Five Questions With: Kenneth J. Filarski

Kenneth J. Filarski, a Providence-based architect, recently was named a 2018 LEED Fellow by Green Business Certification Inc. Filarski is founder and principal of Filarski/Architecture + Planning + Research. He explained to the Providence Business News what the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design recognition indicates.

PBN: What is the LEED fellowship?

FILARSKI: Being honored and named as a LEED Fellow is the most prestigious recognition of being an exceptional practitioner and leader in all that is green building, green design and thought leadership in sustainability. To put being a LEED Fellow into perspective, there are 283 LEED Fellows representing 0.1415 percent of the [more than] 200,000 LEED-accredited professionals.

I am also honored to be a Fellow of the American Institute of Architects, where the 3,425 AIA Fellows represent 3.76 percent of the 91,000 AIA members. I am one of only 34 individuals in the world who are both a LEED Fellow and a Fellow of the American Institute of Architects.

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PBN: How did you receive this award, was it something you sought or a surprise?

FILARSKI: I was encouraged, nominated and supported by my colleagues to apply for this honor. Once nominated by my colleagues, it was my responsibility to seek this honor and assemble the submittal. The rigorous and demanding requirements of the submission materials was perhaps the most difficult and intense process I have experienced. Once the application was in, admittedly I was not all that optimistic and was truly surprised when I learned the very good news of my selection as a LEED Fellow. To this very day I am in a state of amazement.

PBN: Give some examples of your work in designing LEED buildings, and are you in the commercial or residential space?

FILARSKI: I work with LEED in both the commercial and residential space, in addition to community and large-scale planning involving two sustainable rating systems: LEED for Neighborhood Development and SITES – the Sustainable SITES Initiative.

An earth sheltered athletic facility I designed can achieve a rare Triple Platinum Certification in LEED, LEED for Neighborhood Development and SITES. I identified and defined what I call the Elmwood/Wellington Working Landscape, which is a mixed-use corridor in Cranston along Interstate 95. For Elmwood/Wellington, I developed a multifaceted concept for the area, being eligible for LEED for Neighborhood Development Gold Certification. I am also developing LEED, LEED for Neighborhood Development and SITES for applications in resiliency and sustainable hazard mitigation to coastal buildings and communities.

PBN: Why did you become interested professionally in LEED structures?

FILARSKI: My practice began as one of innovation and excellence in design and planning, creating a working landscape of ecology. That very foundation in ecology has a natural affinity and connection to the entire family of LEED rating systems. With LEED, there is a rationale and a framework for making design, and the outcomes of design, better.

For me, design is interconnected and integrated. Design should be seamless, much like a Mobius strip. LEED provides a pathway, a guiding framework for connection and integration for buildings, neighborhoods and sustainable landscapes.

LEED is the most widely used green-building rating system in the world. It provides architects, the people who use LEED buildings, and the building owners a standard of performance [that] is measurable and available for comparative transparent analyses with other buildings.

PBN: Is there sufficient interest in LEED designs in Rhode Island to be able to market yourself around that, or does an architect have to have a broader appeal?

FILARSKI: I am a sole proprietor practicing LEED who assembles larger project teams when appropriate. For me, there is sufficient market interest in LEED building design, but Rhode Island can do better. Just to our north, Massachusetts is the leading state for LEED buildings.

One way we can do better is by taking Gov. [Gina M.] Raimondo’s lead to truly LEED by example. In 2017, the governor signed into law the amendments to the Green Building Act. In 2009, Rhode Island made history by being the first state in the nation to adopt LEED into public law for public buildings, public structures and real public property. With the 2017 amendments, Rhode Island again made history by being the first state in the nation to adopt LEED for Neighborhood Development and SITES – The Sustainable SITES Initiative into public law.

We now have a historic law that creates a continuum for sustainable buildings, sustainable neighborhoods and sustainable landscapes guided by the LEED family of rating systems. The market is there, and the state can be a strategic catalyst for the public and the private sector.

Mary MacDonald is a staff writer for the PBN. Contact her at