VOL. 126 | NO. 133 | Monday, July 11, 2011
Bloodworth’s Sustainability Ideal Formed at Early Age
By Sarah Baker
At a young age, Rusty Bloodworth knew he wanted to be an architect. As he matured, that passion morphed to an interest in handling more than the arrangement of buildings, but rather the design of the environment.
Rusty Bloodworth, who has worked with Boyle Investment Co. for 42 years, strives to make developments environmentally sustainable.
(Photo: Lance Murphey)
“My mother was always moving furniture and shrubs around, and at about 11 she would let me participate in the decision process,” Bloodworth said. “We subscribed to House Beautiful, an important design publication in the ’50s, and I soon was subscribing to Japanese Architect and other publications while in high school. I got hooked early.”
The summer after Rusty Bloodworth graduated from the University of Virginia with a degree in architecture under his belt, he walked into Boyle Investment Co. cold and asked for a job.
The longtime development firm hired Bloodworth temporarily, since he had been awarded a fellowship in Scandinavia that fall studying the development of new towns. He would come back to work at Boyle for 43 years off and on, between pit stops serving as first lieutenant in the U.S. Marine Corps, studying environmental design at Yale University and working as a Knight Fellow at the University of Miami.
As executive vice president with the firm, Bloodworth has been directly involved in the development of $200 million of office facilities; a collection of high-end neighborhoods in East Memphis; and the planning, zoning and development of six major multiple-use projects, including Ridgeway Center, the Regalia, Humphreys Center and River Oaks.
Extensive resume aside, Bloodworth considers his greatest feat to be helping make headway on tilting the regulatory process in Shelby County toward more sustainable development.
“I very much believe that buildings themselves play an important but secondary role to the big questions regarding sustainability,” he said. “It really encompasses the entirety of life, and therefore engages our food sources, water and environmental systems, a healthy lifestyle, economics and the pattern of development in our built environment.”
Projections show that the bulk of energy – 70 percent – is used in the built environment, and therefore it’s where most of the greenhouse gases are emitted. To make headway in creating a truly sustainable pattern of development, Bloodworth said, it’s imperative for the region to break down the existing professional silos, change the pattern of building arrangement and reduce the amount of vehicle miles traveled.
Memphis is “really strung out,” Bloodworth said, because of zoning laws and land economics after World War II. Too much “mono-culture” zoning exists in the city, such as same-size lot residential in Germantown and Collierville and same-size lot retail in the Winchester Road corridor.
“Mono-cultures are very susceptible to failure,” Bloodworth said. “If we just planted Bradford pears – that’s the only tree we planted – and we have any kind of disease that hits Bradford pears, then you wipe out all of your street trees.”
Bloodworth is currently the chairman of the Memphis district of the Urban Land Institute, which strives to provide leadership in the responsible use of land resources to create sustainable, thriving communities.
He was an initial signer of a document called the Canons of Sustainable Architecture and Urbanism – a blueprint for universities, design professionals, planners, politicians, economists, developers and lawyers to work together with a common vision to make the necessary changes happen.
A textbook example for walkability is Downtown, Bloodworth said, where each block is 350 feet by 350 feet. This is in stark contrast to the Medical District, where pedestrians have to walk 1,500 feet before making a left or right.
“If we don’t become more sustainable, we will not only ruin the future for future generations, but we will fall behind regions with whom we compete who actively are changing policies to reduce carbon fuel dependency and make better, more lovable, communities,” Bloodworth said. “Middle Tennessee is thinking regionally and collaboratively. We need to do the same.”