Location: Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada

Principals: Susan Gushe, Principal and Managing Director; David Dove, Principal; Ryan Bragg, Associate Principal; Rod Maas, Associate Principal; Jim Huffman, Associate Principal; Robert Drew, Associate Principal; Joyce Drohan, Director of Urban Design; Loren Cavallin, Director of Interior Design; Jeff Doble, Director of Transportation Design; Jana Foit, Higher Education Practice Leader; Alex Minard, K-12 Practice Leader; Julie Verville, Healthcare Practice Leader; Kathy Wardle, Director of Research; Jocelyne Belisle, Director of Operations

Founded: 1984

Size: 80 people in the Vancouver office; 1,500 firmwide in 22 offices worldwide 

Little-known fact: We have a handcrafted, wooden canoe from the early 20th century hanging in our atrium to remind us of the beauty and interconnectedness of material, form, and fuction.

What was the biggest lesson you learned from your work at St. Mary's Hospital?

What a difference basic design moves, like providing access to daylight, views, and natural ventilation, can have on building inhabitants. This is an elementary concept—a "lesson learned" many years ago—that we apply across all of our projects, but fully realizing it in a hospital setting, where buildings are often big, square boxes that have large floorplates and sealed windows, has truly reinforced to us the importance of these design fundamentals. Of the spaces in St. Mary’s, 75 percent have access to natural daylight, and it’s encouraging to hear from the client that the patients, as well as the hospital staff, are feeling the benefits.

What insights from this and other sustainable projects would you share with other professionals?

How important it is to get client buy-in and support for the project’s sustainable design objectives. With St. Mary’s, the Facilities Management department came on board early on and fully supported the project goals throughout the design process. This was one of the major reasons why we were able to push the envelope in terms of innovation and sustainability. 

What is your firm's philosophy on sustainable design?

Our firm was founded on a deep-seated belief in environmental responsibility. Whether it’s our continued commitment to the 2030 Challenge or our company initiatives like our Green Operations Plan that ensures our day-to-day operations are environmentally responsible, being sustainable is core to what we do. We believe that sustainable design is a result of a creative and collaborative process that involves all our disciplines, including a green research department that is involved in applied research, internal education, public advocacy, and the development of tools, such as our Transparency Site and the 2030 Estimating + Evaluation Tool. Because of this commitment, we are consistently ranked among North America’s leading green practices and have developed one of the largest portfolios of completed, deeply sustainable buildings, interior spaces and urban plans.  

What kinds of sustainable solutions are non-negotiable for your firm? What are the baseline standards your firm aims to meet with every project?

As part of our corporate sustainability initiative, we have a mandate for all of our projects to conserve a mininum of 20 percent potable water. We were also one of the first architectural firms to sign onto the 2030 Challenge, and we actively work towards designing low-energy buildings.  All of our office's LEED certified buildings have met a LEED Gold or Platinum rating, demonstrating our depth and breadth of sustainable design expertise. Our office also has two projects that are currently targeting the Living Building Challenge. 

What are the top energy-saving features you put in your projects?

We work to minimize energy loads through passive design, which involves careful consideration of building siting, orientation, massing, space planning and envelope. Additional measures include the use of active technologies, such as heat recovery, solar hot water, photovoltaics, and geothermal. We also try to maximize synergistic relationships with neighbouring buildings and infrastructure, such as capturing and reusing waste heat or connecting to a district energy system.

How do you think these types of innovative green solutions, products, and strategies, might become standard?

As cities work towards reducing their greenhouse gas emissions, they are implementing policies and programs that support the demand and need for innovative and energy conserving solutions.