New California Energy Standards Effective January 1, 2017

code-changesEvery three years, the California Energy Commission (CEC) revisits its energy efficiency standards, augmenting the building code to align with recent technological advancements and the state’s new efficiency goals. The commission underwent this process again this year, identifying areas for improvement in both new construction and retrofits for residential and nonresidential properties.

With this most recent set of revisions, the commission is striving toward a pair of new state efficiency targets: achieving net zero energy for new residential construction by 2020 and for new commercial construction by 2030. Referred to as the 2016 version, these standards will go into effect January 1, 2017. Continue reading

The Architecture of Affordable Housing

As affordable housing developers build in inclusionary zoning areas, cities and residents demand high quality architecture and construction comparable to market-rate housing


One of the challenges that frequently confront market-rate housing developers building in cities with inclusionary zoning ordinances is the requirement that a certain number of affordable units be built alongside market-rate housing to promote a more diverse community. The juxtaposition of affordable with market-rate housing also demands that the affordable housing features a higher level of architectural style to compete aesthetically with the market-rate housing. Continue reading

Cradle-to-Cradle Design in Architecture

00cradletocradleWhat is Cradle to Cradle Design?
Cradle to Cradle Design (also referred to as Cradle to Cradle, C2C, or regenerative design) is a concept which proposes to change our way of thinking on materials and products from a linear process into a circular one. Our current linear cradle to grave process causes numerous environmental problems. Nature is sacrificed to the harvest of materials towards human needs, valuable materials are buried or burned after use, and huge amounts of waste and toxins are produced. Continue reading

Why is the Washington Monument Not On-Center?

wamo-cross-axis-highsmith-w-redMy wife and I were fortunate to pass through Washington D.C. during last summer. That being my first visit, as an architect naturally I could not help but admire the Beaux Arts vistas, symbolism, and majesty of the Washington Mall. But something bothered me – the centerline of the White House doesn’t line up with the Washington Monument.

In a city so based on order and symmetry and strong axes, why is the Washington Monument not on axis?! It took me a bit of online sleuthing to find out why. Continue reading

Green Architecture: What Makes a Structure a “Living Building”?

EarthTalkLivingBuildingsA Pacific Northwest organization has defined an environmentally sound structure as one that generates its own energy, captures and treats all of its water, operates efficiently, and is aesthetically pleasing. Many readers will recognize the movement as the Living Building Challenge, launched in 2006.

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What is Mixed-Use Development?

Traditional zoning was dADC-Sketch3developed during a time when factories and many commercial uses were noisy, smelly, and/or hazardous to the public. To protect public health and residential property values, early zoning focused on separating different uses and buffering them from each other to minimize nuisances.

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The Health-Benefits Case for Mixed Used Development

HS-Mbooklet-28 Pages4The term ‘mixed-use development’ refers to buildings that contain a mix of uses – such as commercial, retail or other non-residential uses, maintaining an active commercial and business environment at pedestrian (street) level often in conjunction with residential dwellings on the upper levels in a multiple dwelling configuration. Continue reading