Distill Studio designs buildings that are both innovative and sustainable. Started by Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) graduate Joe Haskett in 2007, Distill’s emphasis on energy efficiency and sustainability is already distinguishing it from other local firms, but what really makes them stand out is their progressive approach to the building process. Distill practices Integrated Design, a collaborative front-loaded alternative to the traditional design-bid-build linear approach.
Haskett describes how traditionally an owner/developer finds an architect, describes his/her vision to them, the architect then conveys the information to consultants who then describe it to sub-consultants, and this thread reverses itself back and forth as each entity works on developing this uniquely complicated project in isolation. Each player makes separate cost assumptions, often leading to cost over-runs, which can threaten the project’s financing and viability. In the Integrated Design approach, the owner/developer, architect, consultants, sub-consultants, banker, and builder are all brought together on day one, with Distill serving as the project facilitator. Goals and costs are defined collectively, with competitive bidding at the sub-contractor level only, resulting in more on-time, on-budget completions. Sustainable elements are integrated from the beginning, which is a lot cheaper than layering them on later.
Haskett believes designers must “make the business case” for sustainable building: rather than trying to persuade developers to build sustainably because it is “the right thing” to do, they need to demonstrate how sustainable, energy-efficient design saves building owners money.
Haskett and his wife moved from Milan and New York City, respectively, to Providence, when Haskett enrolled in RISD’s School of Architecture to gain his professional degree. They stayed because they were struck by the city’s creative, entrepreneurial energy and its community of innovators who are constantly pushing the city forward, and they wanted to be a part of it. “Providence is a little gem,” says Haskett, “I want to help in realizing its full potential.”