Interview with an Architect: Jeffrey Green Has ‘Aging in Place’ Design Know-How

jeffrey green

In our ongoing series, Interview with an Architect, we speak with leading voices in the North Texas architecture community and learn about their work, development issues in our community, and good design practices and principals (you can read the last one here).

Jeffrey L. Green sees artistry in a home renovation, finding “the potential in what is existing and breathing new life into a home that many might not consider salvageable.”

Jeffrey Green, AIA

Jeffrey Green, AIA

This is something he practices as Vice President of Architectural Interior Design and Construction Administrator at Dallas-based PBH Construction.

PBH Construction is his family’s business, and Green helped with many projects before joining in 2009. His design and build experience includes new constructions, rebuilds, and renovations of single-family and multi-family residential homes, as well as commercial, retail, and institutional spaces.

In addition to older homes, Green is passionate about older people—namely, helping them build or re-create their homes so they can age in place. This is a big topic in the architecture community now largely because of the 76.4 million Baby Boomers, the oldest of whom will turn 70 this year.

Green is a Certified Aging-in-Place Specialist (CAPS), which makes him part of the growing dialogue on how to manage aging issues like a home’s livability for older Americans. He says this is just good design practice for all people.

“Ultimately, you want a home that is welcoming and accessible to all residents and guests,” Green said.

He earned his Bachelor of Arts degree in Architecture from Baylor University, and his Master of Architecture degree from the Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta. While attending Baylor, Green completed a cooperative program, studying one year at Washington University’s Architectural Studio in St. Louis, Mo.

Green began his career with The Preston Partnership, LLC in Atlanta. He was responsible for site planning and due diligence, schematic design and graphic visualization, 2D- and 3D-rendering development, and more.

Green’s talent for design has earned him several recognitions, including a Rosser International Fellowship Award, a winner of the 2000-2001 Otis/ACSA International Student Design Competition in Istanbul, Turkey, and a Presidential Scholarship Award.

He answered eight questions from us about his work, trends in the architectural community, modern design, and Dallas. We learned a lot!

 

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CandysDirt: What appeals to you about a home restoration? 

Jeffrey Green: I find renovation more complex and compelling than new construction. I like the challenge of having to work within a set of existing and restrictive conditions to successfully resolve the issues set forth by the client. It becomes like solving a puzzle and there usually comes a point during the design process when everything starts to “click.” Additionally, the “before” and “after” pictures prove to be a gratifying product of that process.

Most of all, I view all of my homes as living organisms with a history and story to tell. Our home is the backdrop against which the important and memorable events in our lives take place; birthday parties, Christmas gatherings, Thanksgiving dinners, baby’s first steps, a first kiss. I get the privilege of finding a way to be able to continue that story for other families.

CD: Do you think the architecture community is prepared to accommodate the demand from Baby Boomers who want to “age in place?”

JG: I still feel like this is a niche within architectural design. Any time I do a renovation, I do my best to incorporate “aging in place” strategies, regardless of the age or physical condition of the residents. I firmly believe this adds inherent value to the home. I always have this discussion with clients very early in the process and discuss the numerous benefits of planning ahead. Baby Boomers not only are planning for their own future when designing their “forever homes,” but they also want to be able to accommodate their aging parents who may be living with them.

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CD: What’s your perspective on the preservation climate in Dallas? What would you change?

JG: It seems that Dallas has a history that continues to this day of easily overlooking the importance of older buildings. I understand the practical and financial concerns of re-adapting and reusing these buildings, but this is an example on a macro scale of what I explained earlier about my passion for renovating homes. These older buildings tell our collective history and create an urban fabric that is complex and nuanced. I understand that developers sometimes find it easier and more cost effective to raze these structures and start from scratch. I also understand that city leaders, in an effort to reinvigorate previously neglected neighborhoods, are willing to make whatever deals they must in order to increase density, activity, and the tax base. I just feel that many times, they cannot see the forest for the trees.

CD: You describe your take on contemporary architecture as, “imbued with a warmth and accessibility that eschews the coldness and starkness found in a lot of modern architecture.” How do you achieve that?

JG: I believe that I can accomplish this in several ways. First, I like to incorporate natural materials such as wood and stone that both have a tactile quality and human scale to them, as well as recalling nature. This connection with nature can be emphasized by providing visual and physical connections to the outdoors. No matter where you are in the home, there should be view out, natural light, and the ability for fresh air or the ability to physically access the outdoors.

Apart from architecture, the home’s furnishing take on an important role. Filling the home with meaningful pieces of furniture and accessories helps to tell the story of the home and its inhabitants. Although I might describe myself as a minimalist, I would also say that each piece in my own home holds significance for me and helps to tell my own story. I feel like a lot of new homeowners want to fill their new home just for the sake of it without taking the time to accumulate pieces that have character and meaning.

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CD: What aspects of contemporary architecture can be brought seamlessly to a home renovation, even if that house is more traditional in its style?

JG: I have worked with several clients that wanted to do that very thing. We were able to achieve this by creating a clean, bright, monochromatic palette for the existing traditional architecture. By painting the walls, ceilings, trim and doors all the same color, the heaving moldings take on a new character. It becomes more about the quality of light, form and shadow, creating a clean backdrop for more modern furnishings. The quality and tactility of each piece are emphasized in the same way items in an art museum might take on a new importance when they are strategically placed in clean, unobtrusive surroundings. For more substantial remodel projects, I believe you can go more modern in the kitchen and bathrooms, as well as light fixtures, resulting in a more eclectic environment where both modern and traditional coexist seamlessly.

CD: What aspects of contemporary design do you think are well-suited for mainstream adoption? 

JG: I believe that the “open floorplan” concept has been incorporated into many different styles of architecture for a couple of decades now. This better reflects the more modern and disjointed way in which we live our lives in contrast with the more traditional, regimented schedules that were more common a generation ago and prior. We no longer want each domestic activity to be relegated to its own defined room, separate from all of the other rooms that might serve a singular purpose.

Additionally, I believe that rethinking windows, which is a cornerstone of modern architectural design, can and should find its way into all styles. Windows need not be just a rectangular penetration in a wall. When renovating an older home, I always assess the number and size of windows, trying to bring in as much natural light and visual connections to the outdoors as possible.

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CD: What work has been the most satisfying to you and why?

JG: My parents and I own a residential care home business together for which I do all of our design. When they first asked me to be involved in the business, I was hesitant. I had done design at other firms for seniors and found it to be less than inspiring. At that time, however, my sister-in-law was pregnant with my nephew and had asked me to help her design his nursery. I began to think about how we all excitedly want the perfect paint colors, the perfect furniture, the perfect flooring, and the perfect art work to create the perfect environment for someone at the beginning of their life.

Why are we not also taking the same care to select the perfect paint colors, the perfect furniture, the perfect flooring, and the perfect artwork to create the perfect environment for those in the waning years of their lives? I am convinced that this can have an immeasurable impact on those residents as well as their family and friends who come to visit them. If I can create a bright, clean, colorful, home-like environment for them, this has direct impact on their quality of life as well as creating the backdrop to continue those important life events; birthdays, holidays, family visits, etc. that they would otherwise be having in their own homes.

CD: What’s your favorite building in Dallas, residential or commercial, and why?

JG: My absolute favorite place in Dallas is Fair Park. I am heartened to see increased interest in plotting its future. I spent many years in Atlanta and an analogous place would be Piedmont Park. Both are large parks in urban areas that began as the grounds for a major exposition. After decades of neglect and decline, Piedmont Park now stands as a beautiful example of what might be possible here in Dallas. A place of daily activity and the venue for large scale events year round. The surrounding properties and neighborhoods are among the most valuable and sought-after in town after having been notoriously some of the most dangerous and blighted in the city. I am hopeful for Fair Park’s future; I believe that its connectivity via DART rail, as well as the architectural significance and diversity of potential uses on its campus make it, in my mind, the most undervalued asset that this city possesses.

 

If you know an architect (or are an architect!) who should be featured in this occasional column, please email Leah here.