Location: San Francisco
Principals: Duncan Ballash, AIA, principal and president; Jennifer K. Devlin-Herbert, FAIA; Marc L’Italien, FAIA; Scott Shell, FAIA; Michel St. Pierre, AIA
Founded: 1946
Size: 82 employees

What is the biggest lesson you learned from this year’s COTE Top Ten winner, the David and Lucile Packard Foundation Headquarters?

Brad Jacobson, project manager: Net-zero energy is not a design goal: it is an operational goal that requires a shared commitment by the design team, the building owner, operator, and users.

Exploratorium at Pier 15.

Exploratorium at Pier 15.

Credit: Bruce Damonte

Your firm has won AIA COTE Top Ten awards in the past. What’s your secret to success in green building?

EHDD believes sustainable communities and organizations are much more profound than just green buildings. We believe that addressing climate change is the grand challenge of our generation, and therefore, our scale of response must be commensurate with the size of the problem. This requires the architectural industry to push beyond modest improvements and call for dramatic changes. Architects have the opportunity to design and create the future that we want and need.

City College of San Francisco.

City College of San Francisco.

Credit: Jeremy Bitterman

How does your firm prioritize sustainable design strategies on each project? Is there one area that you focus on more than others, such as third-party certification, energy conservation, human health, or adaptive reuse?

We believe climate change is the grand challenge of our time and that architects have a great ability to make change in the world. Our impact extends beyond building energy use to include the materials we use and even the transportation options available to building occupants.

University of California Santa Cruz Biomedical Building.

University of California Santa Cruz Biomedical Building.

Credit: Matthew Millman

Has sustainability always been an integral part of your firm’s mission? If not, when was it incorporated and what drove this shift?

Our work today builds on the architectural tradition established by Joseph Esherick and the other original firm partners. For them, good design must be appropriate to the particulars of site, climate, and use. Today we call this approach “sustainability.”

The David and Lucile Packard Foundation Headquarters.

The David and Lucile Packard Foundation Headquarters.

Credit: Jeremy Bittermann

What does your firm see as the next “frontier” of green building?

We’ve figured out the technical and cultural side of the net zero energy equation, but we need a few more good case studies that show the financial case clearly. Only then will we see the widespread transformation of the building industry that we need.

Click here to read our past firm profile of EHDD.