The most crucial step in successfully integrating sustainability into any project is early passive design. Passive design, or design strategies that use building orientation, daylighting, and natural ventilation to reduce energy loads, allows for cost-efficient energy savings, supports net zero infrastructure, and encourages occupant health and wellbeing. In short, it is a winning design strategy but demands thoughtful and intensive collaboration early in the design process.

The Sustainability Studio supports the integrated design process through project specific eco-charrettes.  Similar to a more general design charrette, the eco-charrette is an intensive sustainability strategy brainstorming session between all relevant parties on a given project: the client representative, architects, engineers, landscape architects, and other consultants. Facilitated by the Sustainability Team, it gives everyone the opportunity to share ideas, form synergies, and confirm which sustainability strategies are feasible on the project. At Lionakis, we conduct eco-charrettes on all projects that desire some sort of sustainability consultation, regardless of certification goals.

A prime example of an impactful eco-charrette is the one conducted for CCC Greenwood. The project is a multi-building facility for the California Conservation Corps in Greenwood, California slated for completion in 2021. The client, being sustainably minded at the onset of the project, helped set a tone of collaboration as the Lionakis design team strove to ‘push the envelope’ and identify more rigorous strategies during the eco-charrette. Team members across the board, including sustainability specialists, the interior design team, civic, a state representative as well as two CCC representatives, participated in the eco-charrette. Using categorized boards to guide discussion, the team highlighted a list of vital considerations: site elements, people and place, materials, net zero education resources, a passive strategy (energy reduction) as well as an active one (PV and solar/thermal).  The Greenwood site provided a set of design challenges as well; the area of buildable ground was small, exacerbated by the need to accommodate 11 buildings. The issue of limited building space, compounded by a desire to minimize the disturbance of the site and favor optimal orientation for solar, ultimately dictated the logical, almost quad like formation of the buildings and the relation of their programs. Sustainability also factored directly into the design of the buildings. Looking at potential shading elements, the design team incorporated rooftop PVs to function as overhangs on the Multi-purpose building, an architecturally unique structural collaboration within the project and born of the eco-charrette.

The Claire Lilienthal Elementary School project, pictured in the gallery below, is another excellent example of integrated passive design strategy. From the beginning, the goal was to design a Zero Net Energy building.  However, the project team discovered through early DD energy simulations that the building was landing 4% short of this goal, accounting for onsite solar generation and estimated energy consumption. The team further discovered that lighting alone accounted for 34% of building energy use, the largest single consumer on the project site. So, they implemented several passive strategies, including daylighting, solar tubes, light shelves, and lighting controls, in an attempt to reduce the lighting load in the building. Through this thoughtful incorporation of passive design, lighting energy use was reduced to a mere 16% of building energy and the project achieved Zero Net Energy. The merits of basic passive design simply cannot be overstated.