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In the News

SFPUC Headquarters Named in Top Ten Most Sustainable Buildings by AIA

PUC2_057---largeCited for pioneering advances in onsite water treatment, the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission Headquarters, located at 525 Golden Gate Avenue, has been named one of the AIA’s 2013 COTE Top 10 Green Projects. Click here to learn more.

Seattle School Certified as World’s Fourth Living Building, First on the West Coast

Below is a transcription of a recent press release. Click to download Bertschi LBC Certification Release

Bertschi School Living Science BuildingBertschi School Science Wing engages and enriches elementary students through hands-on learning.

SEATTLE, WASH.—April 15, 2013— Bertschi School, an independent elementary school in the Capitol Hill neighborhood of Seattle, Wash., is now home to the first Living Building on the West Coast and the world’s fourth fully-certified Living Building.  Completed in February 2011, Bertschi’s Living Building Science Wing is a 3,380 square foot interactive learning environment for students ages 5-11.  It is the first built project to meet the standards of version 2.0 of the Living Building ChallengeSM, a green building certification program which integrates urban agriculture, social justice and universal access issues, and the use of healthy building materials.

A program of the International Living Future Institute, the Living Building Challenge (LBC) is widely considered the world’s most rigorous building performance standard.  A Living Building generates all of its own energy through clean, renewable resources; captures and treats its own water; incorporates only non-toxic, appropriately sourced materials; and operates efficiently and for maximum beauty.  A building must perform as designed for one full year of occupancy and pass a third-party audit before receiving certification as “Living.”

Conceptualized with significant teacher and student input, the Science Wing serves as the ultimate tool for teaching science and sustainability.  Students participate in real-time monitoring of the building’s energy and water use to understand sustainable practices and witness the impact of their daily choices on the building’s performance.

“At Bertschi School, we are committed to educating children to become thoughtful stewards of their local and global communities,” said Brigitte Bertschi, Head of Bertschi School.  “We are not simply teaching about how to responsibly manage resources.  The Science Wing allows students to put our curriculum to authentic use.  I am proud that our children are empowered to make a difference at a very young age — even if it is a small one.”

Bertschi School’s Science Wing sits on an urban site with an ethnobotanical garden that serves as an outdoor classroom.  With its indigenous northwest plants, the garden enables students to learn about native culture and history, as well as use plant material in their art classes, such as berries for paint dyes and grasses used to fashion paint brushes.  Food produced in this garden — and in the neighboring vegetable garden on-site — helps educate students about the values of organic farming and growing food.

The building’s sustainable features are visible and functional to foster dynamic learning opportunities.  It is net-zero energy and water; a 20 kilowatt photovoltaic system provides all of the electricity, and cisterns collect rainwater that is used for irrigation and flushing the composting toilet.  Excess captured water is absorbed by the on-site rain garden.  Other water-saving features include a green roof and an interior living wall of tropical plants, which treats all of the building’s grey water.

The design of the Science Wing derived from a partnership between Bertschi School and the Restorative Design Collective, a multi-disciplinary team led by KMD Architects and comprised of leading Pacific Northwest green building professionals.  The Collective contributed their design services pro-bono, with donations amounting to more than $500,000 in professional time and building materials.

“The challenges in creating truly net-zero energy and water buildings help all of us understand the integrative and continual efforts that are necessary to achieve the high-performance buildings that our changing planet requires,” said Stacy Smedley of KMD Architects, co-founder of the Restorative Design Collective.

In order to meet LBC standards, Skanska USA’s green building team navigated the strict material requirements to source building products that did not contain any of the materials or chemicals on the LBC Red List.  One of the greatest challenges in this effort was finding local manufacturers and vendors who were fully transparent about the chemical makeup of their products.  The use of healthy materials promotes better indoor air quality, as well as furthers transparency in the building materials industry.

“The Living Building Challenge is creating a major shift in the built environment — just as LEED did 10 years ago,” said Chris Toher, executive vice president and general manager at Skanska USA Building.  “Thanks to the Restorative Design Collective, the Bertschi Living Building Science Wing is a model for sustainability in construction, and has challenged our industry to push for more net-zero buildings in our region and beyond.”

“The Bertschi School Science Wing has met the highest standard for sustainable performance, and is a powerful model for school additions all over the globe,” said Jason F. McLennan, CEO of the International Living Future Institute.  “The International Living Future Institute is extremely proud of the huge accomplishments of this wonderful academic project.”

Bertschi School is located at 2227 10th Ave. East in Seattle.  Tours of the Living Science Building will be available to attendees of this year’s Living Future unConference, the International Living Future Institute’s 7th annual green building summit taking place May 15-17 at the Westin Seattle.  Additional tours will be offered by the school throughout the year.  More information is available in the International Living Future Institute’s Living Building case study.

About Bertschi School

An independent elementary school known for its integrated, innovative program, Bertschi School has a strong commitment to sustainability and incorporates this focus into both its curriculum and operations. In 2007, the school completed construction on its main building, The Bertschi Center, which is the first LEED Gold certified elementary classroom building in Washington State.

About the Restorative Design Collective

The Restorative Design Collective was founded in 2009 by Stacy Smedley and Chris Hellstern of KMD Architects.  The Collective recognizes and endeavors to further the Living Building Challenge, which plays an essential role in raising green building standards, meeting the 2030 Challenge  and creating net-zero buildings. Members of the Collective and its collaborators include:  GGLO, landscape architect; 2020 Engineering, civil engineer; Back to Nature Design LLC, food systems consultant; GeoEngineers, geotechnical engineer; Morrison Hershfield, envelope consultant; O’Brien and Company, sustainable design consultant; Quantum Consulting Engineers, structural engineer; Rushing, mechanical-electrical-plumbing engineer; Skanska USA Building, general contractor; and Parsons Public Relations, as well as the City of Seattle and King County.  KMD’s strong commitment to research-based design and collaboration fostered the opportunity to bring together a group of Seattle-area design professionals who share the desire to push themselves and their firms to the forefront of the sustainable building movement and create a built case study of a Living Building.

About the International Living Future InstituteSM and the Living Building ChallengeSM


The International Living Future Institute is an environmental NGO committed to catalyzing the transformation toward communities that are socially just, culturally rich and ecologically restorative. The Institute is premised on the belief that providing a compelling vision for the future is a fundamental requirement for reconciling humanity’s relationship with the natural world. The Institute operates the Living Building Challenge, the built environment’s most rigorous performance standard, and Declare, an ingredients label for building materials.  It also houses the Cascadia Green Building Council and Ecotone Publishing.

The Living Building Challenge, the Institute’s best-known program, calls for the creation of a built environment that is as elegant and efficient as nature’s architecture. To be certified under the Challenge, a project must demonstrate that it has achieved 20 rigorous imperatives including net-zero energy, waste and water and alignment with a Red List of worst-in-class materials. The Challenge is the 2012 winner of the Buckminster Fuller Prize.

S.F. Ship Terminal’s Bird-Saving Design

The fritting on the windows at the San Francisco Port's James. R. Herman Cruise Terminal help keep local birds safe.

The fritting on the windows at the San Francisco Port’s James. R. Herman Cruise Terminal help keep local birds safe.






















The attention right now is on America’s Cup preparations, but San Francisco’s $90 million James R. Herman Cruise Terminal is for the birds – in a good way.

Click here to read more about the window design that emphasizes bird safety.

Intentional Inconvenience Leads to Spontaneous Interactions at Zappos’ Headquarters

zappos headquarters, corporate design, corporate architecture, kmd architects,

Just as they’re looking to transform the downtown Las Vegas experience, is also looking to transform the co-working experience at their new headquarters. In this recent article, Zappos’ Zach Ware describes creating intentionally inconvenient spaces that will lead to more collisions between people. The interior spaces that support this objective are designed to enable employees to connect with eachother and decrease isolation.

To read the full article download it here: Zappos HQ: Inconvenience = Connection.

Q&A with Ryan Stevens


Ryan Stevens, CEO – KMD Architects
Photographed by Paolo Vescia

In January of this year, we announced a few leadership changes – most notably being our new CEO, Ryan Stevens. Recently, Ryan sat down with JK Dineen of the San Francisco Business Times to chat about the current state of architecture and KMD’s design vision. Below is a transcription of the Q&A that was published. Go here to access the original article.

Q&A with Ryan Stevens of KMD – ‘The world is coming back’

By JK Dineen, San Francisco Business Times

After a dozen years as KMD’s design director, Ryan Stevens took over in January as the firm’s CEO. KMD is the fifth-largest firm in San Francisco with 2011 billings of about &38 million.

How did KMD fare during the recession  Are you guys back to pre-recession levels? Nobody will pretend in this profession that it’s comfortable, but slowly the world is coming back. Fortunately because of the work we do is so broad and global, we have ridden the tidal wave. In 2008, when the commercial sector died, our institutional work kept us going. Our firm has always remained about the same size.

How do you divide up the work between the different offices — do the San Francisco-based architects work on projects all over the world? On any given day we will have people in San Francisco, Portland, Los Angeles and Mexico City working on a project that is not in any of those places. We also travel more than most people in our business. The travel costs for our company are extraordinary — we have always believed that our offices should be in places where creative people want to be, not necessarily because it’s where clients or projects are located. Setting up shop across the street from a client may have a certain value to it, but it’s not sustainable in the long term.

So many San Francisco firms do major work in Asia and the Middle East. Does the S.F. brand carry cache in those places? Architecture has never been sustainable in this city — the number of architects that are here — ever. So we have exported ourselves all over the globe.

Is there a KMD aesthetic? We believe strongly that the experience is the most important thing. What is a building intended to do? What is going to get the best out of people? What changes are they experiencing? In healthcare the question might be what can you do to mitigate what is a negative experience for most people?

Have design attitudes changed in S.F.? Through the 80s and 90s there was a desire to pretend that we were Tuscany instead of a city. I think that San Francisco has finally embraced that it is a city and that the urban environment is good.

San Francisco Port’s Ship Comes In

Perched on the far end of Pier 27 sits a 88,000-square-foot glass-and-aluminum box with arguably some of the best views in the Bay Area. For the past several months, the design and construction team worked at a feverish pace to meet the March 1 deadline, effectively ending Phase I of construction and marking the official hand-off to the America’s Cup until November 2013.

In a recent article published in the San Francisco Business Times, reporter J.K. Dineen explores how the “flexible, multi-use facility” will accommodate cruise ships, events space and other to be determined activities. For the full article, go here.


America’s Cup Expedites Many Waterfront Projects, Including Cruise Terminal

In a recent article published in the San Francisco Chronicle, urban design critic, John King, explores how America’s Cup has been a galvanizing force for several Port of San Francisco waterfront projects. One notable project is the James R. Herman Cruise Terminal, located at Pier 27.

Described as “elegant and lean” the design from KMD Architects and Pfau Long Architecture is a work of “intricate, elegant craft – a streamlined modern take on the functional waterfront of old.” Built from simple materials and maintaining an open and flexible layout, the facility opens most of it’s footprint for public space and multi-use options including possible future retail and convention overflow from nearby buildings.

To see read the article in full, go here.

KMD’s Seattle Office Wins LEED Platinum

KMD Architects, LEED Platinum Office, Corporate Design

KMD Architects’ Seattle office recently earned LEED Platinum Certification for our 4,327 square-foot space, located at 901 Fifth Avenue, as reported in the Seattle Daily Journal of Commerce.

The goal of the project was to create a comfortable, efficient space that would achieve the highest level of LEED. Design strategies included extensive daylighting, Energy Star equipment and appliances, low-flow faucets, recycled content, renewable bamboo, and low-VOC materials and paintes. Most construction waste was diverted from the landfill and acoustical ceiling tiles and carpet tiles were reused.

The design will use 33 percent less energy, 30 percent less water and 32.7 percent less lighting than in a typical office space.

Click here to read the full article text: Seattle Daily Journal of Commerce – Seattle Office Earns LEED Platinum

Click here to read the full press release text: Press Release – KMD Seattle office acheives LEED Platinum


Zappos Injecting New Life into Las Vegas Downtown headquarters, corporate architecture, headquarter design

The new Headquarters, soon to be located in downtown Las Vegas, Nevada, will bring $126.3-million in wages to the downtown core and add nearly $400,000 to tax rolls annually. In this recent article published in ENR Southwest, Tony Illia describes the downtown renovation project as a reinvention for the neighborhood.

In addition to meeting rooms and office-free floors in the 11-story, 276,500-square-foot complex, employees will be able to enjoy a stand-alone bistro with a full kitchen, gym, and roof terrace on the western edge of the building.

The project is targeting LEED Silver certification by incorporating many sustainable practices including debris diversion from demolition, installation of low-flow plumbing fixtures, sourcing of regional materials, installation of 100 bike racks and 10 showers to encourage alternative transportation, and four electric car-charging stations.

To read the full article, go here.

Bertschi School Wins Private Educational Development of the Year Award

Congratulations to the Bertschi School and the KMD design team on your recent NAIOP Award for 2012 Private Educational Development of the Year.

For a complete listing of winners, go here.

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