Raising the Bar on Arizona’s Environmental Excellence

Raising the Bar on Arizona’s Environmental Excellence

The usual suspects arrived in style at the Arizona Grande Resort ballroom this September for one of the state’s premier events. For its 36th year, Arizona Forward sponsored its environmental excellence awards program, shining a spotlight on some of the community’s signature efforts to balance environmental sustainability with economic vitality.

The foyer was brimming with dignitaries anxious to learn who had won coveted Crescordia Awards for embracing sustainability, conserving natural resources and preserving our unique desert environment. Partitioning the room were kiosks with storyboards highlighting the award entries in this year’s program while representatives of state and municipal governments mingled among them with developers, architects, landscape designers, artists, educators and other guests. Julie Wolf of Thinking Caps Design was there, having served as a jurist for the Art in Public Places category of this year’s program.

Arizona Forward is the preeminent organization for bringing business and civic leaders together to dialogue on quality of life issues and improve the sustainability of local communities. The Environmental Excellence awards are a testament to the group’s extraordinary success translating words into action.

Once the doors of the expansive ballroom flung open, the evening’s guests were welcomed to an exhilarating program hosted genially by Ted Simons, host of PBS’ nightly public affairs program Arizona Horizon. A complete listing of program winners can be found here but some of our personal favorites at Thinking Caps Design were the following:

  • The Northern Arizona University International Pavilion (Cover Image): This dynamic, multiuse gathering and learning space won the President’s Award for Special Achievement in Environmental Excellence. Designed by RSP Architects and built by Kinney Construction Services, this net zero LEED Platinum building demonstrates that responding to climate change can be both striking and practical.
  • Kornegay Design: We’ were already big fans of Larry Kornegay’s hand-cast concrete planter designs, but knowing how much effort went into transforming an abandoned battery manufacturing facility into the urban oasis that is now Kornegay Design makes us absolutely giddy. Hats off to John Douglas Architects for this ultra-inspiring space.
  • NAU Residential Dining Post-Consumer Composting Project: This first-of-its kind waste reduction program in higher education excited the geek side of our studio. Waste food from plates students send to the dish return and pre-consumer kitchen trim are dehydrated and used to amend soil for landscaping programs around campus. In an academic week, NAU is averaging 3.25 tons of compostable material – doubling the dining halls output of compostable material – and setting an example for universities nationwide.

Congratulations to all the organizations that submitted entries for Arizona Forward’s Environmental Excellence Awards. The leadership exhibited at this noteworthy program is inspiring and more of this innovative thinking is needed to assure a thriving and sustainable future for our community.


2016 Winner of President’s Award, The NAU International Pavillion