MMA Featured in AIA: Architecture in Turbulent Times: Spotlight on sustainability

Thanks to the AIA for featuring Mathison | Mathison Architects as a growing firm who focuses on progressive improvement, not postponing perfection.


Mathison/Mathison Architects is growing. But Megan Feenstra Wall, AIA, can still remember when the Grand Rapids firm worked out of an office over the founder’s garage.

Recognizing “the joys and challenges” of small firms and sole proprietors – who must manage everything from bringing in business to keeping paper in the copier – Wall sympathizes with the idea that prioritizing sustainability can seem like an insurmountable challenge. “When you already wear so many hats, how can you add one more?” she posits. “How do you compete with firms who have a sustainability director or an entire sustainability team?”

That’s where the unique attributes of small firms come in. For starters, small firms can be “quick on their feet,” and the Framework can help: “It’s already there, with a toolkit to back it up.”

Wall has advice for using the Framework: “As a document, it’s not limiting. It’s rather freeing, and it fits with the design process. If this is a new document to you, I would recommend just pulling it out for one project and see what happens. I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised.”

She encourages small firms to “start where you are” and pursue “progressive improvement, not postponed perfection.”

Small firms can have “big relationships” – bonding with influential clients as neighbors and fellow small business owners. Any given project may have a small sustainability impact in itself, but when clients are decision-makers in their communities, and they understand the value that’s been added, the community influence can expand well beyond one project.

Referring to a recent residential project that used window coatings and overhangs to achieve energy savings while meeting the client’s aesthetic demands, Wall says: “What client doesn’t want to hear you tell them that you’ve captured key views, and you’re harvesting free daylight, or free warmth or prevailing breezes?”


Read the full article HERE.