Sustainability by Design

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Sustainability by Design

Architecture is a healing art with the mandate to positively impact our world. We are working to reverse humanity’s outsized footprint upon our fragile planet through decarbonization, radical re-use, and reverence for each other and our shared environments.


We must rapidly transition to a decarbonized economy, starting with building less carbon intensive buildings.

In our work we design to maximize useful daylight, optimize the building envelope, reduce energy-use through high-efficiency building performance across all systems, electrify, eliminate fossil fuels, integrate renewables, reduce, and sequester embodied carbon through material choices, and draw down atmospheric carbon naturally via restorative landscapes.

Doing more with less 

Taking advantage of what is free first, such as natural energy flows that support occupant comfort, productivity, and delight, helps to reduce the physical, economic, and operational scale of active systems that might otherwise drive excessive energy use and corresponding costs and emissions of scopes 1 & 2 carbon.  

We start with a bioclimatic design approach that responds to local environmental conditions and can leverage opportunities to do more with less.

For example, a perforated shading canopy in Scottsdale, Arizona provides comfortable outdoor gathering space in a hot, arid climate while also buffering the conditioned interior from direct sunlight. Reflected daylight and prevailing breezes help to mitigate against extreme heat, an increasing climate condition throughout the southwest. 

Apple Store, Scottsdale, Arizona
Juno, Austin, Texas

Integrating low-carbon and carbon-sequestering materials into innovative and energy efficient designs helps to reduce embodied, or scope 3 carbon. We are increasingly able to shift our structural systems to responsibly sourced mass timber, which can significantly reduce the total carbon footprint, such as in our Juno project in Austin, Texas. 

Adapting to Last

We are working to protect and extend the life of built resources in our designs for guiding plans, new buildings, and renovations. Designing resilient infrastructures facilitates mission continuity, decarbonization, greater asset utilization and future growth.

Integrated flood protection, New York City

For most of our projects, one constant is change. For example, we worked with multiple institutions at the waters edge to adopt new flood protection and resiliency standards that prevent future damage and prepare for anticipated climate impacts. With a mandate to maintain mission-continuity for these institutions, critical infrastructure is integrated into the site to protect against future climate disasters.

Whether we elevate the building above the code-mandated design flood elevation or develop a system of perimeter floor walls and operable gates, our holistic approach to resiliency allows critical functions to continue during an emergency and to return to full operations immediately after an event.

Solid flood walls and operable gates are integrated into the building’s design and tested in the field.


By going beyond the challenges that we face today we can repair environmental and social systems – we can regenerate. Aiming for regenerative outcomes has additional beneficial impacts when high-performance goals become evident via the essence of the design and can serve as an important call to action for users, neighbors, and peers.

Jean and Rick Edelman Fossil Park Museum, Rowan University, Glassboro, New Jersey

The Living Building Challenge (LBC) leads the industry in regenerative design standards and offers us a framework for scale jumping our impact. The LBC Energy Petal Certification, for example, has guided a strategy for Rowan University’s Jean and Rick Edelman Fossil Park Museum to become New Jersey’s largest public net zero facility.  An all-electric building infrastructure, a geothermal water-source heat pump system, and a photovoltaic solar field work together to meet a net-positive operational carbon profile. Utilizing low carbon concrete, mass timber framing, and wood cladding, the building structure and envelope reduces operational and embodied carbon while the vegetated site actively stores carbon in new growth. The museum links the mass extinction of dinosaurs to the current 6th extinction, giving visitors agency and a call to action to work towards a more sustainable future.

At the Natural History Museum of Utah, a project we completed in 2012, we are currently working with the institution to develop and implement a strategic plan that transitions the building to a net positive carbon future. We begin with post occupancy evaluation, energy data analysis, targeted blower door testing and long-term programmatic visioning, as we work towards optimization and electrification phases that will strengthen district infrastructure while also providing opportunities to update user experience and visitor learning opportunities.

Natural History Museum of Utah, Salt Lake City, Utah

Radical Re-use

Our cities can be remade more resilient, in a constant cycle of reinvention.

There is a need for radical change, for new ways of modification, for new typologies – for hybrid ones that we have not tried before – all to enrich the city, not to replace it with new structures at the expense of previous ones. Our new cities can literally be made of the old ones, in a constant cycle of transformation, to the benefit of all of us, and especially to the planet. Radical re-imagination of building sites not only fosters growth and stronger connections, but also offers opportunity for immediate relief and long-term healing.

Making It New Again

Revitalize, reconfigure, reorient, reinforce; Design has the capacity to repair damaged sites, to restore ecosystems, to recycle man-made materials, and to renew communities.  One of the most impactful design decisions to make is how to retain and work with existing materials, systems and assemblies.

Building on Ennead’s decades-long collaboration with New York University, the new Student Link and Global Services Center transforms a 1916 industrial loft building into an open, dynamic flagship of student life. Designing the locus NYU envisioned for its student body required retrofitting the historic facility within the fabric of New York City, optimizing the building envelope, adding a small and strategic addition, and integrating high-performing mechanical systems. By readapting an existing building and making it more energy efficient,  operational and embodied carbon are minimized in support of future generations represented in the student center.

New York Universty, Student Link and Global Services Center, New York, New York
City Harvest, Brooklyn, New York

Embodying City Harvest’s work in food rescue, the organization’s new Cohen Community Food Rescue Center readapts an abandoned 19th-century warehouse into an energy efficient, healthy workplace conducive to teamwork, training, outreach and food redistribution. Optimizing the current footprint, recalibrated office modules promote employee well-being with open space and access to light. Our design insulates the existing masonry envelope, adds new, high-performing windows and storefront entries, and introduces VOC-free materials to create a healthy indoor environment.

Amplifying the Possibilities

Our projects aim to offer meaningful impacts beyond the project boundary-line. Often this means approaching apparent obstacles with a new perspective to discover the unexpected and synthesizing across different scales to strengthen a larger community.

Brooklyn Museum Entry Pavilion and Plaza, Brooklyn, New York

The Eastern Parkway Plaza of the Brooklyn Museum transforms the Beaux Arts landmark into a community living room, creating a new public identity for the institution. Rooted in the original organizational principles of the historic design, we introduced a transparent entry pavilion which reintegrates the building with its site and enhances its relationship with the neighborhood. The design effectively breaks down barriers, positioning the plaza as a stage for formal and informal gatherings that has been adopted and used by the community as a center of advocacy, social resiliency, and cohesion. 

March for Back Trans Lives, Brooklyn Museum Entry Pavilion and Plaza, Brooklyn, New York
The Cove, Jersey City, New Jersey

The Cove is a waterfront redevelopment project that rehabilitates a brownfield site and revitalizes the native, local ecology to create a low-carbon live/work/play environment. The project  integrates aquathermy,  a wastewater geo-exchange system that harvests energy from a regional wastewater system that passes through the site and completely fulfills heating and cooling energy demands for the development throughout the year.  Plant life, natural materials, and pedestrian friendly access through the site provide ample opportunities for exercise and social engagement, all contributing to a healthy, productive environment. 

Strategic Insertions

Projects can become multi-purpose contributors to the urban landscape, serving to connect adjacent destinations, or becoming a destination in themselves within a larger network – or better yet, becoming both active link and purposeful node. 

Designed to connect renovated science facilities into one integrated commons, Vassar College’s Bridge for Laboratory Sciences is strategically placed with respect to the natural habitat, minimizing the building’s impact on the ground and preserving the natural landscape underneath, while also increasing the accessibility of the campus. The two-story curvilinear structure increases the campus’ overall ecological habitat intensity by 6,000 square feet and creates a biodiverse ecosystem that positively impacts the health and long-term viability of Vassar’s campus community.

Bridge for Laboratory Sciences, Vassar College, Poughkeepsie, New York
Arizona State University Beus Center for Law and Society, Phoenix, Arizona,

At the Arizona State University in Phoenix, the new Beus Center for Law and Society was strategically relocated into the urban core in order to more directly connect law students to the profession. The building massing was developed to maximize self-shading for indoor and outdoor spaces and to also take advantage of prevailing winds. Designed for a climate when 110 F days were considered an exception, ten years later the city endured 110 F for 31 consecutive days. The central courtyard was not only designed to become a programmable outdoor room, but it also became an oasis of “coolth”, providing refuge from extreme heat for the surrounding communities.


Make places that people love, and love the world that makes them.

A mindful way of life is supported with healthy indoor and outdoor environments, inclusion and belonging, cultural and ecological diversity, and a deeper respect for the integrated community of living beings. The foundation of sustainability is a respect for the planet, all living things and the resources already at play.

Denning House, Stamford University, Palo Alto, California

Savoring Material

Developing a physical environment that celebrates a culture of respect for shared resources is the ultimate act of sustainable longevity. Responsibly sourced materials can serve to preserve and enhance surrounding biodiversity while also shaping users’ health and experience as  they engage the senses and offer rich backstories that resonate with the project mission. 

Nestled within a mature grove of non-deciduous trees and tracing the footprint of a former parking lot, the Denning House at Stanford University employs recessed footings to conserve and intensify native vegetation and habitat. Biophilic design principles blur the boundaries between inside and outside, with biogenic materials for structure, envelope, and finishes, and bird-friendly glazing provides for a safe ecosystem along the edge of Lake Lagunita.

At the Delacorte Theater in Central Park,we are recladding the open-air theater with materials salvaged from the iconic rooftop water towers that had been decommissioned throughout New York City.  The reclaimed wood is panelized for its new life and designed for disassembly, capable of removal and reuse for future needs and in support of an ongoing circular wood system.  

The Delacorte Theater, New York, New York

Restoring Symbiotic Ecosystems

Our environments sustain us. Whether it is a natural setting, the nature of the city, or human nature – our surroundings play a critical role in supporting our physical, mental, and social wellbeing both as individuals and as groups. As designers of the built environment, we have a great responsibility to protect, repair, and re-establish biodiversity throughout our work.

Phil and Penny Knight Campus for Accelerating Scientific Impact, University of Oregon, Eugene, Oregon

Rooted in a landscape-centric campus and the planning principles from Christopher Alexander’s “A Pattern Language”, the Phil and Penny Knight Campus for Accelerating Scientific Impact restores a derelict wetland and establishes important new connections for the University of Oregon in Eugene campus. The protected outdoor terrace adjacent to a restored stream has become a favorite place for quiet outdoor study by students, researchers, and neighbors alike.

Humans are part of social-ecological systems, whether in the city, on a campus, at work or home – or in between. Our reverence for the vitality of social ecosystems, especially during times of change, informs the way in which we understand the commons and think about planning for more resilient communities. Our Rethinking Refugee Communities project tackles centers of asylum, demonstrating how innovative planning strategies transform temporary, emergency housing into durable solutions. Focusing on the relationship between refugee campuses and their host communities, e-Lab demonstrates how linking these seemingly disparate communities through shared institutions and infrastructure can cultivate mutually beneficial, symbiotic relationships, thereby challenging existing paradigms of refugee camps as temporary, powerless populations.

Rethinking Refugee Communities

Designing for Healthy Communities

We strive to make communities more equitable and viable because they are the cornerstones to a vibrant human existence. We are focused on mitigation and adaptation through community-informed strategies and toward environmentally-just approaches to more sustainable futures. 

Bronx is Breathing, Bronx, New York

The compounding impact of climate change on underserved communities is an increasing concern. For the Bronx is Breathing, we are supporting electric vehicle charging infrastructure for freight trucks and a community-run truck stop for mutually beneficial development. By launching a supportive ecosystem for zero-emission freight in the state’s busiest food distribution hub, a significant source of local air-pollution can begin to be eliminated. An education and respite facility can support drivers and the local workforce with comfortable space and local vendors. A PV array canopy spanning the site is anticipated to produce enough power for the community to sell back to the grid  – an innovative demonstration of community-owned infrastructure. 

At American School in Japan, a community-led planning effort defined a vision for future growth and the education of the next generation of leaders. Among the distinctive features designed for the ASIJ guiding plan, a ‘river of learning’ winds its way across the school’s expansive ground, creating a unifying image for all the different departments of the academic institution. The dynamic pathway is envisioned as a metaphorical element to encourage collaboration and community building among students and faculty. The open spaces also serve as a social hub, while the integrated green strategy supports outdoor learning and renews the student’s connection with nature.

American School in Japan, Tokyo, Japan