Green Influencers: Bercy Chen Studio
Bercy Chen Studio is an architectural and urban planning firm co-founded by Calvin Chen and headquartered in Austin, Texas. It is a member of the City of Austin’s Green Building Program and the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC), and has won numerous awards, including the Emerging Voices award from The Architectural League of New York.
Interior Design: What are some of Bercy Chen Studio’s green practices?
Calvin Chen: People have been talking about sustainability for decades. In the ’70s, it was associated with hippie bungalows with rainwater collection tanks and gutters. We try to take these utilitarian features and turn them into aesthetics, so we have this parallel approach when thinking about the design of a building and its sustainable aspect.
ID: One of your projects, the Edgeland House in Austin, Texas, was built on a brownfield. What are some of its other sustainable features?
CC: It has a seasonal green roof, which we collaborated with the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center to reintroduce more than 30 native wildflowers and plants. This feature is not just for enjoyment, it brought back insects, birds, and other wildlife.
ID: Many people think that sustainable design is costly, but that’s not always the case. For your East Village project you maintained your green practices but in a cost-effective manner. How did you do this?
CC: We tried to achieve efficiency through modularity by working with only four unit types while also creating an overall effect that’s not uniform. One strategy we used was making the building work harder, so we installed red panels that serve as a sun-shading device and also as guardrails on the balconies. So they serve multiple purposes.
ID: Do you think Austin is a more forward-thinking community in terms of sustainability when compared to other U.S. cities?
CC: I think there’s a level of consciousness here in Austin, but I don’t know why that is. There’s more interest here than elsewhere. I can’t speak for other people, but I do notice that we have a lot of clients come to us requesting sustainable features. Clients here will request more high-tech, expensive features, but we’re also using a lot of low cost, time-tested strategies. A good example is Edgeland House, which was modeled after a Native American pit house.
ID: What is the most current project you’re working on?
CC: We’re doing a project in Fredericksburg, Texas, that’s still in the conceptual design phase. The owner has some pliable solar panels, and we’re working on the idea of making them into a giant canopy to give shade to the home, while also generating electricity.