Wayne Turett of the Turett Collaborative: “Best paths net zero”

…The Passive House movement embodies this. Passive Home construction, which originated in Germany, has been recognized as one of the “best paths net zero” as your typical Passive House consumes about 90 percent less heating energy than an existing home and 75 percent less energy than average new construction. With Passive Houses, we aim to […]

Thrive Global invites voices from many spheres to share their perspectives on our Community platform. Community stories are not commissioned by our editorial team, and opinions expressed by Community contributors do not reflect the opinions of Thrive Global or its employees. More information on our Community guidelines is available here.

…The Passive House movement embodies this. Passive Home construction, which originated in Germany, has been recognized as one of the “best paths net zero” as your typical Passive House consumes about 90 percent less heating energy than an existing home and 75 percent less energy than average new construction. With Passive Houses, we aim to build more thermally insulated and sealed up buildings with non-petroleum based products, which help us be less dependent on energy. Orienting buildings to take advantage of low Winter sun and high Summer sun optimizes neutral heat flow in the home, which also improves energy efficiency. Passive Houses also take advantage of technology that lessens our energy dependency, such as solar or wind energy options.


As a part of our series about “Homes Of The Future”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Wayne Turett of the Turett Collaborative.

Founder and principal of the NYC based awarding-winning architecture and design firm the Turett Collaborative, Wayne leads with a special regard for health, wellness, community and preservation. With the completion of his own Passive House in Greenport, NY, Wayne’s passion for carbon neutral design is not just a practice, but a way of living and embracing the future of net zero building.


Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit more. Can you tell us a bit about your “backstory”? What led you to this particular career path?

I have always been inventive, curious about how things worked and looked. As a child, I would try to make and design things. Towards the end of high school, I got a job as a carpenter, doing reinforced concrete on high rise buildings in New York City. That, coupled with a Modern Architecture course in college, solidified my path.

Are you able to identify a “tipping point” in your career when you started to see success? Did you start doing anything different? Are there takeaways or lessons that others can learn from that?

My tipping point was not one, but a few moments in my life. It was a “slow tip.” When I was younger, I was a lark, thinking that I could come up with a better design for newsstands in the city, and I was given an award by the Mayor for my idea. That was the beginning of the tipping point; after that, I began my first firm. Another tipping point was designing a really good coffee bar, Newsbar, which was something that had just begun coming into vogue in New York. I was inspired by the newsstand and my work on City Bakery to create a modern coffee bar, which was the first in the city. It was written up around the world, and inspired others to do the same in Moscow and Miami, among others. Since it was such an inventive concept, it helped to spread the word about the firm and drew large crowds, especially on one night I remember distinctly, where the US was playing Russia in soccer, and people were crowded on the sidewalk to get views of the TVs we had inside. The third tipping point, which led me in more of a residential direction was a townhouse I worked on Leroy Street in Greenwich Village. The project received notoriety in the press, which moved me into a residential market.

Each project was a learning experience and door opener to new facets of design, the newsstand was retail, Newsbar was food and commercial, and then the townhouse was residential. These “tipping points” did not tip me all the way, per se, but helped me to get work and develop the way I thought. There may not be one big tipping point for everyone, but rather smaller achievements, acquired through perseverance and doggedness. Be flexible with your work, but not so flexible that you lose sight of your goals. Know what your goals and beliefs are; when you do, keep moving forward and stick to that.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person to whom you are grateful who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

My friend Andrew Rasiej (a New York-based civic and social entrepreneur) has been extremely helpful. We worked together on my initial townhouse project, Civic Hall, and many other projects. He is a great collaborator and great friend. Although he is not an architect, we work as equals, helping each other in different ways with different perspectives. Egos don’t get in the way. We are also both squash players, which has been a good way to connect and get to know each other. Often, Andrew has brought me projects and referred me to others, which has been a very important aspect in the firm’s growth.

Do you have a book, podcast, or talk that’s had a deep impact on your thinking? Can you share a story with us? Can you explain why it was so resonant with you?

The book Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry into Values, by Robert M Pirsig was an inspiration for me, and a guide on how to approach problems and challenges that I still refer to today.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

I actually have a few.

My own: “In the highway of life, everyone has a blindspot.”

We often do not know exactly who we are, or what we can do best. Knowing this helps to keep me humble and stops me from overplaying and repeating myself and my work. Uncertainties keep me questioning what my purpose is and what is coming up.

A classic by writer Rose Tremain: “Life is not a dress rehearsal.”

We do not get a chance to do things again in most cases, so we must put our best foot forward the first time, as if it will be the last. I apply this to everything, never taking an opportunity for granted or doing something with less effort than it deserves.

And a Chinese proverb: “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step”

Often the first step of something that is daunting to me or that I may be insecure about is the hardest; I have to remind myself that the first step, even in a long process, is an achievement in itself. Perseverance plays a big part in my thinking — the only way I go to where I am is by not giving up and by taking those first steps.

Ok super. Let’s now shift to the main part of our discussion. Homebuilding in the US has grown tremendously. We’d love to hear about some of the new trends and techniques that are being used to build the homes of the future. Can you share with us a few of the methods that are being used to make homes more sustainable and more water and energy efficient?

The Passive House movement embodies this. Passive Home construction, which originated in Germany, has been recognized as one of the “best paths net zero” as your typical Passive House consumes about 90 percent less heating energy than an existing home and 75 percent less energy than average new construction. With Passive Houses, we aim to build more thermally insulated and sealed up buildings with non-petroleum based products, which help us be less dependent on energy. Orienting buildings to take advantage of low Winter sun and high Summer sun optimizes neutral heat flow in the home, which also improves energy efficiency. Passive Houses also take advantage of technology that lessens our energy dependency, such as solar or wind energy options. We also use windows with a high U-value and triple glaze, which contributes to the thermal envelope of the building while also keeping the home quiet and mitigating noise from the outside. Using ERVs (energy recovery ventilation) continuously provides fresh air in the house, while reducing energy loss.

There is a lot of talk about Smart Homes. Can you tell our readers a bit about what that is, what that looks like, and how that might help people?

Smart homes are houses that are highly connected to technology via WIFI and internet providers. These homes allow the user to maintain a higher degree of control over their home and allows them to automate certain controls such as heat cooling, shades, ventilation, lights, and more. As we see more and more people developing home offices during lockdown, these technologies can certainly make the workday smoother and more programmed.

Aside from Smart Homes, can you talk about other interesting tech innovations that are being incorporated into homes today?

In some places, geothermal heat pumps have gained popularity. They use ground temperature to provide heating and cooling for buildings and are extremely energy efficient. Common voice control devices, such as Alexa, Google, and Siri, allow us to control functions of our home and in-home entertainment.

Can you talk about innovations that are being made to make homes more pet friendly?

Some people are designing dog washrooms into their houses. There are also high capacity air filters in home that help remove pet hair and dander from the air, and automated vacuums that remove it from surfaces.

How about actual construction materials? Are there new trends in certain materials to address changes in the climate, fires, floods, and hurricanes?

I have seen cement panels developed that are fire resistant, and windows that are resistant to the high winds of hurricanes.

For someone looking to invest in the real estate industry, are there exciting growth opportunities that you think people should look at more carefully?

Areas that are often overlooked in real estate that have promise are HVAC, solar and alternative energy, and modular buildings and wall systems. Investments in solar energy are investments in sustainability and environmental protection. Similarly, investment in HVAC, especially in this time of concern over viruses, is important in advancing air filtration and planning for a safer future. Modular housing is often overlooked but can accommodate people’s needs for more and more space as families grow and evolve, and can also make housing more affordable, which is extremely helpful for low income areas.

Let’s talk a bit about housing availability and affordable housing. Homelessness has been a problem for a long time in the United States. But it seems that it has gotten a lot worse over the past five years, particularly in the large cities, such as Los Angeles, New York, Seattle, and San Francisco. Can you explain to our readers what brought us to this place? Where did this crisis come from?

While it is a very complicated issue, the primary solution is paying people living wages and valuing jobs as they are. Paying people fairly means paying them enough to find a home.

Is there anything that home builders can do to further help address these problems?

While some developers have found success building affordable housing developments, there could be more incentives for more developers to do so, which would increase the low-cost options that would be solutions to homelessness.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

If I could inspire a movement, it would be to accelerate our transition from fossil fuels to electric and sustainable energy. Passive Houses are one way to do this, but there are adaptations to your home, such as ERVs and better windows, that lessen homeowners’ dependence on fossil fuels.

How can our readers follow you online?

Readers can follow us on Instagram (@turettcollaborative), Twitter (@turettcollab) and Facebook (@turettarch). You can also check out some of our projects and blog at www.turettarch.com!

This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!

Share your comments below. Please read our commenting guidelines before posting. If you have a concern about a comment, report it here.

You might also like...

Community//

Jessica Shaw of Turett Collaborative: “Aromatherapy”

by Jilea Hemmings
Community//

Simeon Seigel of The Turett Collaborative: “Never be bored”

by Jason Hartman
Community//

Todd DiNoia of CertainTeed: “The largest trend is toward well-insulated, air-tight homes”

by Jason Hartman
We use cookies on our site to give you the best experience possible. By continuing to browse the site, you agree to this use. For more information on how we use cookies, see our Privacy Policy.