Earth Day Edition: Stylish 2015 Sustainable Buildings

The E+ Highland Street townhouses in Boston, MA—All photos courtesy of the AIA

Earth Day comes once a year, but rest assured that environmentally-friendly design—whether it’d be off-grid prefabs or totally sustainably-powered Apple data centers—is a ceaseless effort. What makes a top-notch sustainable building nowadays? Just take a look at this year’s top ten green projects awarded by the American Institute of Architects and its Committee on the Environment. These buildings, which range from housing and office spaces to research facilities and medical centers, prioritize strategies like optimizing stormwater management, daylighting, and natural ventilation, while increasing access to public transit, walking, and biking paths.


The Bullitt Center · Seattle, WA · The Miller Hull Partnership (↑ ↓)

This 52,000-square-foot urban office complex is the largest “Living Building” certified by the Living Building Challenge, a rigorous international sustainable building certification program based on proven performance rather than models and projections. It achieves an unprecedented Energy Use Intensity of 10kbtu/sf/yr.



CANMET Materials Technology Laboratory · Ontario, Canada · Diamond Schmitt Architects (↑ ↓)

Sustainable design moves like optimizing radiant heating and cooling, maximizing solar collection helped this 174,300-square-foot lab achieve a 70 percent energy use reduction, a big accomplishment for a complex building filled with customized equipment.



Collaborative Life Sciences Building for OHSU, PSU & OSU · Portland, OR · SERA Architects (↑ ↓)

Energy-efficiency initiatives for this 650,000-square-foot health, academic and research building focus on light pollution reduction, stormwater management, non-potable water for flushing–and for its soaring atrium, heat recovery.



E+ Highland Street Townhouses · Boston, MA · SA­Interface Studio Architects (↑ ↓)

Each unit in this prototype series of energy-efficient urban townhomes features south-facing sloped roofs for PV panels, passive airflow, and terraced landscaping for water management along the sloped site.


The rest of your required reading on Earth Day:
Why Doesn’t the World Have More Wooden Skyscrapers?
For Medics in Rural Burundi, Vivid, Solar-Powered Housing
Here Now, an Eco-Friendly Home That’s Remote-ControlledThis Off-Grid Home in Senegal Was Built from the Soil It Sits On


Hughes Warehouse · San Antonio, TX · Overland Partners (↑↓)

To transform this early 20th-century warehouse into a dynamic studio space, the design team prioritized preserving an open plan space by eliminating private offices and a courtyard that improves daylighting.



New Orleans BioInnovation Center · New Orleans, LA · Eskew+Dumez+Ripple (↑ ↓)

The design for this research facility adopts hints of vernacular climate responsive strategies, including slatted shutters, a landscaped courtyard with a rainwater collection facility, and a sheltered porch.



San Antonio Military Medical Center · San Antonio, TX · RTKL (↑ ↓)

This medical facility, which manages to capture 100 percent of the rainwater on site, features a giant a giant trellis canopy that shades the building.

100% of rainwater on the primary SAMMC site is captured and managed on site.


Sweetwater Spectrum Community · Sonoma, CA · Leddy Maytum Stacy Architects (↑ ↓)

Almost all of the buildings in this housing community for adults with autismuse daylight as its primary light source, and the whole complex is sited to optimize natural ventilation and PV panels.



Tassafaronga Village · Oakland, CA · David Baker Architects (↑ ↓)

This compound of 60 affordable apartments feature an abundance of carefully-positioned windows that mollify intense sunlight and heat spikes and widespread planted landscape, which, at the expense of on-grade parking, improves storm-water management and adds shade-producing trees.



University Center – The New School · New York, NY · Skidmore, Owings & Merrill (↑ ↓)

This academic and residential building includes a 13,500-square-foot green roof, a thermal energy storage system, and a black water treatment system that cuts the building’s potable water consumption by 75 percent over basement.



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