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Benjamin Van Eps on the Evolution of Sustainable Design Practices

This Q&A is part of a series of interviews with BRP architects, designers, and others in the firm about their career journey, and the impact that architecture and design can have on our communities and the collective human experiences. Today, we sat down with Benjamin Van Eps to explore his architectural journey, from high school exposure to evolving industry trends, gaining insights into notable projects, significant changes in practice, and a strong commitment to sustainable design, offering valuable advice for aspiring architects."

1. Can you briefly describe your background and how you got started in the field of architecture?

My first exposure to what I thought architecture was started in high school shop class of all places.  We weren’t discussing architectural design, history, or the buildings.  My shop teacher, appropriately named Mr. Carpenter, required that we generate Autocad drawings of our proposed shop projects before we ever stepped foot in the shop.  The same as we review the quality of our drawing details before going to a general contractor, Mr. Carpenter did the same thing for our construction drawings of our wood shop projects.   My path from high school, through architecture school, to architectural internship was focused on the goal of becoming a licensed architect.  


2. Can you share some highlights from your professional journey in the architecture industry? Any particular memorable projects or milestones?

Every project is memorable!  Projects ranging from elevated design and high complexity to projects that are simple and economical in nature all have their unique moments that carry forward for an entire career.  For me, every project provides a platform to flex my critical thinking, problem solving skills, and creativity.  All the while, every project offers learning opportunities if you are tuned in to finding those small nuances that make you a better architect on the next project.  I think the one universal architect milestone is the day you celebrate passing your final architectural registration exam.   The culmination of school, study, and practice leading to an architectural license is special.     


3. How has the architecture industry evolved since you began your career? What significant changes or trends have you observed?

I have been practicing architecture long enough to see significant changes in how we practice architecture.   The art of practicing architecture has changed significantly with advancement of both computer and building technologies.  The number of design iterations and the fundamental understanding owner’s now have of a project before a shovel is ever planted in the dirt has significantly changed the design and construction process.   We are able to show the owner in real time precisely how a building will look and perform utilizing the technologies we now have at our fingertips.   The architectural industry has also become more complex in terms of contractual obligations and building science evolution.  This has in many ways increased the number of team members associated with a project.  Some aspects of projects require a level of expertise that general practice architects don’t specifically have.  As architects, we try to be experts at everything but the day you realize you can’t know it all, the stronger your ability to lead a team to the best architectural solution.   


Are there any sustainable or environmentally friendly practices that you integrate into your architectural designs?

In today’s architectural and construction industry, sustainability is integral to the design process of every project.  By virtue of modern-day building codes, local jurisdiction requirements, or an owner’s own goal to achieve a specific sustainable certification impact the design and construction process from day one. Thinking about how designs and the construction of those designs impact the environment is a fundamental part of architecture.  Architects of today and tomorrow have a responsibility to practice in a sustainable manner.  


What advice do you have for aspiring architects who are just starting their careers? Is there anything you wish you had known when you were starting out?

Be patient – it’s called an architectural “practice” for a reason.  There are many intricacies to learn beyond “design”.  As an intern or practicing architect, it’s important to know that many of the lessons learned will come by virtue of doing something in error.  It’s important to learn something new every day and that you can carry to all the future projects that will come your way.     Be passionate about your architecture.  Your passion will translate directly to a project during the design process, the construction phase, and ultimately the final product delivered.


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