McLennan’s boss at BNIM, Bob Berkebile, said the young Oregon graduate joined a team designing a green-building prototype at Montana State University. McLennan, Berkebile said, not only put in long hours on the project but sometimes stayed up until 2 or 3 a.m. peppering him with questions and engaging in broader discussions about life.
“Our talks were about trying to understand the world, trying to develop a strategy for changing the outcome of the human experiment,” Berkebile said. “Jason was then and is now a lifelong learner.”
McLennan went on to become the youngest principal at the firm and grew increasingly focused on expanding the concept of green building, incorporating the biomimicry ideas of Janine Benyus – who advocates replicating natural systems – along with the architectural strategies of Berkebile and other architects.
Push beyond LEED certification – the existing gold-standard for environmental building – McLennan determined, to a design approach that doesn’t just take less but gives back.
“He’s clearly driven by an internal fire that is unique. If I had a chance to clone him, I would be all about doing it,” Berkebile said. “He is a nexus of a lot of important things in human history – the right person for the right time.”
Building as teachable moment
The Bertschi School spreads over a city block, incorporating an old church, vintage homes, and an LEED-certified academic and performance space. Around the time board members and administrators began discussing plans for the science wing, a couple of young architects attended a conference where McLennan gave a speech about living buildings.