355 11th Street: The Matarozzi/Pelsinger Multi-Use Building
Aidlin Darling Design
San Francisco, California

With an outstanding 2013 line-up, the American Institute of Architects’ Committee on the Environment (AIA/COTE) Top Ten Green Projects continues in its role as the nation’s premier showcase of projects that marry good design and green performance.

This year’s projects continue the strong focus from 2012 on social consciousness. “This group of projects underscored the social value of providing high functioning buildings for people who are often without the benefit of that,” notes juror Gail Vittori of the Center for Maximum Potential Building Systems. Working with limited budgets didn’t seem to hurt many of the winners. In fact, as juror Fiona Cousins of Arup points out, “In many cases, the slightly more financially constrained budgets actually produced better outcomes.”

There was a wide spread in terms of energy performance among the submissions. Juror Lance Hosey of RTKL laments that “only half the submissions conformed to current targets for the 2030 Commitment,” yet there were many, especially among the winners, that either achieved or came close to achieving net-zero energy. The energy strategies were generally well integrated but otherwise unsurprising, while “the water category was where the experimentation and innovation was happening,” says Vittori. A number of projects are driving code changes in their communities, blazing a trail for future projects by making nonpotable water sources more acceptable to health officials. But the biggest news is the first-ever Top Ten Plus awardee: 355 11th Street in San Francisco achieved the recognition as a past Top Ten winner (in 2010) and has proven itself through ongoing performance.

Top Ten Plus Winner: 355 11th Street, The Matarozzi/Pelsinger Multi-Use Building
Aidlin Darling Design

Since earning LEED Gold certification in 2009 and garnering a 2010 AIA Top Ten, this derelict historic building became home to a cherished restaurant that itself earned LEED for Commercial Interiors Platinum certification. The restaurant kitchen uses much more energy than the construction firm’s offices above, which are beating their modeled prediction despite a 40% increase in occupancy. The bicycle storage and changing rooms are put to good use, as 65% of the 81 employees in the building’s three business either bike or take public transportion.

A New Norris House
College of Architecture & Design, University of Tennessee–Knoxville

This tiny model home recaptures and updates many of the enduring features of the original model homes built 75 years ago in Norris, Tennessee—one of the first planned communities in the U.S. The 1,000-square-foot modular home brings to the established community a new ecological consciousness in the form of native plantings, water efficiency, energy efficiency, daylighting, and material choices, among other features. The interdisciplinary design-build curriculum that created the home was recognized in 2011 with the prestigious NCARB Prize for the Creative Integration of Practice and Education.

Charles David Keeling Apartments

This project comprises three buildings wrapped around a courtyard that greatly enhance the student housing options at the University of California–San Diego. Overlooking the Pacific Ocean in a mild climate, the apartments are designed to take advantage of natural ventilation and views, with exterior walkways. A layered facade provides both fixed and operable shading to prevent overheating, helping avoid the need for air conditioning. Responding to the high value of water in this arid climate, the project is the first in the University of California campus system to harvest graywater, which is used to irrigate plantings on the vegetated roof and at grade level.

Clock Shadow Building
Continuum Architects + Planners

Providing a home for several healthcare-related nonprofit organizations in an underserved neighborhood of Milwaukee, the four-story Clock Shadow Building proves that a tight budget need not interfere with ambitious goals. To make use of the narrow brownfield site, the upper stories are cantilevered over a public right-of-way. The designers and builders collaborated throughout the process to use as many salvaged materials as possible by identifying and procuring some materials early on and by adjusting the design to accommodate others as they became available. The project embraces natural ventilation during temperate swing seasons, and a rooftop garden gives tenants a pleasant outdoor space. The garden and a cistern ensure that the project doesn’t contribute to combined sewer overflow events; this is the first project permitted in Milwaukee to use rainwater to flush toilets.

Federal Center South Building 1202
ZGF Architects

The 209,000-square-foot Building 1202 on Seattle’s Federal Center South Campus is a new regional headquarters for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Northwest District. A range of energy-efficiency measures, including a thermal storage tank with a phase-change material that melts at 55°F, contribute to an impressive predicted site energy use intensity (EUI) of 21 kBtu/ft2. The design-build team has a direct financial stake in ensuring it reaches this target: 0.5% of the original contract value is at risk pending verification of the building’s energy performance after one year of occupancy. A significant percentage of structural timber and decking were reclaimed from an old warehouse on the site. Rainwater collection and reuse, together with exterior rain gardens that infiltrate water from the site, eliminate the need for a connection to the city’s overtaxed stormwater system.

Marin Country Day School Learning Resource Center and Courtyard

The new Learning Resource Center at this ecologically minded private school in Corte Madera, California, includes a new library and technology center, art studios, classrooms and student services offices in 23,000 square feet of new buildings and 10,600 square feet of renovated space. A redesigned central courtyard, playground, and restored creek greatly enhance the associated outdoor spaces. More than 90% of the indoor spaces depend on natural ventilation, shading, and night-flushing with thermal mass in lieu of air conditioning, and most rooms have glare-free daylight from two or three directions. An underground cistern provides thermal storage while also holding rainwater from the rooftops for use in toilets and cooling towers, which provide cool water for use in radiant slabs without additional mechanical equipment. Using the project pedagogically, students helped with the creek restoration and will perform ongoing water quality monitoring and compare energy use for lighting and plug loads on a classroom-by-classroom basis.

Merritt Crossing Senior Apartments
Leddy Maytum Stacy Architects

One of the first projects near the Lake Merritt BART regional transit station at the edge of Oakland, California’s Chinatown, Merritt Crossing offers affordable senior housing on an abandoned site near a busy freeway. An independent screen wall buffers the units from the highway. Ceiling fans rather than air conditioning help provide summertime comfort. The project proved its mettle using four different rating systems: LEED for Homes Mid-Rise Pilot Program (Platinum Level), Build-It-Green GreenPoints (206 Points), Energy Star (first certified multifamily in California), and Bay Friendly Landscaping (104 Points). A full-scale mockup of a wall section provided important lessons for construction of the building envelope, which includes exterior rigid insulation, a vapor-permeable weather barrier, custom window profiles, and rainscreen cladding. The mockup was air- and water-tested to ensure its performance.

Pearl Brewery/Full Goods Warehouse
Lake|Flato Architects with Durand-Hollis Rupe Architects

A new master plan that is revitalizing a long-derelict section of San Antonio’s inner city is crowned by the adaptive reuse of the 67,000-square-foot Full Goods Warehouse into vibrant retail and office space. The designers added a mezzanine level to the sprawling warehouse, greatly increasing density, and provided extensive indoor-outdoor spaces. It also sports a 200 kW photovoltaic array, the largest rooftop installation in Texas. The full Pearl Brewery master plan includes residential units, a hotel, a farmers market, and an outdoor entertainment venue, anchoring redevelopment of the much larger River North District. Among the many reused elements from the historic brewery are 7,600-gallon beer vats now holding captured rainwater for landscape irrigation.

San Francisco Public Utilities Commission Headquarters
KMD Architects with Stevens + Associates

San Francisco commissioned this new 277,500-square foot, 13-story office building to concentrate administrative staff of its Public Utilities Commission, which was previous scattered in leased space. The building’s sculptural façade features both a dynamic art installation and wind turbines that provide a predicted 0.15% of the building’s energy. Rooftop photovoltaics are designed to produce nearly 6%. Light shelves in the window walls help daylight penetrate to the interior. Onsite blackwater treatment meets all of the project’s non-potable water needs. The project is seeking LEED Platinum certification. In support of San Francisco’s purchasing policies, the projects sought to avoid materials made of PVC, and the use of fly ash and slag in lieu of portland cement reduced carbon dioxide emissions by an estimated 7.4 million pounds.

Swenson Civil Engineering Building
Ross Barney Architects with SJA Architects

Civil Engineering is a new program at the University of Minnesota Duluth. Large gestures with significant environmental benefits include the decision to abut the new facility against an existing engineering building, which reduced exposed exterior walls in this severe climate and located the project on a parking lot rather than taking up vegetated open space. The designers also made large, column-free testing bays double as assembly spaces, saving significant floor area and cost. A displacement ventilation system enhances thermal comfort and air quality and reduces energy consumption in the high-bay spaces, contributing to a modeled overall 77% reduction in energy use.
The large entry hall and stairway on the north façade are not conditioned to the same level as the classrooms but instead serve as buffer zones. Rainwater is also managed on-site with rooftop vegetation, rain gardens, and French drains.

Yin Yang House
Brooks + Scarpa

This 3,800-square-foot Venice, California, home and office elegantly combines business and residential functions. Much of a smaller preexisting structure was retained in the new building, and the designers kept impervious site area to a bare minimum. Using primarily passive strategies, the project’s design beat California’s Title 24 Energy Code by 42%, which translates to 94% better than a typical home. All of the home’s electrical needs, and much of its total energy, are met by the 12 kW rooftop photovoltaic system. The building form is inherently self-shading, and all space are designed for natural ventilation and daylight. The owner and designers chose both materials and technologies based on a 50-year anticipated time before major renovations, which justified significant investments in quality and efficiency.

Disclosure: BuildingGreen, Inc., provides editorial and technical services for the online submissions and presentation of the AIA/COTE Top Ten.