Location: San Antonio, Texas
Principals: Mickey Conrad, AIA
Founded: 1984
Size: 25 employees
Little-known fact: In 1959 Larry O'Neill, one of the founding principals, was the National Intercollegiate Rodeo Association's Collegiate Rodeo bareback riding champion.

What was the biggest lesson you learned from your project (and home), 310 Madison?
Mickey Conrad, AIA: I learned that 25 to 40 percent of the walls are occupied by framing, which means that the effectiveness of typical batt insulation

is interrupted and reduced by 25 to 40 percent. To create an uninterrupted, effective, thermal barrier, 2-inch thick rigid board insulation was installed over the exterior sheathing.

What insights from this and other sustainable projects would you share with other professionals?
Incorporating sustainable features into a project is not as difficult as it may seem. It is really a matter of understanding the basic concepts, setting goals for sustainability, then selecting systems to achieve those goals. The major building material manufacturers offer products and supporting information to assist in making informed selections for your project.

What is your firm's philosophy on sustainable design?
As building design professionals, we not only feel obligated, but we also embrace the opportunity to design high-performing buildings. We look for opportunities to express the aesthetics of sustainable aspects of buildings intending to prick the interest of and inform users about sustainable building design.

What kinds of sustainable solutions are non-negotiable for your firm? What are the baseline standards your firm aims to meet with every project?
Designing the building envelope to comply with ASHRAE 90.1 2007 (insulation, glazing systems, tight construction), low-flow plumbing fixtures, and energy-efficient light fixtures and appliances are baseline, non-negotiable standards for every project designed by our firm.

What are the top energy-saving features you put in your projects?
On certain projects we are able to incorporate photovoltaic panels, chilled water, or variable-refrigerant-volume air conditioning systems, and on-demand water heaters.

How do you think these types of green solutions might become standard?
These systems generally have a higher initial cost although they eventually pay for themselves over time through energy savings. As the cost of energy increases and/or the cost of these systems become more affordable, the use of these systems may become standard on projects.

Read more about OCO Architects' 310 Madison project in ECOHOME's Case Study.