Having Researchers on Staff | A Discussion with LEED Fellow Z Smith

About this Episode  

In this episode, Charlie talks with Z about his very unique career through the green building industry after earning multiple degrees. Z Smith decided to get his Master’s degree in Architecture after he already had a Bachelor’s in Physics and PhD in Electrical Engineering/Computer Science. Yes, you read that right. His career also includes a variety of experiences with pioneering brands and countries including Xerox, RCA Labs and the Japanese government.

Key Talking Points  

  •     Why Z Smith became interested in the “green” movement
  •     The journey Z Smith took from physics through electrical engineering and computer science to architecture
  •     The importance of internal researchers within architecture firms
  •     Setting up feedback loops and learning from the outcomes
  •     What are we really trying to get the building to do, elegantly, with the least amount of materials
  •     Finding resistance when hiring
  •     Picking up the pace with rating systems and raise the standards in communities

Key Milestones of the Episode

[1:40] Z Smith’s background

[2:34] The university job that introduced Z Smith to the sustainable industry

[5:57] The start of Z Smith’s journey into architecture

[7:49] What is happening behind the scenes on the research side

[10:50] What frustrated Z Smith the most in architecture

[14:46] Touchstone throughout career 

[18:29] Tracking our work

[23:13] Applying rigor to a practice

[27:15] David Lake’s Spice Girl moment

[31:49] Rating systems have a place but we need to pick up the pace

Key Quotes

At the time I was going to college, it was the late 70’s. We were just getting through the energy crisis and it looked like if we didn’t solve problems with energy, we were going to end up in some war with the Middle East.”

“In fact, if you pick up your iPhone or smartphone, you are actually looking at a field of amorphous silicon.”

“Many of our clients would love to have an energy efficient building if not a net zero building but they just assume that it is not possible and not practical.”

“My main gift is to convince people that things are possible.”

Key Resource

Home Energy Saver

Get in Contact with Z Smith

Z Smith is the Director of Sustainability and Building Performance at Eskew+Dumez+Ripple and an associate professor of architecture at Tulane University, and a speaker on sustainability issues.

Z Smith on LinkedIn

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