Winsome Talks to Featured Architect – Andre DeBar
Starting in Minnesota and making his way through the University of Virginia and Yale, Andre DeBar took a circuitous route to the Pacific Northwest, but we sure are glad that he found us! An acclaimed architect focusing on sustainable design and construction, Andre is passionate about practical, attainable solutions to solve building inefficiencies and simplicity of expression of materials that create efficient building systems. In his mission statement, Andre states, “We take pride in crafting buildings that are high-performance yet simple, reflect and respect their place, and will serve their inhabitants well for many generations.”
Winsome is fortunate to have the opportunity to work with Andre on one of our upcoming build projects currently in design. We sat down to interview Andre as this month’s featured architect and enjoyed talking with Andre about his passion, advice and experience with green building.
Since his experience with Earth Ships in Taos as a young architect right out of college, Andre has had a passion for designing homes and structures that “enhance our relationship with the environment while reducing our impact upon the ecosystem”. The obstacles to do this are not as great as some people think, Andre assures. “It is not that expensive to get a big bump in performance, ” he says. The key to this, according to Andre, is focusing first on your systems and your shell that is not easily changed in the future. Good windows, well insulated walls, orientation and size are some good places to start. You can design homes and structures to be flexible to change with changing needs and improved technologies in the future. By not having interior bearing walls, for example, the walls can be more easily moved to adjust the use of the interior space in the future. Even the mechanical systems, heating and cooling, can evolve in the future of a building. “Designing our buildings to allow aging in place, ” Andre says, “is an important part of the longevity of our buildings.”
Just this month Andre accepted a position as Earth Advantage’s new Senior Green Building Consultant. Not only will he be a liasion for Earth Advantage builders to help them to maneuver through the process of accreditation, but he will also be working on an innovative new program for accreditation of existing homes. To date nobody has successfully launched a successful program for accreditation of existing homes. Andre is particularly excited about this part of his job because of the potential impact it could have. “If you can get every home to get 10 or 20 % greener you will have a far bigger impact on the environment, ” he explains. While working with existing homes can get pretty complex, they are trying to keep it simple. They will have some pilot projects rolling out this spring. Andre will still do design work even with this new position with Earth Advantage. He is hoping to be able to do innovative, industry leading projects that can act as a model for change.