To delve deeper into our coverage of the 2012 Evergreen Awards, ECO-STRUCTURE asked the winning firms to detail their experiences with sustainable design. These offices didn’t just happen upon a winning scheme—rather, they’re all well-versed in integrating high-performance strategies into their projects. Below we take a closer look at some of the core values that shape each firm’s ethos. Location: Belfast, Maine
Principals: Matthew O'Malia, AIA; Alan Gibson
Founded: 2008
Size: 21 employees

What was the biggest lesson you learned from your 2012 Evergreen project, TerraHaus at Unity College?
Alan Gibson: The team frequently evaluated information to make the best decisions for the project, discovering that prescriptions and seemingly good ideas can’t be taken at face value. Here is an example: The principles of Passive House design can be brought to larger-scale residential buildings in a successful way to meet the energy standards and needs of a dormitory. This result can occur at the same or only marginally higher costs than standard construction, and in a compressed time schedule.

What insights from this and other sustainable projects would you share with other professionals?
Knowledge of appropriate design principles and material uses to meet the Passive House standard in a cold climate, such as use of passive solar energy for space heating with thermal mass storage, and active solar thermal systems for domestic hot-water production.

What is your firm's philosophy on sustainable design?
Our philosophy is that it [sustainable design] absolutely must be done on every project regardless of budget limitations; that long-term building energy use is the number one priority for sustainablility; performance must be proven with data; and sustainable design must meet the client's needs and the architect's design sensibilities.

What kinds of sustainable solutions are non-negotiable for your firm? What are the baseline standards your firm aims to meet with every project?
We no longer discuss insulation levels with our client—we simply design to the Passive House standard, and that's the baseline. If we can't reduce energy use by 80 percent over standard code-compliant construction, we haven't succeded.

How do you think these types of innovative green solutions might become standard?
Improvement in building codes to Passive House or near–Passive House levels and a significant increase in the cost of energy (which will happen in a relatively short amount of time compared with building lifespans).

Click here to read about G•O Logic's 2012 Evergreen Award-winning project, TerraHaus at Unity College.