The Natural Next Step

Kenne Shepherd, LEED-certified architect, vocalizes the need for a more “green” NYC

Kenne Shepherd, founder of Kenne Shepherd Interior Design Architecture PLLC and LEED-certified industry titan, started her career as an architect in Seattle working for NBBJ on large projects, such as the Olympic Hotel and a VA hospital, when she quickly realized that her passion was more than base building architecture.

Shepherd, who prefers a more hands-on approach to design, transferred to the interiors division at NBBJ, knowing that she could do more to impact the daily lives of clients.

“I’ve always been very interested in how the individual interacts within an environment and the power of the environment that shapes us,” Shepherd said. “I really believe that green design brings harmony and joy into everyday life.”

During that time, Shepherd became very involved in city planning, as the city of Seattle was rezoning and invited citizens to present land use plans for the future development of the city. She worked with Allied Arts and Citizens Alliance for an Urban Seattle to develop a plan, which fostered a 24/7 live-work community downtown.

Knowing it was the correct next step, Shepherd made the decision to take a year-long sabbatical in Paris to study an urban city that boasts a 24/7 live-work community at its core.

Returning to the U.S., New York was the natural choice. Shepherd was fortunate to join a prestigious interior design firm, Owen & Mandolfo, advancing to senior associate. One of her last projects for the firm was an award-winning store for Davidoff of Geneva, which was featured on the cover of Interior Design Magazine—the perfect accomplishment before launching her own firm.

Always having felt strongly about the need to protect the environment and to safeguard it for future generations pushed Shepherd to become LEED-certified, and to ultimately design projects that help protect the environment and enhance the client’s live-work life.

LEED, or Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, is a certification program that indicates how “green” a building or environment is and how well it complies with LEED requirements in terms of energy conservation, water usage, air quality, and building materials during construction and thereafter.

Buildings are responsible for an enormous amount of global energy use, resource consumption, and greenhouse gas emissions. In the U.S. alone, buildings account for almost 40 percent of our national CO2 emissions.

In recent years, there has been a larger push for LEED-certified buildings, which boast 34 percent lower CO2 emissions, consume 25 percent less energy and 11 percent less water, and have diverted more than 80 million tons of waste from landfills.

Becoming a LEED-certified professional was a natural outgrowth of Shepherd’s concern about protecting the environment and reducing the impact of climate change.

Shepherd, who became LEED-certified in 2007, elected to add the Interior Design + Construction specialty to her LEED AP several years ago, making her a LEED AP ID+C.

As movements such as #StopSucking, a movement that targets the usage of plastic straws and the damaging effect on the planet, take place and gain traction amongst cities such as San Francisco and Seattle, both of which have banned plastic straw usage, and large companies like Starbucks, which is dedicated to phasing out its famous green straw to be replaced with “sippy lids,” the architecture and design industry also aims to implement new, environmentally sustainable products and designs to divert waste and save energy.

“A critical element in the design of environmentally sustainable buildings are the advances in building construction technology,” Shepherd said. “The building industry as a whole has become much more energy efficient and compliant with LEED, as we see better design choices in furniture and finishes, such as plumbing fixtures that reduce water consumption, LED light fixtures that use less energy, and sustainable wall covering and upholstery.”

Moving forward, Shepherd sees more residential and commercial buildings becoming eco-friendly and sustainable due to the large push from the millennial generation.

“One of the top concerns of the millennial generation is sustainability and protecting the environment.” Shepherd continued, “[Millennials] are demanding environmentally sound design and buildings, and this will continue to have a profound impact on the marketplace and environment.”

The general public has also become more aware of the importance of sustainable design and is rewarding architects, owners, and builders with their dollars.

As for how politics plays a role, Shepherd insists more can be done, and that while she has seen a recent influx in the popularity of natural materials, the government can and should act as a catalyst that moves the population towards sustainability.

“We live on a planet of finite sources. The most important thing we can do is use these resources judiciously to ensure they will be there for the next generations,” Shepherd emphasized.

According to the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC), there are currently more than 1,900 LEED-certified buildings in NYC, and Shepherd’s hope is that these numbers will double or triple in the next five years as people continue to become more aware of how important the construction of sustainable energy efficient buildings is to improving the quality of current and future life.

As for what to expect of the industry in the future, Shepherd says continued innovation and more energy efficient solutions. There is still room for technology to up its game in terms of coming up with more energy efficient and “smart” solutions. Architects and designers will be able to implement intelligent solutions into design as they are provided with more tools to do so.

Currently, Kenne Shepherd Interior Design Architecture PLLC is designing a residential renovation in a landmark building, the Alwyn Court on West 58th Street. With many restrictions and regulations in place, due to its historic status, Shepherd’s firm had to be very innovative and creative, while still following through with a “green” environment that was best for the client. The result was a highly customized environment that met the requirements of the building, Landmark Preservation Committee, and the NYC Department of Buildings.

Whether designing a residential renovation at the Alwyn Court, upgrading the existing educational buildings at Columbia University Medical Center, or creating beautiful environments at the Yares Art Gallery and the Edwynn Houck Gallery (both located at 745 Fifth Avenue), Shepherd’s firm is committed to the principals of LEED, sustainable design, and upgrading our built environment.

The firm is excited to continue its growth and to design residential, retail, gallery, and institutional projects for its clients that boast uniquely customized environments that are both sustainable and cost effective, in addition to remaining vocal about the importance of sustainability and educating clients.

“My goal is for the world to be as lush and green for our children and grandchildren as the world we’ve enjoyed,” Shepherd said.

And, with a continued effort in sustainable design, we may just leave it that way.

Add Comment

Click here to post a comment