Meet John Pearce
Former Duke University architect John Pearce, Jr. may have retired last year, but he’s still juggling a busy schedule.
Long before the LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) building standard evolved into the eco-chic badge it is today, Pearce was thinking about sustainability and drawing up master plans for the university.
“We didn’t do projects for the short-haul like developers,” says the 72-year-old who took the top architectural job at Duke in 1992. “We did them for the long haul.”
As a Yale architecture student 50 years ago, Pearce was trained to see a building not as an independent work of art, but as an integral part of its natural surroundings. It should take advantage of the wind and harness the sun, he was taught.
As a young man, he traveled to Iran, India and Japan, studying wind patterns, natural cooling methods, and the importance of water in people’s lives.
But it wasn’t until the second half of his career that Pearce started integrating energy efficiency deeply into his work. As the ski industry came of age in the late 1960s, Pearce had the opportunity to design a number of houses in Colorado that tapped geothermal power, and incorporated new energy efficiency technologies.
As an architect, Pearce tends to frame sustainability in aesthetic terms. On solar panels, he waxes poetically about how they create a graceful linkage between a building and the sun. An architect using panels must think of a building’s orientation and how energy will be transferred to and used by the inhabitants.
Giving to Clean Energy Durham as a 2030 Society Founder is Pearce’s way of tipping his hat to practical, community-based energy savings—what he calls “the Durham piece” of his legacy at Duke University.
2030 Society members have pledged multi-year support and recognize Clean Energy Durham as a community leader helping the city and county reach their goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 30% by the year 2030.
–Profile by Clean Energy Durham Volunteer Thibault Worth
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