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Hood River, Oregon, USA
Education K-12 School
The Hood River Middle School project consists of renovations of the 1927 National Historic Register main building and a new free standing environmental sciences lab and music facilities. The community and Historic Review Commission desired a new building design that was in keeping with the existing architectural massing, materials and details. The new building is designed to be LEED Platinum/Net-Zero and includes a large greenhouse and edible garden.

Teachers at Hood River Middle School established a curriculum that incorporated sustainable concepts and wanted to use the new building as a “teaching tool” that would illustrate sustainable ideas put into practice. Opsis began the process with an eco-charrette that included teachers, students, designers and engineers. Together they set goals for creating a building that was Net-Zero in both water and energy use. While constrained by a modest budget, they also wanted to use sustainable design techniques to help building users understand how the systems work and how their actions are a critical component in the building’s use of resources.

The goal of the design was to meet Net-Zero energy by producing as much energy as the building consumes. To reach this goal, energy savings and production measures include, geothermal heating, cooling using heat exchange with water from an adjacent stream, a radiant slab, and a 35 kilowatt solar panel system. The design team also performed daylighting studies to reach an ideal combination of translucent skylights, monitor windows, traditional windows and shading devices with deciduous vines on trellises. Part of the curriculum at the school now includes managing a resource budget and tracking the building’s performance through a “building dashboard”— a website that tracks energy use and production, water use and collection and weather conditions. In addition, the natural ventilation system is designed with a simple user interface to encourage students to think about how they interact with the built environment.

The building collects rainwater for use in toilets and for irrigation, as well as features low-flow and waterless plumbing fixtures. Stormwater treatment is done on-site using a bio-swale with native planting. Working collaboratively with the administration and students to set ambitious goals early on, the team was able to achieve a design that will truly help the community’s next generation move toward a more sustainable future.

Boston, Massachusetts, USA
Laboratory, Higher Education
Flow and movement define the form language of the Interdisciplinary Science and Engineering Complex (ISEC), expanding Northeastern University’s Boston campus to the south of a major rail corridor and reconnecting the diverse neighborhoods of Fenway and Roxbury. Dynamic movement systems permeate the project, like pebbles in a stream defining the landscape paths through bioswales and the dynamic solar veil shading the office. The building form is intrinsically linked with high-performance architecture through parametric design and energy modeling to achieve an integrated design. The building leverages passive elements to reduce energy demand and employs high-tech energy recovery systems to further reduce energy use. This cutting-edge facility represents a major expansion of research at Northeastern University and provides a 236,240 gross sq ft home for four interdisciplinary academic research disciplines: engineering, health sciences, basic sciences, and computer science. The project elevates Northeastern University’s capability to compete as a premier research institution. Aggressive targets and an integrated approach to sustainability was ingrained from the planning stages throughout the design process, impacting everything from the programmatic organization of the building to the design of the building enclosure. The layered organization of the research lab not only creates a vibrant interior culture within the building but also minimizes energy usage while zoning areas for future flexibility. A daylight-filled atrium forms a new campus-scale public space surrounded by intimate collaboration spaces. In addition, it simultaneously acts as a mixing chamber for a cascade air system to recycle air throughout the building. Constructed on an urban brownfield site consisting of an existing surface parking lot set between two garages, the ISEC represents the completion of the first phase of the newly planned 660,000 sf academic precinct.

Albany, California, USA
Education, High School, Chapel, Religious Building
Mark Cavagnero readily admits that his personal relationship with Catholicism ended after he attended a parish school as a child in Connecticut. So, when he received a request to interview for a commission to design a student chapel for a Catholic high school in the San Francisco Bay Area, he wasn’t sure he was up to the task.

“My faith had wavered, to say the least,” Cavagnero recalls. But then he began to think about the intersection of spirituality and architecture in a broader way—as “idealized space that could offer empathy, with room for contemplation that may, or may not, include prayer.”

That impulse is now embodied in a small structure of concrete and glass at the entrance to St. Mary’s College High School, in Albany, California. Unapologetically modern yet suffused with tranquil warmth, it serves as a symbolic portal to the campus, as well as an open refuge for students seeking inspiration or solitude, often at conflicted times in their lives.

Unlike other buildings on the 12.5-acre campus, most of which were built as needed during the past 30 years and have a vague air of Mission Revival style, the 4,400-square-foot chapel makes a striking first impression. Just inside the campus’s entry gate, off a shaded street of single-family homes, a rectangular concrete “ steeple” rises, its back pitched and its eastward face inset with glass that is divided into quarters by a thin metal cross. Around and behind the tower, like rectangular ridges beneath a mountain peak, the building’s lower sections hold the chapel and a small sacristy.

The religious imagery is obvious. But the steeple, a great, hollowed-out light shaft, also allows morning sunlight to slice into the sanctuary, illuminating the altar, where a priest addresses the pupils, who often gather for brief talks or services before classes begin. Later in the day, when a student might come on his or her own, the altar fades into the shadows while the chapel is lit from behind.

“It seemed important to break the room down into different scales,” explains Cavagnero, who in 2015 won the coveted Maybeck Award from the AIA California Council. “I was thinking about what it would be like if I was going through a moment of stress in my life. I’d want a space where I could think and brood and wonder.”

While the morning light is clean and direct, the afternoon sun—entering through floor-to-ceiling glass panels at the chapel’s southwest corner—fills the sanctuary with a diffused glow. A clerestory window of frosted glass, tucked along the north edge of the space, evens out the illumination without calling attention to itself.

The pews are white oak. So are the slats along the chapel’s southern wall—positioned not only to direct light toward the front of the chapel, but also to form a screen that blocks distracting outside views from the pews. The floor is smooth Alabama limestone. The vertical plane behind the altar is the same stone, but split-face, and the other walls are of white Portland cement. “The best way to make a space that’s visually and spiritually quiet,” suggests Cavagnero, “is to use as few elements as possible, and to keep them under control.”

The architect was less successful, however, in his quest to make the chapel feel like a sanctuary entirely apart from the hectic commotion of a high school with more than 600 students, and other challenging conditions. Though the site parallels a creek lined with tall redwood trees—hints of nature that filter into the chapel and its courtyard—it’s also bordered by a service road. The tower, meanwhile, faces a wide asphalt roadway and a utility building.

To counter these encroachments, the design moves the chapel entrance to the site’s rear, in a small courtyard, reached from the east by a pathway, flanked by Cavagnero’s building on one side and, on the other, by a concrete wall that drops from 8 to 4 feet high as it nears the courtyard. When the three Japanese maples that are part of Andrea Cochran’s landscape design grow in, the sense of passage should feel more natural. It’s an imaginative response to a challenging site, but a self-consciously choreographed one, as well.

Once inside the chapel, though, emotional resonance emerges in the way clean details are infused with higher purpose. The choice of the chalky-white Portland cement for the walls—its superlative quality being an expense that Cavagnero defended from value engineering—brings a subdued luster to a material that students and staff might otherwise dismiss as cold and stark. There’s delicacy in the tall cross within the tower. The light in the chapel, diffused and entering from all sides, is at once comforting and solemn.

In the past, when religious faith was unquestioned, churches were designed to awe believers with majestic force. We live in a different, less doctrinaire ag
Basalt, Colorado, USA
Office Building, Library, Research Center
The Innovation Center in Basalt, Colo., might be a small building, but it has a big story to tell. Located near the tony resort town of Aspen, the 15,610-square-foot two-story structure opened in December 2015 as the headquarters for the Rocky Mountain Institute (RMI), the sustainable-energy nonprofit research group founded by Amory Lovins. Since the early 1980s, Lovins has been championing the virtues and economic benefits of passive-solar design and super-insulation; more recently, RMI helped spearhead a “deep retrofit” of the Empire State Building. So it’s only fitting that the institute, working with Portland, Ore.–based ZGF Architects, designed the Innovation Center to be the highest-performing building in one of North America’s coldest climate zones.

Remarkably, the project, located 6,600 feet above sea level, has no central heating or air conditioning. In winter, when nighttime temperatures regularly dip into the single digits, the building, clad in Colorado sandstone, zinc panels, and untreated juniper wood, stays warm inside largely because of its super-insulated envelope and passive solar features. In the summer, exterior venetian blinds cover the south-facing windows, controlling solar gain; at night, windows automatically open to draw in cooler air. A rooftop solar photovoltaic system generates enough electricity to meet the building’s energy needs—plus enough to charge four electric vehicles.

Playa Vista, California, USA
Interior Design, Workplace, Adaptive Re-Use
History, technology, architecture, and art come together in ZGF Architects’ interior for the Google Spruce Goose headquarters in Los Angeles. Located in a burgeoning business district just north of LAX, the Spruce Goose takes its name from the famed (not to say infamous) wood aircraft created by magnate Howard Hughes for the United States War Department during World War II; though the prototype was never put into production, its nearly half-million-square-foot construction hangar remains, now repurposed as offices for the internet-search giant.

To achieve the transformation, ZGF played up the most striking aspect of the original building—its enormous clear-span floor space—leaving the vast wooden ceiling and its arching supports exposed, to stunning visual effect. Into that void, the designers inserted an irregular stack of free-standing terraced structures that runs the full length of the 250-yard-long hangar. Alternating between wood and sleek white cladding, supported by black steel columns, and trimmed with glazed balustrades, the insert is alive with function. From private nooks and conference rooms to amenity spaces and open-plan offices, ZGF’s novel infrastructure answers all the programmatic requirements of the modern workplace. The spaces are connected by zigzagging stairs and open catwalks that create a sense of flow while fostering opportunities for social contact.

Reflecting Google’s famously creative corporate culture, the design incorporates oversized murals by Los Angeles–based artists that riff on themes from the building’s storied past, punctuating the interior with vibrant color as well as a sense of history.
Chanhassen, Minnesota, USA
Education
The Tashjian Bee and Pollinator Discovery Center is a multi-functional public education facility in Chaska, Minnesota. It provides learning opportunities for children and adults about the lives of bees and other pollinators, their agricultural and ecological importance, and the essential, fascinating, and delicious ways our human lives intersect with theirs.

Along with their importance to flowering plants, honey bees and other pollinators play a crucial role in the production of the food we eat. However, the health of pollinators is endangered by pesticide use, lack of forage, destruction of nest habitats, and colony collapse disorder. Serving as the outreach arm of the University of Minnesota’s Bee and Pollinator Research Lab, this new 7,530 square-foot center contains exhibit space, a multi-purpose learning lab, a demonstration apiary, and a honey extraction room. Located on a previously abandoned historic farm site at the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum, the Bee Center is the first building of a new campus focusing on sustainable farm-to-table education.

The architect developed a master plan for this new campus with the 120-year-old Red Barn as its heart and future event center. The practical beauty of traditional farm buildings inspired the Bee Center’s simple forms, its siting, material selections, and its passive design strategies. The Bee Center’s exposed glulam truss framing is a contemporary response to the wood framing of the Red Barn’s hay loft. The design connects each interior program space to demonstration pollinator gardens, beehives, and future food production plots. The Bee Center strives to serve as an exemplar of its program’s urgent call for human conversation and best practices in our natural environment. Located in an arboretum that is visited by hundreds of thousands of people in all seasons, the Bee Center invites visitors to deepen their understanding of, and connection to, the natural world around them.
Seattle, Washington, USA
Recycling Building
Seattle is the nation’s fastest-growing big city, with 18.7 percent growth over the last 10 years. It’s also one of the nation’s densest cities, with more than 8,600 people per square mile. With more people comes more waste, recyclables, and compostables—taxing the city’s aging infrastructure. To reach its zero-waste goal, Seattle needed a more efficient transfer station than the 1960s-era facility that stood on the site. On a typical day, the new station receives approximately 400 tons of various materials and is designed to handle up to 750 tons per day to accommodate anticipated growth. Integrating this large-scale infrastructure into a dense, low-rise neighborhood was the biggest challenge. Bermed into a sloping 5½-acre site between Lake Union’s recreational waterfront to the south, single-family residences to the northeast, and mixed uses to the west, the facility consists of two low-slung buildings on either side of a weigh-scale yard. The main structure comprises a 63,246-square-foot tipping and transfer floor, an administrative block, and a lower level for compacting and collection. The 10,000-square-foot recycling building allows self-haulers to divert materials from the waste stream, a function the older facility lacked. The challenge facing the design team was to replace the out-of-date facility with one that was larger and more efficient while meeting the demands of two abutting residential communities. The massing responds to the most stringent constraint: a building height limit of 78 feet above sea level—equal to the existing grade at the site’s top corner, enabling the hillside neighborhood to overlook the facility to take in lake and city views. Rooftops are clear of mechanical equipment, supporting photovoltaic arrays and greenery instead. In addition, the design incorporates queuing space inside the site to reduce congestion and noise impacts on the neighboring community. The mediation of industrial and human requirements is the station’s major achievement.

Portland, Oregon, USA
Affordable Housing, Multi-Family Housing, Transition Housing
Designed as a kit of parts, Argyle Gardens is the first buildout of LISAH (Low Income Single Adult Housing), a dignified co-housing model designed to accommodate an optimum number of people to share community space and support. The modular system can be configured as formerly homeless, workforce, or student housing, or to house intergenerational families together.

Argyle Gardens opened to residents in April 2020. Located in the Kenton neighborhood of Portland, the four buildings sit on a transitional site between a neighborhood and an industrial zone close to the MAX light rail line, bus lines, a park, and commercial shopping areas. The largest building contains thirty-five 220 square foot studio apartment units. A large community room, laundry facilities, and support service offices, serve as a central hub and communal gathering space for all residents. Each of three cohousing buildings feature two six-bedroom units with two shared bathrooms and a large kitchen.

Each building takes a simple rectilinear form with a slice removed to reveal color and translucent polycarbonate panels that bring vibrancy to the composition.

Each building is composed of modular units constructed offsite. The size of the modules are maximized for efficiency and to minimize transportation costs.

The site’s steep topography and existing vegetation provide privacy but challenged the design team to locate the buildings in a way that balances ADA access requirements, environmental considerations, and the maintenance of the large staging area required for modular construction of Phases 1 and 2. The resulting calibration meets those needs while minimizing direct solar heat gain on the polycarbonate walls, enabling the main entry stair towers to be unconditioned spaces.

The Transition Projects and Holst team involved the progressive, supportive Kenton neighborhood in the development of the project from the beginning. By offering deeply affordable units with supportive services and adjacent outdoor space, Argyle Gardens will help Kenton alleviate other issues related to homelessness in the area.


The co-housing module systems works within the existing Portland Zoning code and can adapt to any area that allows duplexes or additional density. In Portland, six bedrooms and a shared kitchen constitute a single dwelling unit, so one cohousing module is considered a duplex that houses twelve people. Efficient construction techniques, prefabricated elements, a maximized efficiency of space, and an aesthetic typology can easily adapt the LISAH model to a variety of locales across Oregon—from city neighborhoods to the Coast to the Cascades.
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA
Interior Workplace, Adaptive Reuse, Historic Building
This project is a retrofit of a historic bottling plant in a dense residential and commercial neighborhood in Philadelphia. Built in 1948, the industrial building was transformed into an open plan office for 100+ people with conference rooms, fabrication shops, and breakout spaces. The goal for the renovation was to achieve a comfortable, energy-efficient, and flexible working environment and retain the building’s original International Style characteristics. After the renovation, the building was added to the National Register of Historic Places. The building is a two-story red brick structure with large bands of windows on the west and north sides. The second floor is an expansive open space with glazed brick walls and exposed roof trusses, illuminated with daylight from the windows and a glazed clerestory on the roof. The architects took advantage of these features to employ environmentally responsible systems for conditioning the space and to minimize lighting and power loads. Natural light and ventilation, together with the thermal mass of the concrete structure, provided an ideal test bed to experiment with various combinations of passive and active ventilation and dehumidification for heating and cooling. The experimentation was scrupulously tracked with 400 data sensors and daily occupant surveys to arrive at a new model for energy-efficient thermal comfort. The renovation highlights and preserves the best attributes of a mid-century building, while incorporating novel approaches to office design to create a flexible, collaborative space that enhances creative pursuits. The vast open space and exposed steel trusses are a treasure rarely experienced in typical office buildings. Furthermore, the project preserves an important part of Philadelphia’s architectural heritage and maintains the character of a rapidly gentrifying neighborhood, highlighting the great potential of the region’s mid-century building stock to provide innovative, productive, and sustainable work spaces that support a growing creative economy.
Media, Pennsylvania, USA
K-12 Education, School, Classroom, Addition
Questions concerning how students learn do not automatically suggest design solutions, but when the Benchmark School approached William and Chris Sharples, two of the founding principals of SHoP Architects, for help in the development of robotics as a teaching tool, they saw opportunity.

The architects, identical twins and the “SH” in the firm’s name, are alumni of the independent school, founded in 1970, by Irene W. Gaskins, to help students who learn differently. In a recent phone conversation they finished each other’s rapid-fire sentences, such was their enthusiasm for the school that changed their lives. “We had graduated sixth grade, but our reading comprehension was barely at third-grade level,” said William. Their parents, aware how challenged their apparently bright sons were, enrolled them in the then-new institution. “We were very upset after the first day,” the Sharples said. “Two weeks later, we were having a ball.”

The two were ultimately diagnosed with dyslexia, which the school is geared to address, along with such diagnoses as perceptual difficulties and attention-deficit disorders—by first building confidence and then helping children discover their own ways of learning, an approach that has been influential. “We meet the students where they are, not where their age says they are supposed to be,” explained Betsy Cunicelli, Benchmark’s director of special projects.

Located in Media, Pennsylvania, 13 miles west of Philadelphia, Benchmark is a five-building, 23-acre campus serving 185 first- through eighth-grade students. There’s a heavy focus on reading and math, with instructors applying a wide range of learning research to support students individually in such tasks as time management, persistence, working collaboratively, and thinking critically.

Many dyslexics use visualization and hands-on experiences to commit concepts to memory. Students who struggle to comprehend a verbal explanation of something may understand better by assembling it on their own. This “constructing knowledge through experience,” as Benchmark puts it, is one way students learn.

Benchmark’s leaders and students visited both SHoP’s Manhattan office and the firm’s lab in an industrial space in Brooklyn, where they saw a repurposed auto–assembly line robot and tools for model-making, comparing fabrication possibilities, and mocking up assemblies to assess their constructability and visual impact. The school’s staff was impressed not only by the students’ excitement over the lab, but by the iterative problem-solving common in architecture. SHoP and the educators together concluded that an innovation lab could give students new opportunities to choose their own approach for addressing open-ended problems, while collaborating with others to succeed.

The resulting lab is a diminutive 2,200-square-foot glass-and-metal-clad two-story structure tucked like a hinge into a gap between two existing buildings. The full-height glass entry wall puts the Innovation Lab’s activities on display, engaging passing students. The upper level houses three spaces for middle-school pupils: two open labs separated by a sliding-glass partition for maximum flexibility, and a small triangular space (for messier projects) wedged between them behind a glazed wall. A classroom for the youngest children is on the lower level. With butcher-block lab-style tables, and counters along the walls for computers, the rooms include sinks, adjustable track lighting, powercord outlets that drop down from the ceiling, and whiteboard wall surfaces.
Tehachapi, California, USA
Single Family Home
Set in California’s harsh Mojave Desert, Sawmill offers a new model for the sustainable single-family home. The client brief called for a self-sufficient home that maximized connection between architecture and nature, and between family members inside. The 5,200 SF concrete block, steel and glass home is designed to stand up to the severe climate of the fire-prone Tehachapi Mountains. Demonstrating that high design can also be high performance, Sawmill is a net-zero home that operates completely off the grid. As a firm, we have long been interested in using architecture to serve as a bridge between humans and nature, but this project takes that ethos even further, showing how projects can actually give back to their sites. The client was an integral part of the design process. He served as general contractor for the construction of the home, actively engineering several of the building’s load management systems. We continue to learn from this client, as he has participated in post-occupancy evaluations. In 2017, Sawmill was the recipient of an AIA National Housing Award. The jury noted of the project: “A very well-done cabin which doesn’t seem to be any more than needed as far as size, but offers much more as far as spirit and understanding of the place.” Sawmill’s recent feature in the November/December 2017 issue of Dwell detailed the home’s sustainability features, bringing our design lessons to a wider audience. We believe that Sawmill stands as a new model for the single-family home. If lessons learned on Sawmill were applied to general building standards for this type of home, it could have a dramatic impact on the energy landscape of the United States.
Willits, California, USA
Single Family Home, Rural
High Horse Ranch, in Mendocino County, California, has abundant wildlife—deer, bobcats, chorus frogs, juncos, and more—but nothing equine. Echoing the names of such nearby places as Dead Horse Canyon, this mountainous 64-acre property playfully honors owner Clive McCarthy, who, as his wife, Tricia Bell, puts it, “enjoys getting on his high horse, now and then, for a good-natured rant.” It’s also a nod to the land’s former use: as a marijuana farm. But no longer committed to such crops, the property is now a retreat for this couple and their guests—a remote getaway designed for comfort and an intimate experience with wild terrain in dramatic surroundings. Additional Content: Jump to credits & specifications The pair first came here looking to create an escape from San Francisco, 150 miles to the south, where they inhabit a converted industrial warehouse. They welcomed the idea of getting above the Northern California fog, on a site that reaches an elevation of 2,300 feet. After driving up switchbacks on a gravel road—through steep, mossy terrain, amid soaring firs and craggy oaks draped in lacy lichen—they’d barely entered the property when they caught an unexpected glimpse of a spectacular mountain cleft beneath them; they were smitten. As Bell, then a practicing physician, recalls, “Right then, we both knew we wanted to buy the place.” They considered local architects before encountering a book by Philadelphia-based KieranTimberlake on Loblolly, a house fabricated off-site. “I loved the precision,” says McCarthy, a British-born former electrical engineer turned tech executive, who now makes digitally inspired artworks. He and Bell were impressed that Loblolly had been assembled (rather than built) without even a chainsaw on-site. They too hoped to tread lightly, preserving the abundant trees on their nearly pristine land. Soon KieranTimberlake partner James Timberlake visited the property. As he recalls, “It was a once-in-a-lifetime site, and we all hit it off.” Apart from Loblolly, designed by partner Stephen Kieran for his own family, and the temporary Cellophane House in a parking lot at MoMA, the firm hadn’t tried other off-site residential fabrication, much less for a “real” client in a challenging spot. The couple envisioned a mountaintop house with a seemingly casual, yet orchestrated, approach. The quarter-mile ascent on their grounds would offer that teasing initial peek into the valley before
New York, New York, USA
Theater, Performing Arts Center, Cultural Center
The Shed's shell creates a 17,200-square-foot light-, sound-, and temperature-controlled hall that can serve an infinite variety of uses. The hall can accommodate an audience of 1,200 seated or 2,700 standing; flexible overlap space in the two adjoining galleries of the base building allows for an expanded audience in the hall of up to 3,000. The shell’s entire ceiling operates as an occupiable theatrical deck with rigging and structural capacity throughout. Large operable doors on the Plaza level allow for engagement with the public areas to the east and north when open.

When the Shed's shell is nested over the base building, the 19,500-square-foot plaza will be open public space that can be used for outdoor programming; the eastern façade can serve as a backdrop for projection with lighting and sound support. The Plaza is equipped with distributed power supply for outdoor functions.

The building is able to expand and contract by rolling the telescoping shell on rails. The Shed’s kinetic system is inspired by the industrial past of the High Line and the West Side Railyard. Through the use of conventional building systems for the fixed structure and adapting gantry crane technology to activate the outer shell, the institution is able to accommodate large-scale indoor and open-air programming on demand.

The Shed takes inspiration, architecturally, from the Fun Palace, the influential but unrealized building-machine conceived by British architect Cedric Price and theater director Joan Littlewood in the 1960s. Like its precursor, The Shed’s open infrastructure can be permanently flexible for an unknowable future and responsive to variability in scale, media, technology, and the evolving needs of artists.

The Shed’s back-of-house spaces, which include offices, mechanical spaces, dressing rooms, and storage, are located on Level 1 and the lower levels of the residential tower to the west, 15 Hudson Yards (designed by Diller Scofidio + Renfro, Lead Architect and Rockwell Group, Lead Interior Architect). This allows the bulk of The Shed’s base building to be devoted to programmable space for art.
Asilong, West Pokot, Kenya
Education, K-12 School
This is the story of a community imagining a different future for itself, beginning with seeking peace in the region through access to clean water and then enhancing educational opportunities for the primary school graduates. Because of its remote location in northwest Kenya and within a community of subsistence farmers and pastoralists, true sustainability has been the driver for each design decision, including design integration of a severe environment, an engaged community, and local economics. The project is a high school campus that will educate 320 students upon full buildout. Structures accommodate classrooms, offices, dormitories, and teacher housing at its core. The local conditions are harsh by any standard: drastic seasonal swings between dry seasons with harsh equatorial sun and wet seasons with pronounced rainstorms that erode the dry, sparsely planted land with no connection to a municipal water or power system. Design constraints and opportunities are dictated by the place: zero net energy, zero net water, emphasis on regional materials and local labor, and community engagement to ensure generational success. Strategies driven by an integrated triple-bottom-line philosophy include:
  • Respect the beauty of place and people by providing design that is simple, durable, and of its place.
  • Design initial buildings that are flexible in use (classrooms or offices or sleeping rooms).
  • Use familiar materials, but with enhanced construction detailing and techniques.
  • Acknowledge extreme climate by providing an abundance of shaded areas, increasing educational space available for overflow.
  • Capture rainwater in rainy seasons for daily needs.
  • Encourage capacity for local laborers to learn new skills and improve their economic situation (on-site brickmaking, cast-in-place concrete, crafting of wicker screens).
  • Provide teacher housing that attracts the best teachers in the region.
    Integrate original community needs for water, education, and health.
New York, New York, USA
Renovation, Restoration, Church, Cathedral, Religious Building
Driven by social, ecological, and economic value, the 21st-century renovation of New York City’s St. Patrick’s Cathedral—the prominent 1870s religious landmark by James Renwick Jr., which was last renovated in 1949— achieved a 29 percent reduction in annual energy use and stabilized significant historic fabric while each year welcoming 5 million-plus visitors. Design solutions combined stringent conservation methods, 10 geothermal wells, fully integrated new mechanical systems, and strategic architectural interventions to enhance worship and functionality. Additions of modern glass doors and structural glass walls supported sustainability goals, creating an energy-saving enclosure, improving uses of the 1906 Lady Chapel, and enhancing visitor comfort while maintaining views of historic interiors, stained glass, and structures. The nine-year, $177 million effort impacts the entire city block-sized campus. Preservation of failing marble, stone, plasterwork, and stained glass stabilized and improved original materials. New ancillary spaces create expanded social and worship opportunities, and 1960s-era mechanical equipment has been completely replaced. Long-concealed original elements were restored or re-created, with deference to Renwick’s neo-Gothic details and design intent. As reported in the New York Times, “trustees of the 138-year-old building, the centerpiece of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of New York,” wanted the church to maintain its historic fabric, even as major systems were upgraded and “it was going green.” Offering valuable post-occupancy lessons for making historic places effective, relevant and resilient, the wide-ranging conservation and retrofit improvements to St. Patrick’s Cathedral created sustainable building systems and functionality with a focus on long-term, change-ready solutions. In this way, leadership invested in not only “the most sustainable, cost-effective, long-term options,” but also those “that best align with the greater good of the city, community and earth— not just today, but for generations to come.”