Location: San Francisco
Principals: Chuck Davis, FAIA; Duncan Ballash, AIA; Jennifer Devlin-Herbert, FAIA; Marc L’Italien, FAIA; Scott Shell, FAIA; Michel St. Pierre, AIA
Date Founded: 1946
Company Size: 82
Little-known fact: In the male dominated architecture industry, 55 percent of EHDD employees are female.

What was the biggest lesson you learned from your award-winning Marin Country Day School project?
Including the students, staff, and faculty in our design process in a deep and meaningful way led to a much stronger sustainable design approach--one that is not so much about the building itself, but about how it fits into the school's broader effort to educate and inspire students about sustainability. Students, faculty, and staff, alumni were included in an extensive series of workshops, interviews, and outreach sessions. During the design phase students researched a full range of green building techniques and operational strategies. During construction they observed and documented the process. After completion students monitored performance and led a series of tours focusing on specific sustainable issues around campus. This also spawned an annual sustainability day at MCDS in which students inform the broader community about the various initiatives happening on campus. Their inclusion in the process has given them ownership and developed their expertise about how they can make a difference.

What insights from this and other sustainable projects would you share with other professionals?
Of all the design strategies architects have to make wonderful buildings, daylight is the most powerful. It is always changing; it can enrich the simplest spaces and most basic of materials and it is a fundamental human desire. In EHDD’s post-occupancy studies, users consistently rave about the light and views and comment much less on the nice materials or elegant detailing. We strive to give every occupant both daylight and views by creating thin buildings that balance light from multiple directions and wash surfaces with light to shape space.

What is your firm's philosophy on sustainable design?
EHDD seeks to align specific sustainability strategies with our clients' priorities because we see our work as fundamentally supportive of our clients’ larger sustainability goals and vision. We believe 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 simply modest improvements and call for dramatic changes--like EHDD’s intense focus on net zero energy buildings. In the last ten years, our firm has realized that this biggest barrier in creating these types of buildings is the mental challenge of believing it can't be done. Beginning with small projects at 7,000 sq. ft and working our way up to 330,000 sq. ft., we have found that it can certainly be done – even within a rational cost and delivery process. Architects have the opportunity to design and create the future that we want and need.

What kinds of sustainable solutions are non-negotiable for your firm? What are the baseline standards your firm aims to meet with every project?
EHDD is less about establishing a floor and more focused on reaching for the sky. We believe major changes are needed and we are fortunate to have clientele that are by and large committed to sustainability. We are proud that we practice in a geographic region with evolving codes and standards. We have found that many sustainable materials and practices that used to be expensive have become standard and more accessible so it is easier, for example, to achieve the most of the LEED IEQ points.

What are the top energy-saving features you put in your projects?
We try to take a comprehensive approach to energy reduction which includes a full range of strategies specific to the building type. We often start by using the LBNL's EnergyIQ website to establish an energy pie for the building, and then systematically addressing each and every slice of that pie. To reduce lighting energy we emphasize daylighting, as well as low lighting power density with smart controls. For HVAC we strive to design high performance envelopes with effective airtightness, insulation and solar control. We've also found that PVs are a now a very viable strategy to be considered alongside a range of other energy efficiency strategies.

How do you think these types of innovative green solutions, products, and strategies, might become standard?
The world is changing, and I believe more and more people will demand better and more sustainable design. Who doesn't want beautifully daylit buildings, protection from overheating and glare, fresh healthy indoor air, and comfortable homes and offices, all with a lower energy bill and much lower environmental footprint? We need to understand how powerful architects are in shaping the environments that people live and work in that also help them protect our world.