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September 16, 2015

Jason McLennan starts firm to do cutting-edge projects

Jason F. McLennan, who founded the Living Building Challenge program, is opening a new architecture and planning firm that will focus on innovative design worldwide.

McLennan Design will have offices on Bainbridge Island, and work with other architectural firms and groups to create projects that McLennan said will be transformational.


“I believe that through better design, we can address the globe's most pressing problems — climate change, habitat and species loss, and social inequities — while elevating regenerative design solutions to beautiful and meaningful art forms,” he said in a press release.

The firm will design living buildings, net-zero facilities and products as well as plan neighborhoods. It has started work on a next-generation composting toilet.

McLennan Design has a partnership with Integral Group, an international engineering firm that McLennan said is noted for innovation and promoting sustainability.

He said his firm is doing master planning and architecture for what will be the world's first living-building resort, in a partnership with actor Leonardo DiCaprio. Part of the effort involves restoring the ecosystem on an island in Belize called Blackadore Caye. McLennan said the resort will fund the restoration, which otherwise would not be economically possible.

The firm is also planning some living buildings at Yale University Divinity School.

“We are working with a variety of clients that have the ability to do cutting-edge things that others can't, and can help us break new ground,” McLennan said in an interview on Tuesday.

The firm has designed a house for McLennan on Bainbridge Island that he said will be the first living-building house in the state.

Since starting the firm, he said, “people have been coming out of the woodwork in multiple countries asking if we can help them do important things where they are.”

McLennan is launching the firm with Dale Duncan and Tom Knittel.

Duncan is the managing partner. He was a principal at Helix Architecture + Design in Kansas City and has over 30 years of experience. Duncan is 2016 president of the AIA Kansas City chapter.

Knittel is a design principal along with McLennan. He formerly held that title at HOK and was associate principal at BNIM Architects. Knittel has done work with biomimicry and led design for the William Jefferson Clinton Orphanage in Haiti with the U.S. Green Building Council. He has worked on buildings and master plans, and won over 30 design awards.

McLennan also has started The Green Warrior Society in collaboration with other design and engineering firms, to provide free or deeply discounted design services for projects around the world.

The group is doing final design and construction documents for the orphanage in Haiti, and working on a healing village for Save a Warrior in Kansas City to help soldiers and first responders who have suffered serious trauma.

McLennan was a principal at BNIM Architects before joining Cascadia Green Building Council in 2006 and launching the Living Building Challenge. He said there are now Living Building Challenge projects worldwide.

By the end of the year, McLennan will step down as CEO of International Living Future Institute and become chair of the board.

Denis Hayes, a Living Future Institute board member and CEO of the Bullitt Foundation in Seattle, said McLennan has changed the landscape of design and construction over the last decade with the Living Building Challenge.

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