Buildings Masdar Headquarters by Adrian Smith + Gordon Gill Architecture. (Copyright)

Published on October 27th, 2012 | by Zachary Shahan


Interview with Designer of World’s 1st Net Zero–Energy Skyscraper & World’s 1st Large-Scale Positive-Energy Building — Gordon Gill

October 27th, 2012 by  

I recently had the fortunate chance to interview Gordon Gill, “one of the world’s preeminent exponents of performance-based design” and a trendsetter in the realm of net–zero energy and net-positive–energy design. Gordon will be a featured speaker at the upcoming Total Energy USA conference (you can still register for that conference here).

Gordon’s work, “which ranges from the world’s largest buildings to elements of a single home, is driven by his philosophy that there is a language of performance: a purposeful relationship between design and the performance-based criteria placed on the subject,” a Total Energy USA news release notes.

Masdar Headquarters by Adrian Smith + Gordon Gill Architecture. (Copyright)

“A founding partner of award-winning Adrian Smith + Gordon Gill Architecture, Gordon’s work includes the design of the world’s first net zero-energy skyscraper, the Pearl River Tower (designed at SOM Chicago), and the world’s first large-scale positive energy building, Masdar Headquarters.” Those are some big accomplishments.

“These landmark projects achieve energy independence by harnessing the power of natural forces on site, striking a balance with their environmental contexts,” the news release adds.

Masdar Headquarters by Adrian Smith + Gordon Gill Architecture. (Copyright)

Hopefully net zero–energy and net positive–energy architecture will be the norm soon… but can this quality of design ever be the norm?

As noted above, I was lucky enough to have the chance to interview Gordon recently. Here’s what came out of that interview:

1. You have designed the world’s first net zero–energy skyscraper, the Pearl River Tower (designed at SOM Chicago), and the world’s first large-scale positive-energy building, Masdar Headquarters. These are stunning achievements, and I imagine you must be pretty happy to have claim to those world firsts. How did you get involved in those projects?

In both cases, these were invited competitions, Pearl River at SOM and Masdar HQ at AS+GG. They were both extraordinary opportunities to display the full extent of holistic design for all the teams involved. Both of these projects have confirmed the principles of the design philosophy that Adrian and I have developed, and for that we’re extremely pleased.

2. And what are some of the main sources of inspiration and guidance you used in designing those?

In all cases, the inspiration is a confluence of evaluating environmental assets (and deficits) — to create solutions that work for all conditions. We merge those findings, along with indigenous principles, which hopefully leads to beautiful solutions that are genuinely better performing and increase savings for our clients. In both cases (Pearl River and Masdar HQ), the design for these projects was driven by adherence to the principle “Form follows Performance,” which is both scientific and artistic.

3. When did you decide to focus on green design? And what pulled or pushed you to it?

I’ve always been interested in the relationship between nature and technology and how different cultures and disciplines solve the implied conflict between them. I have chosen to embrace them both as mutually supportive of each other because I believe they’re both critical to our souls and our future. I believe that their futures are mutually inclusive.

4. Do you have any big green designs in the works that you could share with us?

We have been very fortunate to have many interesting projects where we can exercise our performance based principles. We have a large-scale master plan for 100,000 people in China; we are working on supertall buildings that test and integrate wind as a formal aspect of their expression and performance; we have designed net zero water buildings; and we are currently doing an in-depth research study on the relationship between density and carbon emissions within regional typologies, so we can understand the impact of certain building types on their cities and proposed plans. All of these generate vast amounts of discoveries for us that allow us to advance all our projects.

Those certainly are some awesome-sounding projects! We’ll have to check in with Gordon in the future to find out more about them as they come along. 
Get CleanTechnica’s 1st (completely free) electric car report → “Electric Cars: What Early Adopters & First Followers Want.”
Keep up to date with all the hottest cleantech news by subscribing to our (free) cleantech newsletter, or keep an eye on sector-specific news by getting our (also free) solar energy newsletter, electric vehicle newsletter, or wind energy newsletter.


Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

About the Author

is tryin' to help society help itself (and other species) one letter at a time. He spends most of his time here on CleanTechnica as its director and chief editor. Otherwise, he's probably enthusiastically fulfilling his duties as the director/editor of EV Obsession, Gas2, Solar Love, Planetsave, or Bikocity; or as president of Important Media. Zach is recognized globally as a solar energy, electric car, energy storage, and wind energy expert. If you would like him to speak at a related conference or event, connect with him via social media:, .

Back to Top ↑
  • Advertisements

  • Top Posts & Pages

  • Cool Cleantech Events

    Low Voltage Electrification Event, April 25-27. Detroit, Michigan (US)
    Delve deep into the benefits and challenges associated with EV power supply.

    Offshore Wind Market Development USA, May 11-12, Boston, Massachusetts (US)
    Network and establish your business in one of North America’s largest energy industries.

    Energy Storage USA, June 15-16, San Diego, California (US)
    Only event in the United States focused exclusively on the commercialization of storage.

    More details are on: Cleantech Events.

  • Advertisement

  • CleanTechnica Electric Car Report

    Electric Cars Early Adopters First Followers
  • Tesla Model 3 Review by EVANNEX

    Tesla Model 3 Review from EVANNEX
  • Tesla Model 3 Exclusive Video

    Tesla Model 3 Video
  • Tesla Model 3 Exclusive Pictures

    Tesla Model 3 Video
  • Tesla Model X Review #1 (Video)

    Tesla Model X Review from new owners Zach Shahan
  • Tesla Model X Review #2 (Pictures)

    Tesla Model X Review from Kyle Field
  • Tesla Model S Long-Term Review

    Tesla Model S Long Term Review from Kyle Field
  • Nissan LEAF Long-Term Review

    Nissan LEAF Long Term Review from Cynthia Shahan
  • Interview with Michael Liebreich

    Interview with Michael Liebreich
  • Interview with Akon (Teslas & Solar)

    Interview with Akon Tesla Model S Tesla Model X Solar Power Africa
  • Interview with Dr Nawal Al-Hosany

    Interview with Dr Nawal Al-Hosany
  • Interview with Gro Brundtland

    Gro Brundtland
  • Interview with President of Iceland

    President of Iceland Ólafur Ragnar Grímsson
  • Interview with Nick Sampson

    Faraday Future VP Nick Sampson
  • Interview with Dipal Barua

    Dipal Barua 1st ZFEP WInner
  • Interview with Jonathon Porritt

    Jonathon Porritt
  • Interview with Clint Wilder

    Interview with Clint Wilder
  • Interviews with Solar Impulse Pilots

    Bertrand Piccard Andre Borschberg
  • Check out more CleanTechnica Videos.

  • Join The Solar Revolution!

    Edison-solar-energy solar-energy-spill-nice-day
  • Cost of Solar Panels

  • Search the IM Network