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 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: Bremerton, Wash.
Principals: Steve Rice, Dave Fergus, Mike MillerFounded: 1987
Size: 36 employees
Little-known fact: We like to ride tricycles! (Our firm gathers community leaders and holds a trike race on one of the downtown streets as a fundraiser for United Way.)

What was the biggest lesson you learned from designing your own office and studio, which one a 2012 Evergreen Award?
Steve Rice: We wanted to stretch our imaginations before tackling the design problem this renovation represented. In other words, we didn't want to just see the renovation work as the whole work—we wanted to imagine beyond that challenge. "How sustainable can this be? What possibilites are there for greatness? How do we make this remarkable?" We did that both to satisfy ourselves— [since this is] the one time we'll do something like this for ourselves—and to be able to show clients and the community that "remarkable" can be done efficiently and economically when approached with an integrated team thinking together. So, I guess the lesson is to generate a vision and a story, and then to be bold in carrying it out.

What insights from this and other sustainable projects would you share with other professionals?
We have created an environment that is a demonstration and experimentation space for not only ourselves, but also for our clients, consultants, and community. From the reuse of an existing building to the energy consumption reaching net zero for a carbon-neutral footprint, we have created a laboratory for sustainability. We have engaged the mechanical engineering programs at Olympic College and Washington State University to partner with us to provide curriculum enhancement and measurable energy data for the design industry.

What is your firm's philosophy on sustainable design?
Rice Fergus Miller is a firm deeply committed to sustainable design and practice. As designers, we believe we must be in the lead on this critical issue. As we moved through the design phases of our office and studio, sustainability was at the forefront of our thinking. Our new office and studio has just been certified LEED Platinum, but certification was only one goal for us.

What kinds of sustainable solutions are non-negotiable for your firm? What are the baseline standards your firm aims to meet with every project?
Although LEED certification is a worthy attainment for any project, our firm’s goal is to infuse the proper sustainable approach into all projects.

How do you think these types of innovative green solutions might become standard?
We strive to create the curve and to collaborate with those who are doing the same.

Click here to read about Rice Fergus Miller's studio and office, the 2012 Evergreen Award-winning project in the Commercial Interiors category.