Elle Decor features WATERSHED in April 2021 issue: Beyond Green: Building our Sustainable Future

Designing Watershed Moments

by Sean Huncherick for Elle Decor

photos by Ted Miles

Architecture and consulting firm WATERSHED demonstrates that green building can be affordable, sustainable, and most importantly, nurturing to both clients and the environment.

Born into a family of engineers and artists, WATERSHED principal Rebecca Dunn Bryant, AIA, seemed destined for a career in design, but her training in social ecology laid the foundation for a unique architectural practice focused on the health and wellness of both people and the environment.
“I was drawn to this field by a desire to create ‘green’ buildings that restore ecological health. What I found is that buildings have a profound impact on human health as well,” says Bryant. “It’s all connected.”

Whether designing an urban townhouse, a school, or a rural retreat, Bryant looks for opportunities to reconnect people to nature in ways that benefit both the client and their environment. “Exposure to daylight and views of nature are critical to maintaining healthy circadian rhythms, sleep cycles, mood, and attention,” she explains. “Daylight harvesting impacts the shape of our roofs, window placement, and every other aspect of design. An energy efficient, daylit home has a smaller carbon footprint and nurtures the occupants.”

In WATERSHED’s design process, Bryant also stresses the importance of building materials. “Selecting healthy building materials is like choosing healthy food,” she notes. “I prioritize local, minimally processed, and clean ingredients. Screening out toxic material ingredients has a positive ripple effect all the way up the supply chain, benefiting not only our clients, but the workers that manufacture the materials and the communities that live near manufacturing sites.”

“Design impacts our world whether we are conscious of the impacts or not,” she adds. “WATERSHED’s mission is to design for positive impact.”

IMAGE DETAILS: Northern light washes a blackened steel fireplace from above, brightening the core of the living space. A wood planked island echoes the dark stain of exterior siding, while abundant windows and houseplants bring nature indoors. The black stain on the exterior of this home from WATERSHED is made from pine tar—a natural product once used to seal Viking ships.

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