Sustainability Champion Awarded Architects Highest Honor

Norman Strong, FAIA, the managing partner of The MillerHull Partnership, was awarded the American Institute of Architects (AIA) Northwest & Pacific Region (NW&P) 2008 Medal of Honor, on October 10 at the NW&P Conference in Honolulu, HI. This prestigious award is conferred annually on a region architect who has consistently demonstrated excellence or service to the profession.

A list of Strong’s volunteerism would fill pages but for him it comes naturally from devotion to the profession. “I have always liked to build things, even in grade school. After I graduated from WSU and found MillerHull I remember saying ‘they are paying me to do what I love’,” states Strong, a Northwest native who earned his Bachelor of Architecture (BArch) from Washington State University. “Now, every day is unique,” he continues, “both with opportunities and challenges.” Strong has faced the challenges of being an architect, especially regarding sustainability, with a vision and dedication that made him the ideal recipient for this award.

His vision was evident while Strong served as chair of the Sustainability Discussion Group (SDiG) last year, when the group introduced revolutionary ideas about energy reduction. The SDiG focus is on the 2030 Challenge, which is to get all buildings to carbon neutrality by the year 2030. “This is not an easy task,” states Strong, “so we produced the 50to50 series of articles on 50 ways to reach a 50% energy reduction. The SDiG also proposed, and it was accepted, that 4 of our 18 mandatory learning units be focused on energy and carbon reducing design.” The SDiG and Strong’s efforts impacted all levels of the AIA and created a model for others to emulate that even the highest offices in the United State government noticed.

“The AIA was called in by the US House of Representatives to understand how they could redefine their workplace and offices,” says Strong about the creation of the Sustainable Design Assistance Team (SDAT) for the US Capitol. Strong chaired the SDAT which proposed ways to increase public access, improve the worklife of staff, and as an outcome reduce consumption of energy in old, historic buildings. “Bottom line,” states Strong, “the culture of Capitol Hill will need to change to impact each of these elements, but we were able to give them tangible and achievable goals.”

Strong’s commitment to sustainable design isn’t just a recent passion; it’s the hallmark of his career. Strong has been with Seattle based firm The MillerHull Partnership, a nationally recognized 60-person firm, since 1979 when there were only three employees. He was “drawn to the firm” he states, “because of their remarkable innovation and focus on unique solutions to sustainable design, or whatever we called it back then,” he laughs. Strong says the firm continues to have sustainability as an emphasis, a focus that was relevant in 1979, is today, and will be in the future. “I am extremely optimistic about the future of architects and our role in addressing the huge issues of climate change,” says Strong. “Together, with our clients and our builders, we can and will make a difference; and show a way to live more responsibly in the communities where we live and work.” With vision and dedication like this it is clear why architects chose to honor Strong with their most prestigious award.

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