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DLR Group Delivers Sustainable Design Solutions 

Posted on September 10th, 2019

Having a self-described aspiration to elevate the human experience through design, DLR Group is also working to ensure that the planet remains a healthy place for everyone.

DLR Group has set itself apart from many integrated design firms by being an early adopter of sustainable-centric efforts. It has focused on being a leader by example through its participation in the AIA 2030 Challenge as well as having fundamental commitments to forward thinking design that helps put the needs of the customers at a direct intersection with the needs of a healthy Earth.

Jill Maltby-Abbott, an associate with DLR Group, explains that much of the work being done at the firm is to shift the balance of what has always been done in design with what should be done to ensure a sustainable future.

“The AIA is reporting that 57% of architecture firms are just recycling pieces of specifications and then another 16% are using the entire specification in full. That number is much higher than I ever realized, and I think it says a lot to our industry in terms of leaning on the work that’s already been done,” she said. “We are trying to see if we can’t make better decisions in a more visible and inspiring way.

“DLR Group is currently testing different ways materials ultimately manifest in drawings. We are trying to understand if there’s a way that we can better indicate selection criteria directly in the drawings.”

With environmental stewardship as a core value of the firm, DLR Group sees each project as an opportunity to deliver a sustainable design solution.

It has worked on the L.A. Memorial Coliseum renovation, the Pinnacle Bank Arena, the Baoshan Long Beach Winder Tower in Shanghai, as well as the Pathfinder Kindergarten Center in Everett (WA) proving that scale is not as important as satisfying its clients and introducing more sustainable buildings and designs.

Annie Bevan, Global Head of Sustainability for Superior Essex Communications, said that DLR Group is a tremendous example of how the design industry can play a positive role in increasing awareness of sustainable products.

“Each stop on a project roadmap has an opportunity to have an impact on making the planet a better place and what DLR Group is doing is maximizing its influence,” she said. “By including sustainability in design, and making healthier product recommendations, it can open the conversation and build trust that an owner has with the project team, as well as drive the business case for additionally investment in sustainability throughout the value chain.

“Design firms hold a powerful position in sustainability, and it is refreshing to know that DLR Group takes that position seriously.”

Superior Essex has the only product line of communication cables that are Red List Free, and can contribute to LEED and WELL, as well as the Living Building Challenge. Its position of leadership in manufacturing is increased as more requirements for sustainability are asked for by building owners and project teams.

The scope of influence that DLR Group can have on expansion of sustainability is not lost on it. The group has over 30 offices across the world, with more than 1,250 employees. It is attempting to make sure that it is sharing the same message across all locations.

Through the Seattle-based Healthy Materials Collaborative, DLR Group has started scaling up the lunch and learn surveying initiative in all of its locations. This peer surveying initiative has potential to scale through an internal mindfulMATERIALS AEC working group, which also collaborates with several industry peers.

DLR Group also has an internal reporting system that combines interactions between operations and material transparency. The firm has developed a tool that reveals ways for interiors-only projects to align with AIA 2030. This enables teams to further note transparent materials, track the most-attempted strategies for biophilic inclusion, share examples of ways design teams are executing daylight strategies, and engagement with the firm’s High Performance Design specialists.

Maltby-Abbott said that the awareness of specification reuse for efficiency versus specification reuse for achievement has resulted in more material transparency in design at DLR Group.

“We find that there’s multiple ways a spec package can come out and help a project,” she said. “I think a lot of times, you can get lost in the drawings. It can take a minute to get your head up and realize that a lot of what’s driving the production is the spec package. Those have to have equal value. What we really have is a change management situation. We have a lot of new information at our disposal that needs to be integrated into our existing design process. It’s exciting! We have more data and technology at our fingertips that can elevate design and when you combine that with the experience that our design teams have, we can manage a spec to improve the process and elevate our design.”

Bevan believes that the design community is benefiting from an excitement shift, like the one being seen at DLR Group.

“It seems like the current generation is paying a lot more attention to sustainability and that makes it buzzworthy to them. It is fundamental for millennials in the industry to include sustainability considerations into their decision making,” Bevan said. “That isn’t to say all generations are not buying in, because they are, it has just been more front of mind for younger people because it is more widely talked about now.

“What is encouraging is that there has been a groundswell of support from everyone and that is changing perception on sustainability. There are now clear business cases and tangible, monetary reasons to invest in sustainability. It makes the conversation easier to have with anyone.”

Maltby-Abbott believes that there may also just be a desire to get outside of a pre-built box that exists with a younger demographic of designers.

She points directly back to not wanting to recycle ideas combined with the more widespread awareness of healthy material sourcing.

“I think it says a lot for our leadership, too, to be willing to give the reins over to folks, and to learn,” Maltby-Abbott said. “There’s a huge demand from folks who don’t understand that recycled spec percentage number, 57%. I think once you hear that, you kind say, ‘Do I want to use the same product my entire career or do I want to make sure every product is tailored to every project?’, and I think we’re certainly on our way to understanding if that’s possible or not.

“As you compose drawings everybody has a piece, or could have a role, in that if they’re willing to engage with the language.”

About Superior Essex Communications

Superior Essex Communications is the leading manufacturer and supplier of communications cable in North America. It is on the forefront of innovation through Power over Ethernet, Intelligent Buildings and Cities, 5G Fiber infrastructure including Hybrid and Composite solutions, as well as technological advancements being made at its Product Development Center. Superior Essex Communications is also setting the pace on sustainability by being the first and only company with a Zero Waste to Landfill Certification at its Hoisington (KS) plant; the first wire and cable producer to contribute points to LEED certification, and the first to offer verified sustainable cables in over 50 products. Superior Essex Communications operates with the belief that the technology that interconnects the world should also respect it. Additional information is available at

About DLR Group

With offices around the globe housing specialized design expertise, your integrated design team is backed by the more than 1,000+ design professionals and the resources of the entire firm. This enables DLR Group to scale teams to meet your challenge and deliver specialized expertise to any location whenever, and wherever, it may be needed. Core areas of design expertise include Civic, Courts, Cultural+Performing Arts, Detention, Energy Services, Federal Markets, Healthcare, Higher Education, Hospitality, Housing, K-12 Education, Museums, Retail+Mixed-Use, Sports, and Workplace. DLR Group is a passionate advocate for sustainable design. We are an early adopter of the Architecture 2030 Challenge, and an initial signatory to the AIA 2030 Commitment and the China Accord. We believe sustainability is best judged by disciplined, systematic evaluation of high performance building metrics to measure the effectiveness of design.

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