conversation with Neal Angrisano June 14, 2005
Our next conversation follows the
connection from Katrina Gerber to a man who is on the Owner's
side of the Sunset Office Complex, Mr. Neal Angrisano, AIA, the
Deputy Director of Facilities Management for Johnson County. Neal
is a graduate of KU (Bachelor and Masters degrees in
Architecture), a father of five, a licensed architect, an
environmental advocate, and an educator. His career has taken him
across the table and back several times from the architect's side
to the owner's side. He is a long time advocate of
Note: At the end of the article are web
links to many items mentioned.
1 What person
influenced you most regarding environmental issues?
I had the great fortune of working
with Bob Berkebile early in my career and there is no
question that he has inspired untold thousands of people
with his passion for the environment. Other than him,
perhaps Amory Lovins and Hunter Lovins from the Rocky
Mountains Institute. I have heard Amory them speak
several times, and his writings on Natural Capitalism
resonated immensely with me.
2 What event
opened your eyes to environmental issues?
There was no single event. As a young
architect in the eighties environmental concern was
little more than a special interest issue. I can recall
walking project job sites as a youngster and seeing the
tremendous amount of construction waste that is
generated. I remember being in newly carpeted offices and
getting a buzz from the overpowering off-gassing of the
old carpet adhesives.
3 Name one habit
or convenience you gave up for environmental reasons.
- Most of the obvious things; recycling,
improving the energy efficiency of my non-energy
efficient home. Replacing most of the bulbs in our house
with compact fluorescents. Trying to convince my family
to turn off the darn lights when you leave the
4 Name something
you wish more people realized is harmful to the environment.
Designing and constructing buildings
for the short term. It is one thing, however unfortunate,
when a commercial developer does this to realize short
term profits but when public entities build on the cheap
to save on first-costs, they are doing a financial
disservice to their constituency. Quality buildings
designed to function and last for the long term [is the
5 What is the
most important thing you do personally to conserve natural
Through words and actions, advancing
knowledge of and helping others understand environmental
issues. Education is the key; of ones own
organization, of the general public, of our children. .I
recently spent a day at Notre Dame de Sion High School
speaking to students in an environmental studies course.
Passing on understanding and concern for the environment,
that is how to make a big impact.
alternative do you feel more people need to learn?
To speak with our pocket books and our
votes to demand that corporations, institutions and
governments do the right thing.
contribution are you uniquely able to make toward environmental
Working on the issue from the inside
out, within a government organization. Sometimes it is
more difficult for an architect to convince a client to
do certain things that they had no special interest in
originally. From within an organization such as ours,
someone like me with hopefully a certain amount of
credibility and trust, can often, although not without a
fair level of tenacity and conviction, have better
success getting the organization to adopt the right
courses of action. When our County Commissioners proudly
start talking to their constituency about the
environmental stewardship being applied to County
buildings and programs, I consider this the highest
measure of success.
8 What do you
think is the next step for Kansas City as a community at the
Mandating environmental responsiveness
for all development, especially in the private sector.
Governmental entities can and should lead by example, but
the time is at hand to go beyond just leading to
9 What change to
your lifestyle or behavior was the hardest to adopt or maintain?
Just slowing down every now and then
and thinking about what you are doing instead of blowing
through life at high speed. Carpooling to soccer
practice. Making one trip for errands rather than three.
Keeping the lights turned off with five kids is a
constant effort. In our bathrooms we still have some of
those crummy spec home round bulb vanity lights over the
mirrors, which equals about 500 watts burning away almost
constantly at times. I finally just took every other bulb
out of the sockets. But my wife makes me put them back in
when company comes.
10 What do you
think Kansas City has done well?
Kansas City Missouri has adopted
significant green building programs. Jackson County has
many initiatives. We are developing a very aggressive
program in Johnson County. With some impressive private
sector exceptions, the public sector is leading the way
in Kansas City.
11 What is your
most successful green building project?
The Johnson County Sunset Drive Office
Building. It was the first thoroughly integrated,
complete approach we've done. And when you do a cost
comparison to other similar county buildings--it's maybe
a 3-5% premium in cost; the majority of which gets paid
back quickly in lifecycle savings. Most 'high quality'
buildings are not far from 'green' without even trying to
be green. Quality is the essence of being environmentally
responsible - when you design a building to last for 50
or 100 years. We are going back to materials like
terrazzo, to integral finish materials rather than
painted surfaces. We went to great lengths to design
flexibility in the spaces, for example, with nearly all
the partitions being demountable. In 50 years this
building will have probably undergone numerous
reconfigurations and contributed almost zero gypsum and
steel waste to landfills. Green buildings do not have to
be different to be green, though we did go out of our way
to some extent to make it look green.
12 What is a good
example of environmental design in Kansas City?
The EPA Lab in KCK was the first LEED
Gold project in the Metro. Sunset will be the second. Eco
Works was a great experiment, perhaps a concept that was
a bit ahead of it's time when it was built.
13 What is the
biggest change you hope to see in society within your lifetime?
To see environmental institutions like
the USGBC and LEED go away entirely because they are not
needed anymore; when it all becomes just a part of
standard practice. LEED is a vital tool at the present
time for building awareness and spreading knowledge. But
even a LEED Platinum building is just 'less bad.' We will
eventually need to move on to restorative architecture,
buildings and urban design that repair the environment by
their very existence. One change Ive noticed is
that Ford Motor Company not only installed a green roof
on one of its assembly plants but has gone out of its way
to publicize the fact to consumers in the mass media.
What does this mean? It means that the average Joe Taurus
Buyer now might care about such things. I think this says
a lot about how pervasive environmental issues finally
are to the general American public.
Johnson County Sunset Offices (webcam link
on page!): http://facilities.jocogov.org/projects/proj_sunsetoffice.htm
Johnson County Sustainability Guide: http://facilities.jocogov.org/pdfs/SustainaibilityGuide.pdf
Amory Lovins' Rocky Mountains Institute: http://www.rmi.org/
A transcript of Amory Lovins' lecture on
Natural Capitalism: http://www.abc.net.au/rn/talks/bbing/stories/s231834.htm
L. Hunter Lovins' company, Natural
Capitalism, Inc.: http://www.natcapinc.com/core_hunter.htm
Kansas City's Notre Dame de Sion school: http://www.ndsion.edu/
Greenroofs.org profile of the Ford Dearborn
Truck Plant green roof: http://www.greenroofs.org/portland/grhc2004_ford.htm
Ford Motor Company's
"Environment" website: http://www.ford.com/en/goodWorks/environment/default.htm
Environmental Protection Agency Science and
Technology Center: http://www.epa.gov/oaintrnt/facilities/kansascity-lab.htm
("Green Thirteen" is a series of
questions intended to explore the journey of environmental
thinking, from inspiration to education to action--with a
dual-focus on both individual and community perspectives.
Interviewer: Scott Kevin Jones, AIA, LEED AP)
return to index