'More with less is an economic reality'

Hastings principal David Bailey talks green design, city’s architecture

David Bailey is a principal with Hastings Architecture Associates, a downtown Nashville-based firm know for its design of contemporary buildings such as Roundabout Plaza and Terrazzo. Many HAA projects involve Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design certification and other green and  sustainable elements. Bailey sat down with Post Managing Editor William Williams to discuss green design issues.

Will Nashville continue to see large-scale buildings with LEED and/or green elements?

Yes, no doubt. Nashville is on a growth trajectory that will certainly mean increased density. The downtown zoning code provides bonuses for LEED certification. In most cases, achieving LEED certification results in lower operational costs, the creation of healthier and more productive indoor space, and positive contributions to the public realm. And through good design, much of this can be accomplished without added costs. In addition, resources are only becoming more scarce and more expensive, and utility costs will continue to rise. Doing more with less is an economic reality that we will all live with from today forward.

 HAA favors a highly contemporary design aesthetic. Much like Manuel Zeitlin Architects, with which HAA has teamed on various projects, your firm likes to push the envelop for design. However, many developers doing work in Nashville take a very safe approach with the exterior designs of their buildings. Is Nashville ready for buildings showing cutting-edge 21st century architecture?

Most all of the large, local projects completed in the last 15 years have taken an approach of designing in response to current day rather than emulating the past. While some projects have taken a safer stylistic approach, Nashville is a place that is setting the trend in many arenas — music, food, fashion and others. There is no reason that Nashville’s architecture should not reflect the character, aspirations and future of the city. We are really seeing that happen across the city at all scales and project types, which is exciting.

In many ways, design aesthetic is also a response to the materials and systems available for use in architecture today. There have been many fantastic advancements in recent years that have given us new design options. And there are many limitations on achieving an honest “traditional” architectural style — craftsmanship, materials and costs being major constraints. We feel that each project should be a response to its site, context, function and goals. And style should not be a given or formulaic approach that only copies the past.

What are some key challenges in designing for LEED certification or, at the minimum, high-level sustainability?

The biggest challenge and biggest reward is understanding how to achieve the most impact for your efforts. Making good decisions about what is important to each project specifically — what meets the project’s goals and which strategies have a positive impact for occupants and the environment — is what makes the biggest difference. Understanding how to accurately assess and project which strategies are important and applicable and then properly integrating and implementing them is the key to success. This is a major focus for greenSTUDIO, our sustainability consulting arm.

We found that once we were designing the right way in this regard, we couldn’t back up and design the wrong way. This philosophical approach is entrenched in our design process and culture, and we believe our clients benefit from it whether they are pursuing LEED certification or not. 

Other than HAA and ESa, few Nashville-based architecture companies get to design local buildings that are seven floors or taller. Why is that?

Buildings of such height fall into a “high-rise” building code classification. By this very definition, there are many complexities associated with their design that impact everything from the design of the building envelope, to the life safety and egress systems, to the structural, mechanical and plumbing systems. An in-depth knowledge and understanding of how to approach design and construction for these buildings is critical to budgets, schedules and constructability. Developers and owners of these types of buildings are typically very sophisticated and know that a deep understanding of the design and construction process is required for a successful project. Experienced architects can save their clients a great deal of money and time in these projects. Experience, however, doesn’t make us complacent. As you pointed out earlier, we like to push the envelope and innovate from project to project.

Notwithstanding HAA, what are some other local firms that shine with sustainable design?

We see Centric Architecture, Gilbert McLaughlin Casella and Manuel Zeitlin Architects as some other local firms working hard to raise the level of sustainable design in our community. Additionally, there are engineers and landscape architects that are also contributing to great sustainable design in Nashville.

What are a few examples of post-2000-constructed local buildings that show some significant and attractive green qualities, whether HAA designed or not?

Examples to consider are, The Bridge Building (the world’s highest scoring LEED core plus shell project), the new academic and dining halls at MBA (Lowry Hall and Wallace Hall), The Pinnacle at Symphony Place, Terrazzo, The Tennessee Association of Realtors headquarters, and Vanderbilt’s Ingram Commons and new Kissam dorms.

Vanderbilt University — both the campus and medical sides — is highly focused on achieving significant levels of sustainable design in their buildings and in their operations — and on the campus in general. Their commitment has a positive effect on the entire city. 

Metro, especially under Karl Dean’s leadership, is doing a phenomenal job at delivering sustainable design to the larger community in its many projects from the downtown core to neighborhoods. This is vitally important to helping Nashville continue to prosper and offer a better quality of life, while simultaneously raising the level of sustainable design knowledge and experience throughout the design and construction industry in Middle Tennessee.

Is there a mid-sized city Nashville can look to for post-2000 green design cues?

Every year we take our entire firm to visit a different city for new exposure to great design, culture and sustainability. In recent years, we have visited Denver, Kansas City and Philadelphia. Each of those cities has great design going on at many levels and scales. This September we will visit St. Louis, which is undergoing a bit of an architectural and cultural renaissance. We also see great things happening in Austin and Portland, which have been leaders in sustainable design for many years.