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ZGF Architects again earn top recognition in sustainability from “Architect Magazine”

We revisit our collaboration with ZGF designing an energy-efficient workplace for the EPA & highlight other noteworthy projects

For the second year in a row, Architect Magazine named ZGF Architects the top firm in sustainability. ZGF earned a perfect score through their mastery of high-performance design and innovation, including in creating the first green roof in downtown Denver. Hunter Douglas Architectural collaborated with ZGF in the design of the EPA’s Region 8 headquarters. The project, completed a decade ago, signified a new era for sustainable workplace design in the Rocky Mountain area. To maximize daylighting and solar control, ZGF specified 300 motorized Hunter Douglas blinds with sun-tracking capabilities.

Architect notes that the Portland, Oregon-based firm embraced environmentally-friendly, energy-efficient architecture as a “key element of its practice long before LEED became the industry standard.”

“It’s part of our design process,” managing partner Ted Hyman, FAIA, told the publication, explaining it’s “not something that gets added after the fact.” To that effect, 90% of the firm’s design projects incorporated energy simulation modeling last year.

The J. Craig Venter Institute in La Jolla, California, is LEED Platinum-certified (and has a net-zero energy footprint). Photovoltaic arrays mounted on two rooftop valleys generate electricity. The facility also uses “chilled-beam technology” for heating and cooling. AIA, which named the project amongst their top ten in 2016, noted the use of high-performance glazing, Spanish cedar wood, and resilient concrete, which resulted in “a building that is both functional and artful in its simplicity.” It is the country’s first biological lab to achieve LEED Platinum and net zero.

Two years ago, ZGF created a two-story office for the Rocky Mountain Institute’s Innovation Center in Basalt, Colorado. The facility is located at an elevation of over 6,500 feet, placing it in one of North America’s coolest climates, and making it surprising their design was able to omit standard central heating and cooling altogether. According to Architect, the building is “petal certified under the International Living Future Institute’s Living Building Challenge,” and Hyman says they’re continuing to work towards greater energy reductions in their designs. It features new technology like chairs with built-in fans and heaters (like a car seat). The solar photovoltaic rooftop system produces enough electricity to meet the building’s needs and charge four electric vehicles, Architect notes, and was clad in local sandstone with zinc panels and untreated juniper woods that created a “super-insulated envelope.”

At EPA Region 8’s nine-story, LEED Gold-certified facility, red brick on the lower four floors pays homage to the historic masonry of Denver’s Lower Downtown district while glass above modernizes the look. Above, ZGF specified high-performance glazing and Hunter Douglas Architectural’s brushed-aluminum vertical and H200 2″ manual and motorized horizontal blinds. The firm worked with a lighting designer to angle vertical units along the clerestory. Below, the H200 horizontal louvers automatically orient with maximum precision to enhance natural interior light and optimize energy performance. Throughout the workday, the tilt of the blinds automatically adjusts three times to control glare control and reduce heat gain. The overall effect is a natural light that deeply penetrates the work environment, a factor proven to increase employees’ productivity and impact mood. The shading system also reduces interior “hot spots” on sunny days, even as sun pours through a soaring atrium. Photovoltaic panels help reduce peak electrical loads, and the space’s mechanical systems include underfloor air distribution. ZGF also installed waterless urinals, dual-flush toilets, and a green roof that filters storm-water runoff.

ZGF’s commitment to sustainable design shines through projects like these and cannot only reduce environmental impact in a thoughtful and cost-effective way, but also improve occupants’ overall daily experience of a space.

“We’re always looking at how we can innovate,” Hyman tells Architect, “Net-zero is getting us moving in the right direction, but we’ve got a long way to go beyond that.”

A list of the top 10 firms in sustainability for 2017 appears below. To read the full list, check out Architect Magazine’s feature here.

  1. ZGF Architects
  2. ZeroEnergy Design
  3. EYP Architecture & Engineering
  4. Perkins+Will
  5. Skidmore, Owings & Merrill
  6. Lake|Flato Architects
  7. Leddy Maytum Stacy Architects
  8. The Miller Hull Partnership
  9. Touloukian Touloukian
  10. Mithun

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