BNIM is an architecture and design company with a focus on creating sustainable and functionally integrated buildings for the modern era. BNIM’s founding belief is that “what a building does matters as much as how it looks.” Their founding principle is one of “Generous Pragmatism,” which “refers to a thoughtful, strategic balance between beauty and performance.” They describe Generous Pragmatism as both a design ethic and a challenge. They use an approach called High Performance Integrated Design (HPID), where they create facilities that achieve clients’ high-performance aspirations by addressing building energy and water use, human health, productivity and organizational effectiveness.
Their sustainable consulting service worked on greening the White House in 1995, by improving energy efficiency and durability, and developing the Kansas City Zoological Gardens among other large-scale projects.
They also worked on numerous other green building projects, such as the Oberlin College Green Arts District, the Odum School of Ecology, and the Kaufman Center for the Performing Arts.
The American Geographical Society reach out to BNIM for some more information on their background and vision and they were kind enough to answer our questions.
What does BNIM envision for the future in terms of sustainable design?
At BNIM, we believe that beauty possesses a conscience for environmental performance and human wellbeing. The work the firm is doing today represents climate-positive campuses, net-zero communities, post-carbon economies, and workplaces that look toward the future. We believe the true power of design is fully tapped only when everyone with an interest in the project adopts it as their own. Through collaboration and community engagement, we gain deep insight about how the design of the place in question will affect each individual as well as the greater community. The future of design is generous. We have spent time refining the notion of Generous Pragmatism, the concept that what a building does is just as important as how it looks. By defining design excellence as both performance and beauty, we recognize that people and the planet are impacted by our designs and our best work both elevates the human experience and is sustainable if not restorative.
Can you give us some background on how you got started and why you thought this would be a successful idea?
In 1970, the firm’s founding partners planted the seeds of a long-standing commitment to design excellence, civic consciousness, and regionalism. BNIM was an early leader in sustainable design, contributing to the creation of many of the sustainable standards that pervade today’s design and construction industry — the AIA’s Committee on the Environment, the development of the U.S. Green Building Council and the LEED rating system, and the Living Building concept. Now, 45 years later, at least 80,000 people enter BNIM buildings each day to work, learn or do business. We are constantly innovating to bring about meaningful results. Demonstrating the potential for progressive ideas to become mainstream is key to how buildings and the building industry will transform to elevate human potential, greatly reduce environmental impact and produce rather than consume economic resources through productivity gains and increased effectiveness.
“BNIM is nearly fifty years young and continues to be very focused on making the world a better place. We have grown into a global firm, transporting strong values and creativity by delivering beautiful integrated environments that inspire change and enhance the human condition.” —Steve McDowell, BNIM CEO
Urban planning and the geography of our cities is a crucial area of advancement in our modern world, and BNIM’s work to green our cities is a commendable step towards improving city life. The American Geographical Society’s Fall Symposium focuses on exploring our future in an urbanized world. Read more here!
Written by: Christopher Ewell, AGS Intern on June 23, 2015