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An Architect for the Green-Friendly Masses

An Architect for the Green-Friendly Masses

Jill Kurtz believes it's time for architects to start serving the other 80 percent.

San Francisco boasts a ban on plastic grocery bags and a high-end public transportation system. Its policies—including its "green" citywide building code—are more aggressive on environmental concern than most. This is what attracted architect Jill Kurtz, 31, to the city; she thought it was "the epicenter" of the sustainability movement. She discovered, though, that "San Francisco is not leaps and bounds ahead of many other big cities. There are still a lot of people here who are just figuring sustainability out, or . . . still wanting to do 'business as usual.' "

Kurtz, a Christian, also noticed that many SF companies "made sustainability unaffordable, especially to clients who are just starting to explore what it means to be better stewards of energy." Having graduated from architecture school only a few years earlier, Jill decided she wanted to address that issue. She and a friend launched their own firm, reBuild, "to make sustainability accessible for people who couldn't afford high-end consulting," Kurtz says.

Kurtz's passion for design began early. "I still remember the moment at 12 when I decided to become an architect," Kurtz says. At her father's office (he was a building contractor) she found some home design magazines and soon was plotting out alternatives on gridded paper. Her passion for "green" building emerged while at Kansas State University's College of Architecture, Planning & Design. There, she became the first student to earn Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification, indicating mastery of green design, engineering, and building practices that reduce waste, improve energy efficiency, and promote health.

reBuild's first local clients were two newly minted dentists. Sara Creighton and Jared Pool wanted their building in SF's Washington Square Park to attain LEED certification. "We wanted to implement . . . sustainability all throughout our entire practice," Creighton says. "We went paperless, chose better cleaning products, and reused old dental chairs." With reBuild's help, the dentists reduced their building's standard lighting power by 25 percent and improved its air quality by 30 percent by increasing the outside air ventilation.

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