Location: Portland, Ore.
Partners: John T. Holmes and Jeffrey Stuhr
Founded: 1992
Size: 28 employees
Little-known fact: People often call the office asking for Mr. Holst and they don't realize that our firm name combines the last names of John Holmes and Jeffrey Stuhr, the partners.

What was the biggest lesson you learned from your COTE Top Ten winner, Bud Clark Commons?

Dave Otte, project manager: The biggest lesson we learned centers around a significant innovation of this project—greywater harvesting on a large, urban scale—which is rarely, if ever, incorporated at homeless facilities. There are greywater systems that are plug-and-play for small residential applications, and there are full-blown, custom-designed commercial systems, and we tried to do a hybrid of the two. However, the system was too residential for this scale of development and intensity of use, so we had to revise it to utilize more robust pumps and filters, and streamline maintenance procedures to ensure staff safety.

937 Condominiums.
Christopher Hodney 937 Condominiums.

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

Know your client and their technological savviness when designing systems. Thinking about finicky greywater systems, overly complicated lighting control panels, operable shades that break, and the like, may seem sustainable up front, but will only cause problems if the required maintenance is too costly or challenging. Learn what systems or products are going to save your client money over the long haul and aren't going to cause unforeseen hardships whether it's with maintenance or complicated user interfaces.

Karuna House.
Jeremy Bittermann Karuna House.

What is your firm’s philosophy on sustainable design?

As an Energy Star partner and a member of the USGBC, Holst is a leader in promoting sustainable design, not only with the firm’s LEED certified projects, but also by advocating the principles of sustainability with our clients and colleagues. Based on the AIA model for integrated project delivery, our holistic design approach relies on professionals with broad and specialized expertise, working in an open and inclusive way. Unlike the traditional process, ours involves all team members and stakeholders from pre-design through post-occupancy, enabling sustainable design strategies that are both innovative and synergistic.

Boltwood Place.
Christian Phillips Boltwood Place.

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

Site-specific responses are non-negotiable at our firm; we don't use cookie cutter solutions without considering the site, the building’s best orientation, existing conditions, and more. Air quality (either ventilation or VOC-content in finishes) is another example where we believe using zero- or low-VOC paints and finishes is possible and worth it for every single project. Also, simplicity—reducing materials and building size is often the most sustainable thing you can do.

Bud Clark Commons.
Sally Schoolmaster Bud Clark Commons.

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

Starting with tight and highly efficient thermal envelopes, natural light, plentiful clean air, and energy-efficient fluorescent and LED lighting; low-flow fixtures and faucets; heat sensors that shut of heat when windows are opened; solar hot water heating systems, and local materials (saving energy up front).

Bud Clark Commons.
Sally Schoolmaster Bud Clark Commons.

How do you think these types of solutions and products might become standard?

Energy prices will eventually force the market to make a sea change. Incentives can help push things along faster.