Courtesy ShoWare Center

To delve deeper into our coverage of the 2012 Evergreen Awards, ECO-STRUCTURE asked the 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 integrating high-performance strategies into their projects. Below we take a closer look at some of the core values that shape each firm’s ethos.

Location: Seattle (headquarters); Rockville, Md. (Paladino D.C. office)
Principals: Tom Paladino, Assoc. AIA, president; Steve Keppler, president of Paladino D.C.; Brad Pease, AIA, LEED AP, director of signature buildings practice
Founded: 2008
Size: 21 employees
Little-known fact: The first office was actually in the basement of Tom Paladino’s home in Seattle’s Wedgewood neighborhood. At one point, up to four employees all shared cozy quarters down there.

What was the biggest lesson you learned from designing the Tower at PNC Plaza, which won a 2012 Evergreen Awards?
Brad Pease: Working on an on-the-boards project, we are fortunate to still have the opportunity to gain new knowledge from the project as construction gets under way. Our biggest lesson learned thus far is around how we maintained the ambitious green features through the value engineering process by aligning them to the owner’s goals. Value engineering has become a dirty word in our industry, as green features are frequently targeted during this process. Many think of green as an add-on, making systems easy to cost—and remove—separately. For the tower, we aligned the green feature set to real values of our client, PNC, as identified in the concept phase. These weretalent retention and recruitment, energy and water efficiency, and positive contributions to the Pittsburgh community. The features that were maintained through the VE process were those that positively impacted more than one pillar—features that strengthened the project and played an integral role in achieving the client’s overarching goals. By identifying how green initiatives contributed to the overall value of the project for PNC in the beginning, we were able to retain the high aspirations of the project during costing exercises.

What insights from this and other sustainable projects would you share with other professionals?
Don’t be afraid of high aspirations—use them to stretch your thinking. By pushing the envelope early in the design process, you can answer difficult questions first that bring clarity to the design process early on and get the entire team on board, pulling in the same direction towards a shared outcome. If you never push the boundaries, you will never know if you arrived at the best project outcome possible.

What is your firm's philosophy on sustainable design?
We call our approach to sustainable design “abundance thinking,” which means looking at old problems and outmoded structures in new ways that collectively leverage readily available resources and opportunities. Whether people, planet, or prosperity assets are in play, the goal is to grow the asset base—the triple top line—rather than solely focusing on the bottom line.

The concept of abundance takes the sustainability opportunity for a building a step beyond LEED, by providing a framework for the optimization of building performance. An abundance approach assumes that within any context, the needed resources exist and simply need to be harnessed and allocated towards preferred goals under innovative and thoughtful leadership.

The abundance methodology helps drive teams towards the highest possible project outcomes, find common ground, and then apply available financial, human, and environmental capital to implement the shared vision, focusing on what we want to happen rather than what we don’t want to happen.

The outcome is a custom approach applied to a specific business or building design opportunity in a way that aligns with the organization’s key financial, human, and environmental performance indicators, freeing our clients to think big.

What kinds of sustainable solutions are non-negotiable for your firm? What are the baseline standards your firm aims to meet with every project?
We never have to negotiate on baseline standards. Every building project we work on is a green building project. We don’t require our clients to meet a certain level of performance to work with us, but rather collaborate with them to develop a path to sustainability that makes the most sense within their business context and objectives. Because of Paladino’s reputation for innovation, technical approach, and expertise, we naturally attract high-aspiration clients who seek to use sustainability as a competitive driver and as a way to deliver shared value for investors, employees, their community, and the planet—but we also welcome the opportunity to work with companies who might be approaching sustainability from a compliance perspective, to show how green building can provide value.

How do you think these types of innovative green solutions might become standard?
High-aspiration organizations already implement sustainable solutions into their building projects and business operations because they know it delivers value and it’s the right thing to do for employees, customers, and the communities they serve. In the future, we expect more companies to move away from the idea of sustainability-as-compliance (to meet industry regulations or building codes, for instance) and embrace sustainable solutions because of how they can help position a company competitively, save money, and benefit from intangibles like improved productivity and employee satisfaction.

Click here to read about Paladino & Co.'s 2012 Evergreen Award-winning project, the Tower at PNC Plaza.