Fourth Annual Smart Environments Awards

This year’s winners paired clever interior design with the latest green technology for intimate spaces that are not just inspirational but humane.

The winners of the 2009 International Interior Design Association/Metropolis Smart Environments Awards are an Ivy League forestry school, the offices of a Portland, Oregon, architecture firm, and an organic café in ur-organic San Francisco. They couldn’t be more different. Yet their expertly crafted interiors, which tether great looks to an increasingly pressing environmental imperative, signal good news for a nation that spends more than 90 percent of its time indoors: interior design isn’t just about pretty pictures anymore.

Though there’s some of that. The Smart Environments competition, now in its fourth year, recognizes the best design solutions of 2009. Submissions are judged on sustainability, accessibility, creativity, and aesthetics. Entrants are required to include information on their environmental bona fides, an attempt to limit, if not entirely avoid, the beauty-pageant format that plagues most design awards, reliant as they are on meticulously edited (or meticulously doctored) photographs. “The Smart Environments Awards confirm that 21st-century interior design is a highly sophisticated decision-making process that, though beautiful—and it has to be beautiful—is always a result of an intricate understanding of everything from material toxicity and manufacturing to shipping and energy use,” says Metropolis’s editor in chief, Susan S. Szenasy, who co-moderated the judging panel with Robert P. Moylan, the IIDA Sustainability Forum adviser.

This year’s winners are Yale University’s Kroon Hall School of Forestry & Environmental Studies, by Hopkins Architects and Centerbrook Architects and Planners; the Plant Cafe Organic, by CCS Architecture; and the Twelve West office, by Zimmer Gunsul Frasca Architects. Each paired hallmarks of good interior design, like wood and natural light, with the latest green technology (Kroon’s displacement-ventilation system, for instance, and the Plant’s electrolyzer, which converts water to cleaning fluids and is believed to be the first of its kind in a U.S. restaurant).

A disclaimer: Kroon Hall has received plenty of ink in this magazine, as some of you might have noticed. The cover story of our October 2009 issue profiled two projects that were shrinking their net greenhouse-gas emissions to zero: Dockside Green, a mixed-use community in Victoria, British Columbia; and Kroon (“Carbon Neutral Now,” by James S. Russell, p. 72). The awards disqualify projects that have already been published, but Kroon had submitted its paperwork before Russell’s story went to press, so the jurors felt obliged to consider the project alongside the others. The jury was made up of Rosalyn Cama, who helms the health-care interior-design firm Cama; Jean Hansen, the sustainable-interiors manager of HDR’s Sustainable Design Solutions; and Sadhu Johnston, the former chief environmental officer of the city of Chicago. Here is the latest batch of Smart Environments awardees, each a testament to big ideas stuffed into small carbon footprints.

The 2009 IIDA/Metropolis Smart Environments Awards winners:

CCS Architecture

Zimmer Gunsul Frasca Architects

Hopkins Architects and Centerbrook Architects and Planners

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