To delve deeper into our coverage of the 2012 COTE Top Ten Awards, ECO-STRUCTURE askedthe winning firms to detail their experiences with sustainable design. These offices didn’t just happen upon a winning scheme—rather, they’re all well-versed in making high-performance strategies an integral part of each project. Below we take a closer look at some of the core values that shape each firm’s ethos.

Location: Portland, Ore.
Principals in charge: Tim Eddy, AIA; Alan Osborne, AIA; David Wark, AIA
Founded: 1992
Size: 34 employees
Little-known fact: ‘‘Our firm keeps itself humming on about $500-a-month-worth of coffee from local Portland roaster Stumptown Coffee.’’

What was the biggest lesson you learned from your 2012 COTE Top Ten Project, Portland Community College's (PCC) Newberg Center?
Tim Eddy: Throughout the design of the PCC Newberg Center, our integrated design process was essential to maximizing the building's energy efficiency. We worked closely with our mechanical and electrical engineers in a highly interactive and iterative process to craft and re-craft the form of the building and systems. The impact on the design went beyond the standard good north-south orientation to include locations of clerestories, curtainwall patterning to reduce the window-to-wall ratio, and the height and form of the ventilation stacks. This close interaction was so critical to the final building design that on future projects we are looking at multi-day work sessions with the architecture and engineering teams co-locating to facilitate and maximize our collaboration.

What insights from this and other sustainable projects would you share with other professionals?
More than other sustainable design goals or strategies, designing a net-zero-energy building requires commitment from the client across the board, from those allocating the construction funds to the facilities maintenance staff and the everyday users of the building. A net-zero building is a unique opportunity for architects and engineers to partner closely with the end-users to strike the perfect balance of highly efficient design, operation, and maintenance. Ultimately, how the future users of the building will consume and conserve energy in their daily activities becomes a key topic.

What is your firm's philosophy on sustainable design?
Implementing practical sustainable solutions is a thread that runs through all of our work. While we embrace innovation, we focus on practical design and sustainable solutions that work for our clients. Sustainable design fosters long-term decisions based on flexibility, energy conservation, life-cycle analysis, and low-maintenance materials and details. This approach results not only in sustainable design, but smart design.

What kinds of sustainable solutions are non-negotiable for your firm? What are the baseline standards your firm aims to meet with every project?
This is a challenging question for a firm with a diverse portfolio of project types and scales. For us, the non-negotiable item is that for every project, regardless of scale, type, client affinity, or budget, sustainability and efficiency must be a topic at the table. We've signed on to the 2030 Challenge and, as part of our commitment, we conduct internal green project reviews on all of our projects to understand how the goals of the 2030 Challenge, and sustainable design in general, relate to our projects and our clients' goals.

How do you think these types of innovative green solutions might become standard?
When buildings like PCC Newberg have been in use, monitored for a period of time, and a proven history of their energy and maintenance performance is established, it will be exceptionally difficult for anyone planning a building to ignore the benefits of building in an energy-efficient and sustainable way.

More information about the Portland Community College's (PCC) Newberg Center is available here.