Our Science & Technology projects are highly sustainable and energy efficient. We are deeply committed to reducing energy and carbon emissions. We believe in a holistic approach to sustainable design, addressing building location, massing, landscape design, water efficiency, embodied carbon, resilience, occupant health, and education.
LEED v4 brings a host of new challenges and opportunities to a design project. This refresh and tightening of requirements has made us dig deeper to achieve similar results to LEED v3. Overall, this is great for design. It makes our solutions better and “truer” to sustainable ideals. We have been tracking LEED v4’s development over the past few years and we feel that, if addressed proactively, it can be a valuable source of design inspiration.
Beyond LEED, other sustainable design programs such as SITES, WELL, Passive House, Fitwel, and the Living Building Challenge (LBC) are sources of inspiration. These programs share common goals and strategies, with somewhat different overall focus (and varying levels of difficulty). Many building owners are adopting these standards, as they align with their principles and mission, to enhance public relations and deliver greater sustainability and resilience. We recommend that all owners review these standards to mine them for compatible strategies.
Other sustainable design programs such as SITES, WELL, Passive House, Fitwel, and the Living Building Challenge (LBC) are sources of inspiration. They share similarities and align with the principles and mission of many of our clients to deliver greater sustainability and resilience.
Deep energy efficiency is critical to achieving LEED certification. New projects need an “all of the above” strategy to achieve as many Energy and Atmosphere points as possible. A focus on demand reduction strategies such as widened thermal comfort range and occupancy setbacks are key. While passive strategies like natural ventilation, shading, and passive solar heating can also improve energy efficiency. Other opportunities include renewables like wind and solar power, new technologies like Konvekta heat recovery, advanced lighting control, ice storage, and batteries.
Research and Advocacy
We are engaged in a variety of research and advocacy efforts across the fields of building science, laboratory design, and sustainability. We are members of a variety of professional organizations that focus on research. We are frequent presenters at national conferences, speaking about academic planning, laboratory design, sustainable design, and resilience.
Resilience in the face of storms and climate change is a key element of sustainability planning. A solid, practical design with a high-performance building envelope, natural ventilation, and high efficiency mechanical systems will do much to improve both resilience and energy efficiency. On-site generation and storage of energy (such as solar panels, batteries, generators) and water (cisterns) will extend critical building operation during an event.
Deep user engagement from all stakeholders throughout the design, construction, and commissioning/training process will reduce system demands, increase efficiency, and ensure the building can operate during both normal conditions and disaster scenarios.
Construction materials selection, especially prioritizing chemical free and locally sourced materials, is key to high achievement in LEED v4. Sustainable materials are also a critical element of the Living Building Challenge (including the “red list”). Goals of sustainable materials use include both occupant wellness and reduced environmental impacts. We approach material selection as a unique and collaborative expression of each project’s goals. All our projects include strict provisions for low VOC and recycled content materials, consistent with a high level of LEED point achievement, but we pride ourselves on going beyond this minimum.
We take our cues directly from our clients, from the site and context, and from the individual project’s scope and goals.
Place, Culture, and Identity
Place, culture, and identity are the primary drivers of architectural design. A good architect understands that these factors originate from the building’s owner, not the designer. Sustainable design translates these factors into site-specific strategies (place), occupant engagement programs (culture), and inspirational/educational designs (identity).
Fostering wellness through building design and operations is an old idea that is receiving a lot of new attention. LEED v4, WELL, and the LBC all include elements of physical and mental wellness.
The new WELL and Fitwell standards include some interesting design ideas to promote ergonomics, fitness, healthy eating habits, and mental health. We believe these concepts are in harmony with sustainable design, and that projects designed for wellness are in synergy with a reduced environmental impact.
We believe in common-sense wellness strategies like prioritizing “irresistible stairs” over elevator use. Many of our projects include atria, cafes, and informal social spaces to foster collaboration. These places also promote increased occupant movement, use of stairs, and socializing over a coffee or lunch.
Biophilia theory, popularized by the naturalist E.O. Wilson, states that humans crave and respond to nature. The theory suggests that incorporating nature into our lives will improve mental health and overall wellness. Some research suggests that views of nature, natural light, natural sounds, and even natural patterns reproduced artificially can improve people’s mood, productivity, and health. Biophilia can be a design principle for many projects. The site and the program work together as inspiration for building location, shape, and expression. Prioritizing beautiful views is obvious and restoring the native landscape is critical.
Water efficiency is especially critical in very technical buildings with high water usage. According to the LEED Water Efficiency credits, our projects are extremely water efficient, but standard LEED metrics are an incomplete measure of the water performance of our projects. Laboratory and technical buildings can use vast amounts of water in non-regulated mechanical systems and scientific processes. For example, the purification of water for scientific uses (reverse-osmosis deionized water or “RODI”) creates a great deal of water “reject”. Lab water used legitimately for scientific processes, such as chemical reactions, creation of samples, sterilization, and washing of glassware, often dwarfs the amount of water used by toilets and showers, which are the “heavy” consumers in non-technical buildings. We treat this challenge as an opportunity, rather than a limitation, to develop innovative water efficiency strategies wherever possible. On several projects, we have captured the RODI reject as graywater and utilized it for toilet flushing. On some projects, we have captured AHU-cooling coil condensate for irrigation. On other projects, we are implementing closed-loop cooling water processes to eliminate wasted water and energy.
Our clients are large institutions and corporations with large portfolios of buildings. Many have strong campus or corporate standards that prefer conventional plumbing fixtures; they are reluctant to “experiment” with waterless urinals, composting toilets, vacuum plumbing and other innovative wastewater technologies. We have had much greater success with “graywater” technologies, including reuse of rainwater, groundwater, condensate, and/or RODI reject for toilet flushing and/or cooling tower makeup.
Our projects use highly efficient landscape irrigation (low water vegetation with weather controlled drip supply) or eliminate the need for irrigation entirely. Many of our projects also feature on-site capture and treatment of rainwater runoff through innovative landscape designs.