Boston architect discusses green building

Boston architect discusses green building

After graduating from Yale University with a degree in political theory, Bruce Hampton went on to obtain his architecture degree from the Boston Architectural Center in 1981. A partner in Elton+Hampton Architects for eight years, Hampton is also a LEED Accredited Professional and member of the National Council of Architectural Registration Boards and the American Institute of Architects.

When did you start to incorporate green building elements into your design?

"I've always done it. Really, it was before people started calling it 'green.' I went off to architecture school in 1973 during an oil embargo. My first experience in architecture school was running into some instructors who continued to design buildings as if there was no energy crisis, as if glass and steel buildings were the only way to do architecture. Basically, they told me I would never become an architect. By mutual agreement, I decided to leave that school, and I've been grateful to them ever since. I spent a couple of years in the interim building homes in Utah and Montana, and eventually went to the Boston Architectural Center."

How interested in green design are home builders and buyers in Boston?

"I think there is a great deal of interest, certainly from the developer's point of view, in building a green home. There are builders who are truly devoted to green building and the health of the inhabitants. [Then] there are good quality builders who are trying to distinguish themselves in the marketplace in order to create a niche for themselves. I can't say that their motives are bad, but some motives are simply to 'greenwash' and get a piece of business and not do a particularly green or healthy job. Buyers are catching the wave and are beginning to become much more interested, too. I think as long as they don't have to make any change in their lifestyle, they're interested. Unfortunately, most people are still buying their house by the square footage and not by an energy measurement."

How much does it cost to hire an architect to design a LEED home?

"If you're hiring a green architect who already knows his/her stuff, you have to ask yourself how much extra it will cost and how much is the extra knowledge valued. It could cost $5,000 extra or $20,000 extra. It's somewhere in that range, but I think it's on the lower end. You can hire a green consultant to work alongside your own architect, but you should probably find a green architect to begin with to save money."

What do you think of LEED?

"I've worked with the U.S Green Building Council on their LEED for Homes standards while they were creating the program. Every one of my projects is very green and would get the LEED Silver and Gold certifications, but I work for affordable housing. These clients won't pay the extra cost to get certified. I think there have been efforts to begin a statewide green certification system. I suspect that effort will take a back seat to LEED for Homes. LEED for Homes, in Massachusetts at least, is the only green ratings system of value."

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