Location: San Francisco
Principals: Vern Almon, AIA; Sean Huang; Doug Gordon, AIA; James Diaz, FAIA; Lari Maria Diaz, AIA; Kelly Galloway, David Hobstetter, AIA; Roy Latka, AIA; Robert Matthew, AIA; Jim McKenzie, AIA; James Mueller, AIA; Elaine Pavia; Fred Schreck; Anastasios Stathopoulos; Ryan Stevens; Douglas Strout, AIA; Rob Swartz
Date Founded: 1963
Company Size: 150

What was the biggest lesson you learned from your award-winning San Francisco Public Utilities Commission Headquarters project?
Technology isn't always the answer. The basis of quality design should maximize passive solutions and only augment with technology to further enhance the basis. Throwing the latest technological gizmos at a building to make it sustainable usually ends up delivering a building that is too much of a "Swiss watch" for the owner to manage.

What insights from this and other sustainable projects would you share with other professionals?
Implementing highly sustainable strategies often runs into code or policy road blocks that require a significant political effort. Architects' fees don't normally support this level of effort, so this discussion needs to take place with the owner up front, or as early as possible.

What is your firm's philosophy on sustainable design?
KMD is committed to continuing to design projects that address the global awareness and concerns surrounding the concepts of sustainability. Our commitment to the 2030 Challenge and meeting the highest possible levels of sustainability is our driving philosophy.

What kinds of sustainable solutions are non-negotiable for your firm? What are the baseline standards your firm aims to meet with every project?
Everything is negotiable based on a collaborative approach with our client to reach the best possible sustainable solutions on their projects—once we understand their short- and long-term goals. Meeting all of the State and Regional sustainability codes is not negotiable. We work closely with our clients to meet the AIA 2030 Challenge, and exceed it wherever possible.

What are the top energy-saving features you put in your projects?
The answer to this question would vary with every project's location, budget, and its owner's goals. In general the following items tend to make the "top ten" list: 

  1. Building siting
  2. Building orientation
  3. Exterior wall assemblies
  4. Solar control
  5. Daylight harvesting
  6. Efficient HVAC
  7. Reduced plug loads
  8. Advanced electric lighting controls
  9. Reduced water consumption
  10. On-site wastewater treatment

How do you think these types of innovative green solutions, products, and strategies, might become standard?
Codes & Regulations requiring such solutions are the best way to make them more mainstream and reduce costs.

Read EcoBuildingPulse's complete coverage of the 2013 AIA COTE Top Ten Green Projects

Read more about KMD Architects' winning project, the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission Headquarters project.