Green buildings: shooting for the stars or arriving at average?

What is the purpose of a new green building aesthetically? Should it look like every other energy hog on the block? Or should it look different to call attention to the fact that it’s special?

That’s what I’m wondering after your comments to the post below, regarding the new LEED platinum headquarters building for the U.S. Green Building Council. Holz says “it’s got no soul,” while a conversation between Nate and I revolved around the image that the USGBC is trying to project. Nate says “USGBCs goal seems to be to bring green to the mainstream, and thus it is not surprising that they wanted their office building to look like a traditional office building.”

But why go traditional when you can go exciting?

I don’t even work in the field and I can come up with a number of reasons. It’s less of a risk if you design something that looks like everything else. And while many people might think the idea of LEED is great, there are also people out there who think it’s a load of hogwash. And heck, if you’re standing in a standard-looking building, you’ve got to search out the single USGBC plaque and know what it means before realizing you’re in a green building. What percentage of the population would even recognize the seal if they saw it?

But if you’ve got a green building that’s obviously a green building from its architecture, who knows how it will be accepted? Who knows if people will like it, or if tenants will choose it over a more common counterpart. It’s also more obvious to nay-sayers that the people who developed the building – and use it- are committed to green practices (or at least want to appear that they are).

Then again, one has to assume that if you’re going to the USGBC’s offices, you know that the people you’re about to be speaking with are green-minded.

And if the envelope is never pushed, you won’t get buildings like this:

The roof of the LEED platinum California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco by Renzo Piano
 

or Nate’s favorite:

CK Choi Building for the Institute of Asian Reserach by Matsuzaki Architects

or possibly the first living building in the country….

The Omega Center for Sustainable Living by BNIM Architects

Or the LEED gold Environmental Protection Agency Region 8 headquarters in Denver. From the outside…

From the outside, designed by Zimmer Gunsul Frasca Architects
And from the inside

Though to be fair, all the above photos are of buildings for private institutions or agencies that don’t really have to worry about market forces.

What do you think? Should really green buildings look like everything else or do they need to look mainstream for reasons of marketability, etc.? Answer my poll at right or share your thoughts below.

And if I missed a great example of a green building that pushes the aesthetic envelope, please comment with a link to a photo of it…..