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green@work : Magazine : Back Issues : May/June 2002 : Special Section

Special Section

When Buildings Go Green

Ten projects underscore the benefits of sustainable design and building practices—to people, the environment and the bottom line.

Proving the environmental, social and economic benefits of sustainable design for clients of any size, the American Institute of Architects (AIA) Committee on the Environment (COTE) recently selected its annual Top 10 “Green” Projects. These projects exemplify how architectural design solutions can protect and enhance the environment for a wide range of clients. In fact, this year’s winners (featured on the following pages) included projects designed for the federal government, large and small businesses, non-profit organizations and even individuals.

The jury that selected the winning projects included: Randy Croxton, FAIA, Croxton Collaborative; Sim van der Ryn, Van der Ryn Architects; Horst Berger, City University of New York; and Guy Battle, Battle McCarthy. The program, begun in 1998, recognizes projects that address significant environmental challenges with designs that integrate architecture, technology and natural systems. Projects are evaluated for their contributions to their site’s and existing ecosystems, connections to the surrounding community, use of high-performance technologies, energy use and sensitive use of materials and resources.

Sustainable design is increasingly acknowledged—by architects, their consultants, their clients and the public—as an important characteristic of quality architecture. In the four years since the Top Ten Green Projects awards program was started, numerous projects have been realized as American firms ascended a learning curve. Winning projects in this year’s groups come from firms that are well-known for their leadership in sustainable design, as well as several that are just beginning to utilize sustainable principles in their approach to projects.

This award and the range of submissions it fields are representative of the growing market transformation under way in this country and around the world. Corporations and other organizations are becoming increasingly aware of the benefits of sustainable design and building practices—to people, the environment and to the bottom line. Financial benefits are realized through energy and cost-of-operations savings as well as reduced absenteeism and greater productivity in some settings.

The AIA COTE represents more than 5,000 AIA architects committed to making sustainable design integral to the practice of architecture. It works to improve and sustain the environment by advancing and disseminating environmental knowledge and values and advocating the best design practices—those that integrate built and natural systems—to the profession, industry and public. The Top 10 Green Projects initiative was developed in partnership with the U.S. Department of Energy. Selected projects include new construction and renovation of office, residential, academic, civic and institutional facilities.

Manzanita, OR
Tom Bender, architect

This 7,500-square-foot bank building blends energy performance, local ecological fitness, community benefit and economic success. The design process focused on community, cultural, spiritual and energetic dimensions of sustainability, as well as the more conventional energy and material aspects. The facility benefits from significant daylighting, on-site storm-water retention and natural ventilation and cooling. Zoned high-efficiency fluorescent lighting is used during just a quarter of the building’s occupied time. Local materials were used where possible and landscaping is local native coastal plants. The energy-efficient bank opened just before last summer’s West Coast energy shortages, which led to a strong sense of local pride in the facility.

Contact: Tom Bender
e-mail:; 503-368-6294

Port Hueneme, CA
CTG Energetics

This project is home to the Naval Base Ventura County Public Works Department and consists of 10,000 square feet of renovated space and 7,000 square feet of new construction. Concepts and systems incorporated into the design include: daylighting, shading and innovative glazing elements; maximum use of natural ventilation; photovoltaic power generation; solar space and domestic water heating systems; lighting with continuously dimming electronic ballasts and occupancy and photo sensor controls; real-time energy monitoring; HVAC systems demonstrating several new technologies including prototype natural-gas heat-pump air conditioning, variable air volume under-floor air distribution and high-efficiency pulse boilers; gray water system for capture and reuse of rain water and lavatory discharge; self-sustaining landscaping and water conserving irrigation system; indoor air quality monitoring; and extensive use of recycled building materials. Project designers used physical and computerized modeling to optimize the interaction of daylighting with building envelope, interiors and systems.

Contact: Malcolm Lewis, PE
e-mail:; 949-790-0010

Livermore, CA
Siegel & Strain Architects

This environmental education camp, which serves middle school as well as critically ill children and other guests, was designed to demonstrate a series of ecological design principles as part of the curriculum. Bathhouses are made of stabilized earth, while the cabins are efficient wood structures. The dining hall is a straw-bale building. Low-tech solutions to heating, cooling and water treatment were favored over more complex mechanical technologies for energy efficiency, lower cost and simplicity. Bathhouses are open-air, seasonal structures with natural ventilation and no mechanical system. Cabins and dining hall depend on shading strategies and operable clerestory windows to keep them cool. The cabins have south-facing sunrooms for winter heat gain and solar panels for water heating and backup radiant heat. The biological wastewater treatment system will treat water with minimal energy input, demonstrating that there is no waste in nature.

Contact: Henry Siegel
e-mail:; 510-457-8092

Buenos Aires, Argentina

This 125,000-square-foot office building was built on a reclaimed brownfield site (its garage was built within the foundations of a 19th-century warehouse) at Puerto Madero, a redevelopment area in Buenos Aires. The building was developed as a long narrow slab to minimize solar gain on the structure; the east and west ends of which are “pinched.” The broad northern face, the primary solar exposure, is shaped to track the sun and is fully screened with deep sunshades that virtually eliminate direct solar radiation during peak cooling months. The south face, which reflects the geometry of the northern façade, is equipped with the same high-performance curtain wall system as the other facades, minimizing solar gain. A “green roof” helps insulate the 40,000-square-foot podium from solar radiation and manages storm water runoff. Open floor plates and raised floors provide flexibility for multi-tenant office or alternative future uses.

Contact: Ripley Rasmus, AIA
e-mail:; 314-421-2000

Ankeny, IA
RDG Bussard Dikis

This 13,000-square-foot facility, the Iowa Association of Municipal Utilities (IAMU) Office and Training Headquarters, was conceived as a teaching tool. Designed and built within a modest budget, its energy consumption is 48 percent less than a conventional design, and it is 98 percent day-lit. The building uses a geothermal heat pump system for heating and cooling. Building occupants enjoy multiple views of the landscape and sky from any point inside the building. This project has also restored a suburban farm field, destined for commercial development, into a native Iowa tall-grass prairie. Soil erosion had been plaguing the site, harming nearby Carney Marsh, a 40-acre protected wetland. The reconstructed prairie, wetlands and siltration ponds have recreated habitat for flora and fauna.

Contact: Kevin R. Nordmeyer, AIA
e-mail:; 515-288-3141

Reston, VA

The new 85,000-square-foot headquarters serves 300 employees and guests. The National Wildlife Federation made a commitment to build a headquarters facility that would demonstrate sensible stewardship of its financial resources. It accomplished this through a rigorous payback analysis to select “state-of-the-shelf” construction technologies and materials. Native plantings support local wildlife and reduce the need for irrigation and frequent mowing. The building’s orientation capitalizes on solar energy sources to reduce energy expenditure and increase natural light. The facility’s north side, which overlooks the park, is a curtain wall of glass that offers beautiful vistas and floods the interior spaces with light to create a welcoming atmosphere. The southern facade has a vertical trellis planted with deciduous vines that leaf out in summer to provide shade and fall off in winter to allow sunlight to help heat the facility. The plantings also provide a vertical habitat for indigenous wildlife.

Contact: William Hellmuth, AIA
e-mail:; 202-339-8700

Oberlin, OH
William McDonough + Partners

Designed to be restorative, the center celebrates the interaction of human and natural environments. With a goal to be a net-energy exporter, the teaching and public space integrates natural energy flows while blurring the distinction between indoors and out. The light-drenched, two-story atrium serves as the primary organizing feature and the southern campus’ “town hall.” Daylighting and natural ventilation enhance the atrium’s feeling of an “outdoor room.” The project demonstrates how state-of-the-art thinking applies to readily available state-of-the-shelf materials and building systems. Throughout, the design team remained mindful of how even the most advanced systems still must serve the needs of the building’s occupants.

Contact: Kevin Burke, AIA
e-mail:; 434-979-1111


San Francisco, CA

This adaptive reuse project transformed a dilapidated warehouse on San Francisco’s waterfront to 140,000 square feet of class A office space and an acre of new public open space. The design reflects the history and nature of the site, uses green materials garnered from green sources and provides clean air and natural light for occupants. Pier One is surrounded by water, which flows through radiant tubes in floor slabs for heating and cooling. This system moderates the interior climate according to each zone’s location and orientation. Generated heat is rejected into a submerged condenser water loop under the building, dissipating energy into the bay within a tightly prescribed temperature range.

Contact: Dan Cheetham, AIA
e-mail:; 415-546-0400


Bainbridge Island, WA

The 70,000-square-foot facility includes an interpretive center, a great hall, offices, learning studios, dining hall, art studio, maintenance building and visitor accommodations. Wastewater is treated on site and reused. Rainwater is collected for irrigation and other uses. Photovoltaic installation provides more than half of the power for the learning-studio building. Rooftop solar hot water panels reduce hot water demand at lodges and dining hall by 50 percent. Ventilation replaces air conditioning, with operable skylights providing maximum through-ventilation. High-efficiency fluorescent lighting with photocells reduces energy use. High-quality metal roofs and metal clad windows will provide long life in the heavily wooded Northwest environment.

Contact: Bert Gregory, AIA
e-mail:; 206-623-7005

Tofte, MN
Sarah Nettleton Architects

The renovation of a 1947 cabin resulted in a 950-square-foot soul-satisfying retreat that is a model of sustainable design. The cabin’s original site and adjacent trees were retained to shelter the cabin from winter winds and open it to sun and wind from the east and south. The locally quarried granite’s color echoes the color of the spruce and the lake as it references the granite bedrock beneath the house. Natural stack ventilation through low and high windows cools the cabin. An air-to-air heat exchanger provides ventilation. A super-insulated thermal envelope minimized the load on the geothermal heat pump in-floor heating system. The heat pump provides domestic hot water as well. Built with long-lasting materials and careful details, the cabin is a beautiful retreat that will serve for generations.

Contact: Sarah Nettleton, AIA
e-mail:; 612-334-9667

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