Jason Lear, founder and co-owner of Batt + Lear, kickstarted his company along with wife, Holly Batt back in 1999 in Seattle. Since its origin, the focus of the firm has been sustainable building. We recently sat down in conversation with Jason to discuss his work and mission.
What got you interested in design to begin with?
If you ask Jason Lear where his love and interest in architecture originated, he has a very specific recollection. Growing up, Jason often spent a lot of time with his grandmother, an avid collector of Architectural Digest magazines, and she spent time going through pages with Jason while exchanging ideas they favored. However, the first time Jason started exploring architecture as a career path was as an undergrad at Yale University. “I didn’t go to Yale expecting to study Architecture necessarily...but there was a teacher there named Vincent Scully.” Vincent Scully was well known in the architecture world and pupils at Yale applauded his lecture series, which Jason ultimately enrolled in. “I walked out of that first class…..I was just totally blown away... The connection he was making through history, art, and culture and how architecture played into that history. I mean just one class and I was hook, line and sinker that day.”
In college Jason’s interest in building design and its impact on society led him to focus his architecture studies in History, Theory and Criticism. For his senior thesis, rather than drawing and making models, Jason was writing about a neighborhood in New Haven, looking at attitudes about affordability and the notion of blight - the idea that parts of the city needed to be torn down and rebuilt with better things. “That stuff still lights my fire today. I see it as very integrally linked to green building, sustainability, and I’m constantly surprised that people don’t make the connections between how a building is designed and built and its relationship to the impact its making to the city....”
Why sustainable design?
The focus on sustainable design came into play early in his professional career when Jason spent one summer working at a design firm in Seattle. One of his first tasks was to do a remodel design. With the flick of his pencil he was creating new designs; the freedom was new and exciting. However, Jason says that as he watched dumpster after dumpster roll away from the job site simply because he decided, “the stairs would be better in a different place (than their original location),” he had an epiphany around how wasteful some of the design process’ can be if you’re not careful. Moving forward, he began asking himself what he could do to be more holistically responsible, from the implications that the design would be forward thinking to which materials he was using.
What’s your personal approach to high performance building?
Over the course of Jason’s career, he says he has learned the importance of paying attention to the physics of building, and not just the physical structure of the place. He says, for example, it’s important to ask how the vapor is going to dry outside of the wall cavity, not simply how to keep the rain out of the building. Jason recites a quote a mentor once told him, “the better we get at building buildings, the less tolerant they are of our error.”
When starting his own design firm, Batt + Lear, with his wife, Holly Batt, Jason saw the opportunity to implement green building practices, and states that following sustainable measures came with decision making power. Advocating for sustainable materials and which to use is an internal conversation he has with himself, his wife and colleagues, and with his client. He often explains to the client that the durability and sustainability of green building materials should outweigh the cost. He realized he could easily persuade the client to go with the greener option this way.
Jason first started paying particular attention to 475 when he was working with Lucas Johnson, who was hired as a Western Regional Manager at 475. Getting into the learning curve with 475 materials and implementing them for use in projects started recently when Batt+Lear began working on a Living Building Challenge home. It was the low carbon impact that these homes were having that made him look more closely at the strategy. Jason said it is for this reason that he was led to the Pro Clima products, which they’ve been using for their Living Building Challenge project, such as the SOLITEX MENTO 1000 WRB used in the project pictured below.
So what’s next for Batt + Lear?
Currently, Batt + Lear are creating a Living Building Challenge project on Bainbridge island. The home has insulated rammed earth walls, beautiful design, and special details such as the cabinets inside that are used from wood on the property. Better yet, Batt + Lear decided to use Gutex for the first time with this home. Jason says it was his first time putting a membrane outside the inboard insulation and we are sure he will see airtight, high-performing results by doing so. According to Jason, this particular project required a lot of research and, as they always do, Batt + Lear paid much attention to ingredients going into the project materials to ensure they were utilizing the absolute best.
When asked what Jason would want the public to know about his company, he had this to say: “We are a design-build firm and also a build firm that likes to work with great designers. We are both of those. We are 100% committed to sustainable building. We don’t let a project slide without these standards.” Jason further states that Batt +Lear think of themselves as an “innovation company and we need companies like 475 to go there with us in trying to make buildings better and getting ahead of the curve.” Jason insists that, “buildings can contribute to the environment instead of taking from it. We are innovating in the work that we are doing and we need partners like 475 with innovative projects - we are doing research and development to make these projects better.” We look forward to seeing what’s next!