a photograph of the interior of the PAE Living Building

5 Buildings that Pushed Sustainable Design Forward in 2022

These schools and office buildings raised the bar for low-carbon design, employing strategies such as mass-timber construction, passive ventilation, and onsite renewable energy generation.

A Water Utility Office Designed to Rival Most Museums

SmithGroup achieves an engineering miracle in the Washington, D.C., Water headquarters.

By Kelly Beamon

Exterior of a glass-clad utility office building with a pedestrian walkway in the foreground

It is telling that three years after opening, a curvy, glass- and aluminum-clad office building that SmithGroup designed for the District of Columbia’s sewer and water utility is still accumulating honors.

Last month, a Metropolis jury named the headquarters (it’s specially engineered to partly sit above, but not rest on the city’s main pumping station) the Northeast Regional winner of the Planet Positive Awards for its impact on people and the planet. Previously it had earned a Fast Company Innovation by Design Honorable Mention and two 2020 American Institute of Architects’ (AIA) citations, one for architecture, and another for sustainable design. Those, along with accolades for the concept before it was built, predate its climactic certification this year as a LEED Platinum project by the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC).

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“It’s a unique response to a challenging site,” says Dayton Schroeter, a SmithGroup principal and design director who served as the project’s architect….Read the full story here

Henley Hall Institute for Energy Efficiency Offers a Lesson in Natural Ventilation 

Designed by KieranTimberlake for The University of California, Santa Barbara, the laboratory building achieved LEED Platinum and is defined by a massive brise-soleil.

By Russell Fortmeyer

exterior photograph of henley hall

Climate is often the first box you need to tick when naturally ventilating a building—either the hours of occupancy align with good weather conditions or they don’t. “If you can’t make natural ventilation work in central Santa Barbara County, where can you?” asks Jordan Sager, the University of California, Santa Barbara’s campus energy manager. Situated directly on the Pacific Ocean, the university has climate on its side. Cool, breezy summers, manageable humidity, and mild winters help explain why the campus boasts several academic and residential buildings with passive ventilation for cooling, often coupled with radiant heating systems. 

This was the approach UCSB tasked KieranTimberlake with for Henley Hall, a new 49,900-square-foot academic laboratory building opened in August 2020 to house the school’s Institute for Energy Efficiency. A combination research and teaching lab, with supporting lecture spaces and offices, the LEED Platinum structure sits on the north edge of campus, along with a series of other science and engineering facilities….Read the full story here

This Hyper-Sustainable Elementary School Is the First of its Kind

Perkins Eastman rebuilds and revitalizes the John Lewis Elementary School in Washington, D.C., aiming for net-zero-energy, LEED Platinum, and WELL certification.

By Michelle Goldchain

a photograph of the exterior of a school building

Joseph Rodman West Elementary, near Washington, D.C.’s Petworth neighborhood, appears not only modernized but resurrected. And the firm behind the new and improved structure is behind several other public buildings in the District of Columbia.

Perkins Eastman has renovated at least 14 D.C. Public Schools (DCPS) buildings since the district dedicated $4 billion in 2007 to making its facilities healthier, more energy efficient, and sound. This one, which the firm completed before the school year in August 2021, aspires to be the world’s first net-zero-energy, LEED Platinum, and WELL-certified public school. But before its doors opened, it needed a new moniker….Read the full story here

This Firm Reshaped Its Office into the Hub of a “Carbon Neutral Corridor”

Tennessee architecture office Archimania charts a new path for green building in a carbon-intensive neighborhood. 

By Ethan Tucker

A photograph of a low slung building with solar panels

Archimania’s new office occupies one of a pair of single-story white buildings on South Cooper Street, a low-rise commercial corridor a few miles from downtown Memphis. The thoroughfare’s two lanes of traffic, lined by shopping centers, restaurants, and parking lots—lots of parking lots—make it an unlikely site for a firm that has garnered multiple AIA awards for its green building strategies. But despite—or maybe because of—that location, the headquarters’ design promotes a new type of sustainable reuse, one that targets the in-between areas that are not at the center of cities, but are highly car-centric. 

“It’s set up like a horizontal mixed-use community already,” Archimania senior associate Jacob Davis says of the location. The office is situated along a two-mile stretch that runs from Overton Park, a 342-acre green space in the city’s north, to Cooper-Young, a lively neighborhood of bars and restaurants in the south, and just off the main road, where single-family houses dominate. “We thought that if we plug in the right way, we can be a catalyst for change,” he says, explaining that activating the corridor between these two nodes could help increase pedestrian and bicycle traffic, connect the commercial strip to surrounding residential areas, and reduce residents’ reliance on cars….Read the full story here

The PAE Living Building Rises in Portland, Oregon

In a contracting office market, Portland’s PAE Living Building attracts tenants with resilience, mass timber, and indoor-outdoor gathering spots.

By Brian Libby


Portland, Oregon’s Skidmore/Old Town Historic District, with its 19th-century National Register–listed fabric of cast-iron architecture (and corresponding restrictions on height and style), might seem an unlikely place for what is expected to be the state’s first fully Living Building Challenge (LBC)–certified structure. The timing of the project, which broke ground in April 2020, just after the COVID-19 pandemic began, wasn’t ideal either. 

Yet the PAE Living Building, completed last fall and named for its anchor tenant, PAE Engineers, is a successful developer-led speculative office venture that comprises ground-floor retail and four floors of office space above—three and a half of which are already leased. The building was designed by ZGF Architects, itself founded in Portland, to be the first such project to meet LBC requirements, and at 58,000 square feet, the nation’s largest. It is expected to be fully certified in summer 2023, after a mandatory 12-month waiting period to track post-occupancy performance….Read the full story here

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