Launch Slideshow

Firm Profile: Cannon Design

Firm Profile: Cannon Design

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    © Tim Wilkes Photography

    State University of New York at Buffalo, William R. Greiner Hall, Buffalo, N.Y.

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    Thompson-McClellan

    University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Lincoln Hall, Champaign, Ill.

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    Ema Peter Photography

    Capilano University, Bosa Centre for Film and Animation, North Vancouver, British Columbia

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    © Christopher Barrett

    Cannon Design, Chicago Office, Chicago.

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    © Gayle Babcock/Architectural Imageworks

    UT-Battelle, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Modernization Program, Oak Ridge, Tenn.

To delve deeper into the case studies for our Spring 2013 issue, ECOSTRUCTURE asked each firm to detail its experiences with sustainable design. These offices didn’t just happen upon commissions for their respective projects—rather, they’re all well-versed in integrating high-performance strategies into their designs. Below we take a closer look at some of the core values that shape each firm’s ethos.

Location: 15 Offices: Baltimore, Boston, Buffalo, Chicago, Los Angeles, Mumbai, New York, Phoenix, San Francisco, Shanghai, St. Louis, Toronto, Vancouver, Victoria, Washington, D.C.
Key sustainability leaders: Rand Ekman, AIA, LEED Fellow; John Syvertsen, FAIA; John M. Swift Jr.; Jeffery H. Nudi; Punit Jain, AIA 
Date Founded: 1945
Size: 1,000 employees
Little-known fact: Cannon Design was founded by two brothers: one was an architect and the other was an engineer. Keeping to this tradition, Cannon Design remains and integrated A/E practice to this day.

What was the biggest lesson you learned from the Indiana University Health (IUH) Neuroscience Center? 
Rand Ekman, AIA, LEED Fellow, director of sustainability: Affordability and first cost does not preclude accomplishment of a high-performing, LEED-certified building. A focused design team can achieve results within a limited budget.

What insights from this and other sustainable projects would you share with other professionals?
A blending of high performance and design narrative will yield notable results. Team collaboration and performance analysis work hand-in-hand to craft form, aesthetic and sustainability.

What is your firm's philosophy on sustainable design?
At the heart of Cannon Design’s vision is our dedication to improving the quality of life wherever we work. In pursuing this vision, the firm aims to become a regenerative practice—one that works to enhance, improve, restore, and deepen people’s lives and our relationship to the natural environment. We are committed to environmental leadership in our project work and our business practices. As architects, engineers, designers, planners, and builders, we are responsible for the built environment, and this responsibility extends to both sides of our threshold–to our clients and to ourselves. Our work is a complex, beautiful, sometimes clumsy, often heroic human construct within real finite limits that the design profession is just starting to recognize. Cannon Design's aim is to become a truly regenerative practice. This is poetry, science, and good business.

What kinds of sustainable solutions are non-negotiable for your firm? What are the baseline standards your firm aims to meet with every project?
We are committed to a baseline level of analysis and performance. We are a signatory and active participant in the AIA 2030 Commitment. We perform energy model analysis on all of our project work with the intent of meeting the energy efficiency goals as outlined by the AIA 2030 Commitment. We are committed to materials, product and system selection and specification that is informed and focused on human and ecological health. As a part of our project process, each project employs the owner's project requirements and a robust basis of design as team integration tools. We view the building design activity as a moment in a building's life and employ a life-cycle approach to project delivery and client services.

What are the top energy-saving features you put in your projects?
Cannon Design is a fully integrated design firm with mechanical, electrical, lighting, plumbing and IT engineering professionals. This allows us to deliver integrated building systems such as daylighting and lighting strategies that utilize low-energy lighting LED technologies with glazing selection and controls. We have also had positive experience in some climates with ground source heat pump systems.

How do you think these types of innovative green solutions, products, and strategies, might become standard?
It may seem odd, but one of the most effective tools we have is to harness competition among design professionals with a race to be the first in "green."  A race to gain an innovative certification, win awards, or other friendly competition among professionals is tremendously effective in moving the field along. We need awards for great thermal bridge free details, innovative air barrier techniques and other technical aspects of our profession. Beyond this we need much tougher codes, especially in the area of site verified air tightness standards to push up the floor from the bottom, and we need all of us to sign on to continuing education to percolate innovative ideas down from the top.

Read more about Cannon Design's Indiana University Health (IUH) Neuroscience Center in ECOSTRUCTURE's case study.