Anthony Dente

Honorable Mention recipient of the 2020 Constellation Prize

for Sustainable Engineering Practice

With the support of a long human history of natural building, the future of the engineering profession must be one where all safe, reliable, and environmentally sustaining materials are available for design by practitioners as easily as any other commonly used material.

As a professional engineer, Principal at Verdant Structural Engineers (VSE) and Vice President of the Cob Research Institute (CRI), Anthony is committed to appropriate material use for all structural building systems. He has become a leader in the natural and green building communities through his dedication to environmentally sensitive and structurally-sound building materials. His contributions span the areas of engineering, code development, education, and research.

Current building codes consider most hazards to the built environment well, though the hazard of climate change and toxicity are significantly underrepresented.  At the same time, the majority of the world's oldest and most natural structural materials and systems are very understudied, hard to permit, and underused. Anthony and his colleagues at Verdant have designed over 100 structures that use natural building wall systems such as straw bale, earthbag, adobe, rammed earth, cob and more. On the ground, permitted work with these materials, most of which are considered “alternative” in the building code, lay bare gaps in research and code development. In collaboration with partner universities, Anthony has advised, designed, and led many testing programs, some being the first of their kind. With CRI, Anthony was the lead engineer for the “Cob Construction Appendix” of the 2021 International Residential Code, also the first of its kind in the United States.

As carbon has quickly risen to the top of the list of important environmental variables to consider in design, the need to decrease the embodied carbon of materials used and increase the use of bio-based, carbon storing materials cannot be understated.  Along with concrete mix design work at VSE, Anthony had the privilege of contributing to the development of the world's first “Low Carbon Concrete Building Code,” which was commissioned by Marin County, California, and organized by the Embodied Carbon Network and the Ecological Building Network. Straw bale construction, the first deep green building system of Anthony’s career under VSE business partner and straw bale engineering pioneer Kevin Donahue, SE, remains an excellent example of carbon storing wall systems.  Along with fellow community members in the California Straw Building Association (CASBA) and a focus on the scalability of mass timber design, there is a continuous push toward more and bigger, bio-based, carbon storing buildings.

Anthony believes that by supporting appropriate documentation and code development of environmentally sustaining options, the building community will have the tools to design against the hazards of environmentally destructive construction as effectively as it designs against other safety hazards in the building code.

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