more than make up for the upfront additional costs. With 15 LEED certified projects and another 16 LEED registered projects under our belt, we feel we are off and running.
Photo Credit: Night Falls on Target Field by Matt Pasant