Gallery: INTERVIEW: Paul Kephart of Rana Creek

 

As far as green roof designers go, you can’t get much more committed or accomplished than the team at Rana Creek. While their name often gets partially eclipsed by the names of their starchitect collaborators, such as William McDonough and Renzo Piano, it’s Rana Creek’s genius that yields such massive marvels as the rooftops of the Gap corporate headquarters and the California Academy of Sciences.

I discovered Rana Creek at CA Boom, the West Coast annual design show. Across a huge exhibition floor, I was drawn to Rana Creek’s living wall display, which they’d custom designed for the occasion as an example of a climate-appropriate botanical rain catchment system. Of course, the technical functions of the wall weren’t the main attractor; rather, it was the incredible artistry of the sculptural bent metal, through which succulents were penetrating by what seems like the sheer force of a plant’s irrepressible will to thrive.

It’s a metaphor for the whole organism that is Rana Creek Habitat Restoration and Living Architecture, a California-based firm with a committment to sustainable innovation matched by a tremendously impressive project portfolio. When I met the two team representatives, Freya Bardell and Brent Bucknum, both were adamant that I speak with with their Exective Director, Paul Kephart, who they made to sound like an ecological prophet with a vision for the future that must be heard.

As it turns out, their zeal was not unfounded. A few weeks later, I had a chance to interview Paul, and gain a broader understanding of the mission and philosophy underlying Rana Creek’s tenacious green pursuits. Beginning as a painter on the Big Sur coast with a passion for natural habitats, Paul is now a leading restoration ecologist and resource planner. It was a delight to have a conversation with such a deeply knowledgeable, wholeheartedly committed, and genuinely optimistic innovator.

The interview to follow us the first part of two – you can check out our second interview here.

Sarah: So tell me how you’ve seen the interest level in green roofs evolve since you began.

Paul: Well, there is a great interest today, that’s for sure! When I first started, there was less. A lot of these great ideas started with some art and science integration, and all of the tenets and houses that support psychological and natural processes. When I did the project with Bill McDonough at the Gap [Headquarters in San Bruno, California], it was a little far out – a green roof in a Mediterranean climate. But now things are happening, and I think people are beginning to understand what is sustainable and what isn’t. People are beginning to recognize the importance of sustainable design and planning and construction. And they are starting to see the economic benefits, as well. I am pretty encouraged. Having spent 20 years doing this and now seeing it as both “main street” and “mainstream” is really a rewarding and fulfilling experience.

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7 Comments

  1. Becky Bryan March 29, 2007 at 5:53 pm

    WOW. I am impressed with this guy. No woonder my mother always liked him best.

  2. Inhabitat » INTER... March 23, 2007 at 1:23 pm

    [...] which combines the expertise of John Todd’s wetland-based system well as Rana Creek’s rainwater collection and wastewater remediation strategies. The project is truly a feat of not just [...]

  3. Michael G. Richard July 28, 2006 at 5:37 am

    Green roofs are definitely up there (no pun intended), IMHO.

    Excellent interview, can’t wait for the rest.

  4. Inhabitat » Blog ... July 25, 2006 at 5:34 am

    [...] Last week we published the first half of an interview with Paul Kephart of Rana Creek Habitat Restoration and Living Architecture. Paul has brought his ecological brilliance to the design tables of some of the world’s leading architects. But it’s not just the celeb-scale projects that excite him. In fact, Paul’s enthusiasm is clearest when he speaks of Rana Creek’s public projects, and of introducing principles of sustainability into urban communities where nature is scarce. [...]

  5. Owen Schoppe July 24, 2006 at 11:37 pm

    What is troubling is the lack of attention to material. While he talks about going beyond adornment, the building itself is not fundamentally different from those without green roofs; it is still built of steel and concrete and roofed with rubber. Further, the geoweb that can be seen in the installation photos it designed to last 100 years and possibly much longer. What happened to the concept of design for deconstruction? What happens when the building is demolished in 50 years and the soil is filled with petroleum textiles? Sure, green roofs are a great idea, but don’t stop there; the whole building needs to be energy conscious and RECYCLABLE.

  6. Matt Fiori July 20, 2006 at 3:20 am

    I like what you had to say about the “closed-loop” grey water systems; now all we need is to be designing closed-loop energy systems for buildings, where the energy needs of a structure, or group of structures are met through the incorporation of renewable power units and energy efficient design. Decentralized power. Probably not a new concept, but is it going to be done during the upcoming redevelopment of California?

  7. Dick Smith July 18, 2006 at 3:57 pm

    Very impressive!!!! And all I thought he was good at was catching big fish! Shows what I know.

    Can hardly wait for Part II..

    $D

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