Hafsa Burt – A visionary Environmentalist Building Green for decades

Hafsa Burt

The world today, more than ever, is in dire need of the right mix of inspiration and value; blended well with strategies for resilience and environmental relevance. There aren’t many prominent individuals whose work could be considered synonymous with Innovation, Sustainability, or Transformation with a steady track record spanning decades, however, quite a few have made their mark in their respective fields. One such powerful personality across disciplines is Hafsa Burt, a sought-after architect from California, who with her promising architectural work has been quite vocal about conserving the planet and sharing her passion for healthier communities.

Hafsa Burt of HB+A Architects, for over 22 years, has been leading the Bay Area architecture landscape with a vision for architectural design as a transformative medium, empathizing with the greater causes to build green and promote environmentally sound practices. Being a firm believer in experimentalism she knows that an architect must think like a visionary infusing the elements of art and science while depicting deeper issues tackling social and environmental equity.

“I have been focused on the environment for over two decades, way before sustainability became a buzzword. The interest came from a passion for the health of the planet and its people.”

Al Nouri Mosque Complex Proposal for UNESCO World Heritage Site

She comes from a family where dinner table conversations revolved around topics of Physics, Philosophy, and Literature giving ample room to nurture curiosity and exploration. Such a household produces critical thinkers and creative beings who value compassion. Her father was researching drought-resistant plants eons before the world realized the need for it, which fueled Burt’s interest in nature conservation. Her work also speaks volumes of her interests in Geometry, Physics, and landscape preservation, her proposal to redevelop the historic Al Nouri Mosque Complex, shows an interplay of these interests. For her proposal to redevelop this UNESCO World Heritage site she understood and incorporated the significance of local heritage, culture, and vernacular architecture to propose what she calls a “cultural jewel for future generations”. She has also been developing and presenting solutions for multifamily housing projects in California supported by micro energy grids and built with carbon-sequestering strategies.

While being a successful entrepreneur, she also believes in being a collaborative team partner, pitching in at every stage of the design process, empathizing with the clients’ needs, ideating, and prototyping to the best of her abilities to produce a successful project. With such zeal and authenticity, she would not prefer to opt for any PR, instead would expect her work to harp the tune of success. This desire to produce the best comes from the non-linear tapestry of experiences which included sculpture, furniture design, film making and sound design during her college years which has given her work the grace and variety it shows.

Knowing how a pandemic became a universal equalizer a year ago, altering the course of economies across the globe, people like Hafsa Burt could be the silver lining reminding us through their work that the planet’s future is our future. That, even though we can’t predict the future, we can safely assume that anything that benefits the planet will benefit us. Hafsa has been involved in initiating green building ordinances, design standards, and eco-friendly projects. While talking about one such project, the Box Factory she said, “People say it’s a great place to be in, not only because of the views and the home’s relationship to nature but also because the spaces heat up and cool down quickly—and retains that energy because of its design. The house doesn’t require much energy to get to a nice level of thermal comfort.”

Zero Energy Commercial Office Building Project for Green World Hub in Rancho Cordova

Hafsa Burt has won ENR 20 under 40, the American Institute of Architects’ Young Architects’ Award, and the Fast Company Innovation by Design award for her noteworthy achievements. She was also privileged to work in a long collaborative association with Gerson/Overstreet Architects on several public projects before Harry Overstreet, NOMA’s passing. Moreover, Hafsa Burt has also worked with entities like Lincoln Properties and Stonebrae as clients.

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