Integrating Sustainability

Integral Group Keen Engineering USGBC CanadaGBC WorldGBC Bay Area LEED Kevin Hydes Stantec Sustainability Green
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Photo courtesy of Laura Kudritzki

Kevin Hydes has made Integral Group a go-to engineering and design firm for sustainable projects in the Bay Area. Luckily, the industry is just getting started.


[dropcap]A[/dropcap]s CEO and President of Integral Group, Kevin Hydes leads an interactive global network of design professionals collaborating under a single deep green engineering umbrella. The firm provides a full range of building system design and energy analysis services from sixteen offices across North America and the UK, along with an international network of affiliates. Kevin has spent the past 15 years focusing on green design and advancing its cause. Today, he is internationally recognized as a leader in sustainable design and for his contributions to the building industry.

Over the past decade Kevin has gained a reputation as an innovator, pioneer and green business leader, creating transformative strategies while in the role of president and CEO of Keen Engineering and Vice President of Stantec. Kevin served as the Chair of the USGBC for 2005-2006, was a founder and director of CanadaGBC and a former Chair of the WorldGBC.

TR: What is the state of the sustainability/green movement in the Bay Area? Can we even call it a movement anymore?

HYDES: Sustainability and green building has become business as usual through leadership in the public and private sectors. We continue to innovate by recognizing the benefits of key cost-effective sustainability, zero carbon and resilience strategies, capitalizing on the innovations that are abundant in this region. The “movement” is broadening and deepening.

TR: For several years, there was a healthy dose of skepticism in the region about the value of sustainable construction. While some cited minimal incremental cost to develop a sustainable building, others had a different experience. Would you say that this skepticism still exists in the market or has it overcome some of those early thoughts?

HYDES: I don’t think it is skepticism, it’s more like too busy or too comfortable. At this point, the market is hot and many people won’t or can’t put the effort into advancing the practice of sustainable construction. A baseline of sustainability is expected, and it’s often measured by LEED and even Title 24 compliance, which is really the floor here in California, not a stretch.

TR: What are the things that are most relevant to your clients today? How do they approach development and why do they hire you?

HYDES: They hire us because we are pragmatists, not theorists. Our clients in all locations want to see actionable and cost-effective innovation. This is what we deliver.

At this point in history the industry has a lot of “state of the shelf” technologies that are readily available, economic and continually improving in performance. Taking a look on every project early as to what is affordable and available, is always our first step. With a continuous re-referencing of the targets we need to hit and ultimately aiming at a trajectory of net zero.

TR: Some of the corporate end users seem to be more invested in the sustainable movement, and they are promulgating that across the globe in their locations around the world. Do you see the development community in the Bay Area following their lead more closely?

HYDES: The global companies in the area are demanding efficiency and elegant and clean spaces for their people. They are demanding healthy spaces and owners and developers are responding.

It is exciting to see our major clients using health as a unifying target, which integrates all of the goals we know we need to target, but in a simpler singular message around healthy people, healthy spaces, healthy communities leading to a healthier planet.

TR: What are some trends that come to mind in this space that you feel will be interesting to follow and perhaps transformational in the future?

HYDES: Health and well-being is the big shift that will take over the industry. A sort of “wellness tsunami.” This is the turn shifting our approach from centralized to local personal control. Additionally, there is an energy transition also underfoot, from centralized to decentralized energy systems. While this shift has been in the works for some time, it is now picking up steam with cheap renewables, viable energy storage technologies, and a supportive policy framework. And I hope to see the same sort of transition occur with water systems—there is so much more we can do with local water reuse.

TR: What are some of the typical hurdles that you encounter with the projects that you lead?

HYDES: The typical hurdles are:

“We looked at that 6 months ago and it didn’t pencil.”

“That’s easy for the Europeans to do, but we are different.”

“That will never work.”

Our approach is to bring real current data to the table from other projects with real examples of cost and performance, [and] taking clients to see for themselves how these approaches work and work well, we use all our offices as technology and systems incubators to test out systems and new technologies on our selves first, then our clients second. This allows us to understand the characteristics and nuances of systems , including often some untended consequences or even system failure.

TR: Are you optimistic about 2016? Why?

HYDES: Very optimistic. This region is leading the world in a meta-shift in our design, construction and delivery of buildings for the future.

TR: What are the largest issues in your mind facing the commercial real estate industry today in the Bay Area?

HYDES: Affordability—Availability—Accessibility.

TR: What are we not asking that we should be asking?

HYDES: What happened in Paris? California is a global leader and can we take the pulse of where we are and where we are heading?

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