with Tom Bean May 5, 2005
After learning that
Kansas City has adopted a requirement for new buildings to be
LEED Silver certified, we sought out City Architect Tom Bean to
get the civic scoop. Tom is a registered architect in Kansas and
Missouri, has been Kansas City, Missouri's City Architect since
1980, and has promoted higher standards of sustainability within
the community as an owner, client, and administrator. I
caught up with him at his project offices within the Bartle Hall
What person influenced you most regarding environmental
- The paintings of Thomas Moran, Alfred
Bierstadt. They were commissioned by Teddy
Roosevelt when he was working to set aside the national
parks. He needed the support of politicians who had
not been to these places, and these paintings helped
create awareness of these incredible resources.
What event opened your eyes to environmental issues?
- Three Mile Island - seeing something
of that magnitude with potentially devastating
effects. Knowing that we as a culture can make
decisions that can turn on us in a minute.
Name one habit or convenience you gave up for
- I am not consciously aware of giving
anything up. We do pursue environmentally friendly
options when they are available.
4 Name something
you wish more people realized is harmful to the environment.
- Here in Kansas City we've had this
little stream called the Missouri River, which some
people might assume will be there forever. But if
the source is tainted or unavailable we could lose this
resource. We could do a better job at long term
thinking in how we manage our resources.
What is the most important thing you do personally to
conserve natural resources?
- We are serious recyclers. The
curbside program in Kansas City doesn't pick up glass, so
we take our bottles to the collection centers. We
have a lot of cardboard from a mail-order business, more
than I would leave at the curb. Newspaper sleeves,
every thing the recycling program will accept we separate
and bring to the center.
What alternative do you feel more people need to learn?
- That environmentally sustainable
buildings don't look different, they act
What contribution are you uniquely able to make toward
- In my current position, to carry the
message to the decision makers who are not technically
based, and hopefully persuade them that this is
important. There are members on the city council
who are very supportive.
What do you think is the next step for Kansas City as a
community at the present time?
- City governments are positioned to
become the advocates. Once these projects are up
and running we will be able to demonstrate all of the
advantages - that the aggregate utility cost is
If we can "script" that and
make the story easier to tell so we have a body of people
who know, that will have some credibility.
What change to your lifestyle or behavior was the hardest
to adopt or maintain?
- The beauty is that this doesn't have
to change the practice of architecture, it is about
changing the way we think about the process of design and
construction. It is a step at a time.
What do you think Kansas City has done well?
- Passing the LEED Silver
ordinance. We started with an environmental
management committee (which included Bob Berkebile) to
produce a recommendation. We looked at what has
been done in cities like Seattle and Portland (who
basically wrote their own standard around the LEED
criteria). We came up with the recommendation that
public buildings larger than 5,000 square feet should be
required to achieve LEED Silver Certification.
First it was an administrative rule, but the committee
wanted it eventually formalized. It was adopted as
an Ordinance this year.
What is your most successful green building project?
- The Bartle Hall Expansion is the first
one where we applied the LEED standard from the
beginning. It incorporates
"cradle-to-grave" thinking in the entire
process to improve sustainability in design and
What is a good example of environmental design in Kansas
- The new Kansas City Zoo project is
pretty special - compared to traditional zoos with very
confined spaces, animals behind bars, more like a wax
museum with controlled environments. Out in the
Africa exhibit you see the animals as they relate to more
natural surroundings and how they relate to each other.
What is the biggest change you hope to see in society
within your lifetime?
- To heighten the awareness that all
things are interconnected and influence each other in
different ways. The biggest influence on the planet
is people and every action we take has some reaction,
good or bad.
("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. Author: Scott Kevin Jones, AIA, LEED AP)
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