Born and raised in Texas, David Lake has brought his love for his home state to bear on his professional career. Along with business partner Ted Flato, David Lake runs San Antonio-based Lake|Flato Architects, one of the nation’s preeminent architecture firms. David’s lifelong passion for Texas and the outdoors has shaped many of his design choices, from an emphasis on natural light and water efficiency to the use of salvaged and recycled materials. That commitment to sustainability is reflected in some impressive professional recognition. In 2006, two Lake|Flato designs were selected by the AIA Committee on the Environment as Top Ten Green Projects—the first ever double win for a firm. The firm’s innovative redesign of the Pearl Brewery compound in San Antonio is a culmination of years of sustainable building experience.
“I got into architecture in the early 1970s during the fuel crisis and immediately drifted towards alternative energies and sustainable design philosophies that were incubating at the time. I realized architecture could transform not only how we interact with one another, but how we interact with the environment. The built environment has such an enormous impact on the natural environment. So I started my professional career dedicated to designing buildings that were intrinsically a part of their place; buildings that were climactically attuned, energy efficient and resource sufficient.
“I think culturally and politically, we’ve turned our back on environmental science for too long in this country. The acknowledgement that we are at a tipping point in terms of human interaction with the natural realm has now, I think, been clearly described by a variety of authorities on the matter.
“Sustainable designs demand more of the architects and I think, rightfully, merge the science of engineering and conservation with the art in architecture. There’s a great deal of environmental engineering that goes into our buildings. We assembled a ‘green team’ of the most innovative engineers across the country to help design the UT Health Science Center and School of Nursing in Houston. The result is a benchmark building for UT Systems in terms of energy conservation and resource conservation.
“The goal for the project was to have 75% of the materials come within a 500-mile radius of the site. We used recycled aluminum throughout. We used a byproduct of coal fired plants called fly ash as an additive to the concrete in lieu of aggregate. For the building’s siding, we used recycled cypress trees salvaged from East Texas lakes. The base was constructed using brick salvaged from nearby projects. And we designed the systems to use 40% less energy than a typical building of its type by doing things like installing floor-level air conditioning ducts, tuning the elevations to maximize daylight and reusing collected rainwater.
“In some U.S. cities, developers are constructing entire city blocks of sustainable buildings that lease right away because people care about their impact on the planet. Sustainable buildings have been proven to have far healthier interiors and can be run at lower cost per foot—savings that can be passed on to potential tenants. So, it’s not just a philosophical decision; there’s a real financial benefit to building green.
“What we’re doing with the Pearl Brewery is a natural outgrowth of a desire to curtail unnecessary growth and sprawl. We want to show that downtown living can be a unique and lively experience. I think other cities in Texas are realizing that, and we’re seeing a growth in urban living. We’re seeing downtowns thrive, which is playing a huge part in making cities better and less generic.
“The state is going to double in its population in 35 years. We are faced with the enormous challenge of not losing the character of Texas, of preserving and conserving our natural environment. The Nature Conservancy has an enormous role to play in Texas because, frankly, legislation is lagging behind on acknowledging the importance of our natural world to the value of our lives. We’ve been collaborating with the Conservancy for years on projects to protect open space and minimize the impact of development in our remaining natural areas.
“Winning environmental design awards is a special affirmation that we’re designing the right way, but I think leading by example is our best legacy in terms of the built environment. We can talk all day long, but actually designing and constructing buildings that are beautiful and merge with the environment is how we meet our mission and share our vision for what architecture should be.”