Robin Guenther (1954-2023)
FAIA, LEED Fellow
HPD Collaborative (HPDC) honors the life of Robin Guenther, renowned pioneer in sustainable architecture and design, a champion in bringing awareness and action to the building industry to improve environmental and human health for all. Robin was an early advocate for HPDC and served as Chair of the HPDC Board of Directors since 2020. Sadly, Robin passed away at age 68 on May 6, after a courageous battle with cancer.
Robin was among the earliest advocates for transparency in understanding how the chemical ingredients in building products adversely impact health. She worked diligently to change the design process to include these considerations, through her firm, Guenther 5 Architects, and then as a principal at Perkins&Will for nearly 15 years. Phil Harrison, Perkins&Will CEO said, “Robin was one of the most empathetic architects I have ever met. Robin championed healthy and humane environments. In her early years with Perkins&Will, she developed our approach to designing for health and well-being, with a focus on removing toxins, and in recent years she has been in a pivotal role as a leader in our healthcare practice globally. She worked tirelessly and passionately in everything she did. She has had a huge impact on our firm and on many of us personally.”
Among the efforts that Robin championed in the material health realm was conceptualizing the initiative that became the Health Product Declaration® (HPD) Open Standard. She was instrumental in bringing together the coalition of architects and designers that devised the first HPD, Version 1.0 in 2012. Among those leading these early efforts with Robin were Bill Walsh (executive director of the Passport Foundation, founder of Healthy Building Network (HBN) and HPDC founding Board Member), Tom Lent (formerly policy director of HBN) and Gail Vittori (co-director of the Center for Maximum Potential Building Systems, HPDC founding Board Member and current HPDC vice-chair).
“Robin was a guiding light for the Healthy Building Network and for me personally. She designed great buildings, led by example, and built a wonderful life with her husband Perry, whom she adored. I am just one of many who will carry on her legacy.” – Bill Walsh
“Robin’s interest and knowledge about the intersection of sustainability and health was broad and deep. But she had a particular passion for material health issues, starting with addressing the challenges of PVC and going far beyond. She had a knack for embracing technical and scientific detail and impassioned story to help fellow practitioners and clients alike grasp the urgency of taking the next step.” – Tom Lent
“Robin was the fearless innovative disruptor who ignited a tectonic shift in healthcare design. She leaves an impressive legacy of policy and practice around material health that underscores what she most valued — healthy places and healthy people. Robin will forever be an inspiration for me and so many others.” – Gail Vittori
Robin’s accomplishments in the field of architecture and design were many. Tributes to Robin published by Perkins&Will, Healthcare Design magazine and the New York Times show the amazing scope and impact of her work. Her legacy in the fields of sustainable architecture and material health will be an ongoing presence and inspiration to everyone working in this field, and in a built environment that is healthier and safer for all. She is survived by her husband, Perry Gunther, two daughters, Jylian Gunther and Nicole Marie Palms; two sisters, Lynn Monahan and Sharon Barnes; and many nieces and nephews.