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Sustainability in Action Workshop-June 26th

Posted By John Diffenderfer, Thursday, June 18, 2015
Updated: Thursday, June 18, 2015

After returning from Greenbuild, ASHEE, an ILFI summit, we find ourselves on yet another inspirational high after yet another inspirational talk about a yet another brand new LEED Platinum building/municipal waste water recycling project/(fill in the blank with some other spectacular project). Then, we slowly descend back to earth with a bump, mulling over what we've learned. Reality sets in, and soon we're asking, "Could we ever do anything like that here?", "How can I possibly make a difference?" The problem with most of these sustainability keynotes and break-out sessions is that they inspire without empowering. There is a gap between hearing and the doing -- the gap between knowing what's possible and making it probable.  So we hang around the water-cooler talking about composting, or why the lights are on in the middle of the day. We sport our stainless steel water bottle like a medal. We are poised for action and yet wonder how to begin.
Clearly, people are doing it. You heard about it at the conferences! You’ve  read articles in ENR, or GreenSource, or GO (Green Operations) magazines.  Consider the impact of George Denise--the leader behind San Jose’s Adobe EBOM certification, and the subsequent transformational facilities policies, globally--and now creating the same sort of change at Oracle. And he also crafted the Boy Scouts of America’s “Sustainability Merit Badge” requirements. This guy is getting it done, but he didn’t do it all at once. What can we learn from a guy like that? Like us, are you brimming with ideas, or do you just know things could be better? What do you do next?
We’ve designed the Sustainability in Action workshop to connect the knowing with the doing. 


  • HEAR George and others tell their stories--of how they, like you, had a vision of a sustainable future, but then implemented small pilot projects that eventually snowballed into BIG worldwide sustainable facilities change.
  • LEARN how to do this yourself.
  • PRACTICE by completing the sustainability pilot project template with help and support from a group of your peers.
  • LEAVE inspired AND empowered with your own sustainability pilot action plan.  

We are offering the workshop several times this year, but join us first on June 26, 2015 at West Valley Community College in the Baltic Room of the Student Center.

Space is still available.

Register today!

John Diffenderfer, AIA LEED AP
Vice President, Aedis Architects

Anna Harrison, ASID, LEED AP
Associate Faculty, Interior Design Department, West Valley College

Download File (PDF)

Tags:  sustainability  workshop 

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Will You Be Remembered?

Posted By April Becerra, Monday, June 1, 2015
by Steven M. Cox, AIA, NCARB


What if I did something in my practice of architecture that would cause others to say I had purposefully chosen not to be remembered?


I have a commercial architectural practice in the Silicon Valley area of California which I have managed for the past thirty years.  I also have an interest in local history which has afforded me the opportunity to work for the past twenty five years at the local history museum as a volunteer, a board member, and chairman of the board.  Recently I worked with a group of history museum archivists and curators as I wrote an architectural collection policy for History San Jose.  Throughout this process we had some wonderful conversations about collecting, preserving and conserving architectural documents.


One of the topics we eventually got into was the concept of a “paperless” office.   I indicated that over the last decade architectural firms, like other professions, have shifted to a more paperless filing system.  I know in our office our goal is to only make prints for the city approval process and the field but other than that we are pretty much paperless.  We have spent a lot of time purging our paper files.  We save design and construction documents electronically.  Other documents we scan for an electronic copy and recycle the originals.  At the end of the job we end up with a box of shop drawings and accounting files.  Other than that everything else is saved on a server.  In addition to the server, we have a backup system so I am comfortable we are not going to lose anything in the event of some catastrophic event.  From a legal, spatial, and environmental perspective I know we have done the right thing.


I asked the museum professionals from a historical perspective how they handled this shift in the way architects now save their work.  I will never forget the response; it has become the screen saver phrase scrolling across my computer screen.  “By going paperless you have chosen not to be remembered.”  What?  They went on to explain that in their world it is difficult if not impossible to keep a software copy with all of the various versions and releases of the different platforms we may choose to create documents and drawings over time (i.e. word, AutoCAD, Photoshop).  Yes, there are some standard forms of saving images such as tiff files and pdf files that are universal to the archival process.  But, for the most part the archivist would much prefer to have an original document or drawing.  From there they create a very high image tiff or pdf which can then be used in an online accessible collection.  For them the preferred starting point is always an original or “hard” copy.


The other fallout from our shift to the digital world is what constitutes an original.  In the old days when drawings were hand drawn there was always an original either on linen or vellum or some other medium.  In today’s world we can create multiple originals just by pushing the send key to the plotter.


Perhaps the bigger point with all of this is the “chosen not to be remembered” comment from the archivist.  As architects we create the written and graphic record of our built environment.   We produce “instruments of service,” as we have been schooled by our profession and attorneys to refer to our drawings and documents, to get our clients through the approval process, construction, and into the operation and occupancy of their buildings.  We have been advised by our insurance carriers as to how long we should retain our records and when to purge our files.  By doing this, have we overlooked the longer term record of our built environment, the record of how and why something was designed, built and occupied by the users?


As individual practitioners it is easy to overlook our responsibility to the communities where we live and work to record our history.  Our job is not to be the record keepers; that is the task of curators and archivists.  Our job is to make sure we do not destroy the documents that could become the record.  I believe as architects we have a responsibility to ourselves, our firms, and our communities to preserve the record of what we have created and at some point pass it into the hands of those who have the professional skill to make it last for future generations of designers and researchers. If you or your firm periodically purges files I urge you to add a step in the process.  Ask yourself, “Is there is anything here which might be of some value to future generations?”  The answer may be “Yes” more often than you realize.  I believe this is because we are too close to our work and may not have the long term objective view of an archivist or historian.


I realize it may not be easy to make the determination with your own work product because you are so familiar with it.  What determines if something is historically significant?  Here is a series of typical questions used by museum professionals who conduct the appraisal process to determine if the project in question has some historical significance:


  • Is the architect or the firm recognized at the local, regional, national or international level for a body of work, specialization, or design innovation?
  • Is the owner of the project recognized at the local, regional, national or international level for some accomplishment?
  • Is the builder of the project recognized at the local, regional, national, or international level for some accomplishment or specialization?
  • Does the building or project have local, state, or national landmark status?
  • Has the building or project been recognized with design awards?
  • Has the building or project been recognized for some design innovation?
  • Does the building or project represent a unique architectural style?
  • Does the building or project document local, regional, national, or international history for an architectural trend or style?
  • Are the design records originals or reproductions?
  • In what condition are the design records?
  • Are the design records complete?


Below you will find a Significance Chart showing how the above information can be prioritized:



Sign Significance Chart






Third Priority                          Architect / Builder / or the project is not as significant but the record is complete and/or quality is high 

First Priority Architect / Builder / or the project is significant and the record is complete and/or quality is high

Quality and Completeness

Fourth Priority Architect / Builder / or the project is not as significant and the record is not as complete and/or quality is low

Second Priority Architect / Builder / or the project is significant but the record is not as complete and/or quality is low



Low Designer / Builder / Project High



Once you have determined something may be worthy of saving, take steps to preserve it.  If you choose to store it or preserve it yourself, conduct some online research to make sure you are doing the most to protect your records.  It does no good to have the right intention and not take the proper steps to insure the long term preservation of your documents.


If you choose to pass the records along to others better trained to collect, preserve, and restore documents, consider donating the originals or copies to a local or regional museum with an archival facility and a professional staff.  At the end of this article you will find several institutions that collect architectural records.  They each have a slightly different focus; some take a local or regional perspective while others may specialize in a time period or a particular designers work.  The deciding factor in where you should start may come from your answers to the questions listed previously. 


I have begun reaching out to local architectural firms within Silicon Valley region of the San Francisco Bay Area.  I have encouraged them to think about preservation of their records and consider donating them to an institution so that our profession and our communities have collective documentation of how and why our built environment came to be.  The discussions have been interesting.  Some firms have given little or no thought to the community value of their records.  Unfortunately, others have acknowledged their records were deeply purged.  Many firms have done what we did in our office by keeping an electronic version not realizing it may not be enough of a historical record.  The crucial message is that we have a responsibility to our communities and future generations to insure that the visual and graphic record of our built environment is kept and protected.  Choose to be remembered.

Sampling of institutions collecting and preserving architectural records in the United States:

Architectural Archives

Fondren Library

Rice University

Houston, TX


Architectural and Planning Library

University of Texas

Austin, TX


Art, Design & Architecture Museum

Architecture and Design Collection

University of California

Santa Barbara, CA


Avery Library
Columbia University
New York, NY 10027


Bancroft Library at UC Berkeley

The Bancroft Library
University of California
Berkeley, CA


California Architectural Archive

Robert E. Kennedy Library
California Polytechnic State University
San Luis Obispo, CA


Environmental Design Archives
University of California
Berkeley, California

Harvey and Irwin Kroiz Gallery
The Architectural Archives

University of Pennsylvania
Philadelphia, PA


History San José
San José, CA


Huntington Library, Art Collections,

and Botanical Gardens

San Marino, CA


Indiana University - Purdue University

IUPUI University Library
Indianapolis, IN

J. Paul Getty Museum

Getty Research Center

Los Angeles, CA


National Archives

Website below lists 23 locations around the country with the National Archive


Ryerson & Burnham Libraries
Art Institute of Chicago
Chicago, IL


San Diego Historical Society

San Diego History Center

San Diego, CA


Southeastern Architectural Archive
Special Collections Division
Tulane University Libraries
New Orleans, LA


UCLA Library Special Collections

Charles E. Young Research Library

Los Angeles, CA

Other resources:


The Architectural Records Roundtable of the Society of American Archivists


Cooperative Preservation of Architectural Records (COPAR)


Library of Congress


Society of American Archivists



Steven M. Cox, AIA, NCARB, is a registered California architect practicing in Santa Clara, California in the heart of Silicon Valley.  Steve is a sixth generation Californian, Past President of the AIA Santa Clara Valley, Past Board Member of the AIA California Council, and Past Chairman of the Board of Directors of History San Jose.


Tags:  architectural history  architectural perservation 


Countdown to Zero Net Energy: 435 Indio Way

Posted By April Becerra, Friday, May 29, 2015

435 Indio Way in Sunnyvale provides a case study in high performance, just in time for Title 24

by Steve Stenton, AIA, LEED, AP ; Traci Vogel, RMW architecture & interiors

California’s recent revisions to Title 24 require all new residential buildings to be Zero Net Energy (ZNE) by 2020, and all new commercial buildings to follow suit by 2030. The new codes also apply to building renovations which meet certain thresholds. These looming deadlines impose urgency on owners, developers, and architects who seek to understand the design approach and business case for the ZNE building type.

When Huettig & Schromm Properties decided to renovate 435 Indio Way, Sunnyvale, a vacant 31,759-square-foot single-story tilt-up, they and their developer, Sharp Development Company, saw the project as a test case for ZNE.


Could the team demonstrate that this kind of design could be affordable, even profitable, for spec office renovations? Or would the often-heard fear that sustainable design unreasonably escalates costs be borne out?

Sharp Development Company’s president, Kevin Bates, has developed more than 2.2 million square feet in Silicon Valley, and studied sustainable construction at UC Berkeley and Davis. The economic model and lease structure he developed for 435 Indio breaks new ground in developing a business case for Zero Net Energy retrofits.

Bates’ business case for ZNE building development focuses on three main beliefs:

  1. You can drive down operation and maintenance costs through careful equipment selection and design.
  2. Tenants will want to take advantage of the building’s natural daylight by maintaining open plan offices, reducing demolition and interior remodeling costs.
  3. Tenants will be willing to pay a premium for a well-designed high-performance space.

1. Driving Down Operation and Maintenance Costs:

In the mild Northern California climate, it is possible to drive down operation and maintenance costs by minimizing mechanical equipment in favor of passive systems. A building the size of 435 Indio Way would typically need 90-100 tons of equipment for air exchange, heating, and ventilation. 435 Indio requires 22 tons of equipment. “If you have 20% of the standard amount of mechanical equipment, your maintenance costs are 20% of what they normally would be on a quarterly basis,” Bates says.

2. Open Plan Offices:

Forty-three custom skylights bring diffused natural light into 435 Indio Way, which means the building is 100% naturally lit for most of the day. The building also incorporates the first commercial use of operable dynamic windows, allowing office seating to be installed right up to the window line without overheating or glare. Large ceiling fans encourage a comfortable flow of fresh air. These design elements work best with an open office plan which locates enclosed amenities at the core. In turn, the open office layout translates into less initial cost sunk into interior built walls, fewer hard walls being demoed as tenants change, and less electrical and mechanical reworking.

3. Premium Lease:

Although he expected to find that tenants might be willing to pay more to lease a sustainable building, Bates didn’t include this expectation in his initial business case. In fact, he has found that the “soft benefits” of a ZNE building are significant. Brokers and potential tenants were drawn to the project because it was different. With 100% natural daylight and 100% natural ventilation, ZNE buildings have a healthy, lively “feel” to them, because they aren’t sealed off from the environment like a traditional office space. Bates found that this especially appealed to tech tenants, who spend so much time indoors. The building leased in three months, compared to a market average of 18 months, and there was a backlog of possible tenants ready to sign should the lease fall through.


ZNE design requires an owner, developer, and design team committed to a non-traditional integrated approach. Knowing that the mechanical performance of the building was paramount to his business case, Bates hired the mechanical/electrical/plumbing design engineer, the Integral Group, before he hired the architect, RMW architecture & interiors. The project presented some novel challenges which the design group worked together to solve. For example, the large open interior space, with its concrete floor, presented acoustical issues, but most acoustical ceiling treatments are not sustainable, and the ones that are didn’t meet the budget. RMW architecture & interiors designed a custom fabric ceiling treatment and worked with the contractor, Hillhouse Construction, on an economical method of production and installation. The solution took some time and brain power to work out, but can be used as a template for future projects.

In fact, Huettig & Schromm and Sharp Development are hard at work on their second ZNE renovation, a two-story building next door to 435 Indio Way: clear evidence that the business case has borne out.



Facts about 435 Indio Way, Sunnyvale

– 435 Indio produces onsite energy through integrated rooftop photovoltaics.

– During the day, the space is illuminated by natural light filtered through 43 skylights.

– When needed, electrical lighting is controlled with occupancy and photosensors.

– Interior temperatures are regulated through passive ventilation, super-insulated concrete walls and roof, and electro-chromic windows that transition from clear to semi-opaque in response to sun intensity.

– Large fans keep the interior air slowly moving.

– At night, an automated system flushes hot air out windows and skylights.

– Energy use data is displayed on a screen in the lobby.

– Left-over wood beams were repurposed for the entry lobby flooring.

– Slate decorative elements on the exterior were carefully removed and reused as seat wall tops in the back patio.

– Concrete sawn out during trench digging for plumbing was reused as pilasters for the building’s monument sign.

– 91% of construction debris was recycled.

Tags:  net zero energy  sustainability  ZNE building development 

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Net Energy Design Competition Opens

Posted By Administration, Thursday, May 21, 2015

PG&E and the American Institute of Architects, California Council Set to Open Zero Net Energy Design Competition

Fifth Annual Competition Will Award up to $25,000 in Prizes and Supports State Goals for Energy Efficiency

Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E) and the American Institute of Architects, California Council (AIACC) announce the fifth annual Architecture at Zero competition for zero net energy (ZNE) building design. Open to students and professionals worldwide, the competition engages architecture, engineering and planning experts in the pursuit of designing energy efficient buildings.


This is the fifth year that PG&E has sponsored the Architecture at Zero competition. Contestants will design a ZNE building at a housing site on University of California, San Francisco’s (UCSF) Mission Bay campus. Contestants will have the unique opportunity to design multi-family housing that will be a ZNE structure, which produces as much clean energy as it uses during a year through a combination of energy efficiency and on-site renewable energy generation.



“The Architecture at Zero competition pushes the boundaries with innovative efficiency technologies integrated with beautifully designed buildings that are at the forefront of creating a more sustainable future for our customers,” said Vincent Davis, senior director of Energy Efficiency Programs at PG&E. “We are proud to sponsor this competition and build a better California by giving our customers an exciting view into the home of the future.”


To learn more, visit


Tags:  Net Energy Design Competition 

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