Green Building Bites with Gerrod Winston: Making the Shift from Designer to Developer

A longtime friend and partner of Green Building Alliance, Gerrod Winston is owner at Winston Design + Development. Gerrod is a licensed architect who has worked with several successful private architecture firms for more than 20 years. Active in several organizations, Gerrod has a strong interest in environmentally-conscious design, the well-being of the community, and mentoring younger people of color. Along with his position as past president of the Pittsburgh Chapter of NOMA (National Organization of Minority Architects), Gerrod has been involved with Habitat for Humanity as a member of its Sustainable Building Committee, is past president of YPA (Young Preservationist Association), and is a former board member of the Wilkinsburg Community Development Corporation. He is also an adjunct faculty member at Carnegie Mellon University’s School of Architecture. Gerrod holds certifications as a LEED Accredited Professional (via the USGBC) and a Passive House Certified Consultant (via PHIUS).

After two decades in architecture, Gerrod added “developer” to his title and is now balancing both types of work. While Gerrod is still doing design-for-hire work, his ultimate goal is to become his own client, bringing his own vision and projects to life.

Gerrod is looking forward to weaving his own goals and values into his projects, including sustainability, equity, working within underserved communities of Pittsburgh, and pursuing projects that he enjoys! His ideal project would combine all these elements, and he has a few on the horizon that he is excited about, including one that will be pursuing net-zero energy. When asked about high-performance building projects that have inspired him, Gerrod points to Onion Flats in Philadelphia – check it out!

Many architects are curious about making the shift to developer, but that advice and support can be hard to come by, so when asked to share some of his experience with us and any recommendations he would have for others considering the same path, Gerrod offered the following:

  1. Develop a very detailed plan for how you will access capital, what market you want to focus on, and what networks you need to reach.
  2. Your networks in the design community are similar to those in the development community (including architects, contractors, engineers, etc.), so tap into your own existing networks while you are making the shift.
  3. Be realistic about your scale and resources.
  4. Know your threshold for pain. As in any major career transition, shifting from designer to developer is not easy or for the faint of heart!

A big thanks to Gerrod for sharing his journey with us and for sharing advice to others. Keep an eye out for his work around the community, and hopefully we can one day do a green building tour of one of his projects! Check out GBA’s Green Building Bites video for more of our interview with Gerrod Winston.

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