Robert Berkebile

Photo: Jonathan Greene

Robert Berkebile

Special Focus on the Environment
15th Heinz Awards - 2009

Robert Berkebile received the 15th Heinz Award – Special Focus on the Environment – for his role in promoting green building design and for his commitment and action towards restoring social, economic and environmental vitality to America’s communities through sustainable architecture and planning.

As the founder of the American Institute of Architects’ (AIA) National Committee on the Environment, Mr. Berkebile has been one of the central forces behind a new focus on sustainable building that has influenced thousands of architects and changed the face of green architecture in America. He has devoted himself to improving the world through his profession, embracing the cause of sustainability and responsible environmental design practices.

Mr. Berkebile, a partner in BNIM Architects, Kansas City, Mo., experienced a personal epiphany after a Kansas City hotel he helped design collapsed in the early 1980s. Though not caused by his design, that experience challenged him to devote his career to harnessing the field of architecture to make a better world.

As a founding member of the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC), Mr. Berkebile helped to develop the council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, or LEED, rating system, a voluntary, consensus-based standard for developing high-performance, sustainable buildings. Since its inception in 1998, LEED has grown to encompass more than 14,000 projects in the United States and 30 countries.

Mr. Berkebile is a pioneer in restorative design with the goal of integrating social, environmental and economic vitality. His sustainable design and planning projects range from redeveloping plans for the former naval base in Charleston, S.C. to restoring towns along the Mississippi River severely damaged by natural disasters, including New Orleans.

Note: This profile was written at the time of the awards’ presentation.

In nature, the place where two ecosystems meet is where all the activity, all the exchange is found. I think the same is true in designing communities and buildings. If we explore the edges and look for ways to integrate and soften, we’ll find some of the greatest opportunities for breakthrough-scale improvements.”

— Robert Berkebile


Robert Berkebile, Architect, Champion of Sustainable Green Building Design - Heinz Awardee

Robert Berkebile, Heinz Awardee speech, 2009 Heinz Awards presentation, National Portrait Gallery