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Beyond LEED: Our Top 10 Projects for 2014

Sustainability is never a single item or point in time. It requires that we adapt to reach—and surpass—our objectives.

09/30/2014 By Christopher Curtland, Ben Frotscher, AnnMarie Martin

For 2014, the Interiors & Sources editorial staff selected 10 projects that go beyond the typical measures of sustainability. Going green isn't just earning a plaque or designation. Its focus should include improving the triple bottom line: people, planet, and profit.

Regardless of form and function—this year’s best include a market, warehouse, classroom, and health center, among others—all buildings have an impact on environmental and social sustainability. The projects here have aimed at loftier goals than the usual suspects. You’ll certainly read about energy efficiency and recycled content, but you’ll also discover directives focused on occupant comfort, learning opportunities, and community outreach.

There are energy intensive laboratories that target collaboration and transparency—a major step forward from their departmental siloes. There is a food bank that uses utility savings from a lighting retrofit to fund thousands of meals annually.

A mental health center eases patient anxiety by utilizing daylight, soft colors, and natural materials. A campus center at an environmental sciences college serves as a monument of the school’s mission, deploying several sustainable systems that the students can learn about hands-on. A college classroom features a 9.4-kW solar array, but also sits on a protected space so as not to deter nearby endangered salamanders.

With so many shades of green, it really is a jungle out there. When we chase every little point and certification, it’s easy to lose sight of what truly matters. The following projects have taken a step back from the bustling brouhaha of biggest, greenest, and leanest—and a step forward on some equally worthwhile goals: human health and social stewardship.


Bud Clark Commons
By Holst Architecture | Portland, Ore.

Sustainability at Bud Clark Commons meant creating an enduring place of dignity for Portland’s most vulnerable citizens. The project set a new standard by combining permanent supportive housing and temporary shelter with a community resource center.

SUNY-ESF's Gateway Center
By Architerra | Syracuse, N.Y.

Sustainability is a moving target—continuously evolving, and demanding that we forget what we once knew and learn something new. And the Gateway Center acts as a prominent professor of sustainability.

Grand Rapids Downtown Market
By Hugh A. Boyd Architects and Progressive AE | Grand Rapids, Mich.

The Grand Rapids Downtown Market is a bona-fide industry trailblazer. The LEED Gold project is one of the first urban markets in the country to receive certification and the first project in the country to receive USGBC’s Urban Agriculture credit (awarded to projects that improve human health and well-being, foster community involvement, and provide education on food production.)

IDEXX Laboratories' Synergy Center
By Lavallee Brensinger Architects | Westbrook, Maine

For IDEXX Laboratories, an international leader in pet healthcare, pursuing LEED certification for its $35 million Synergy Center was no walk in the park.

Stempel Complex
By Perkins+Will | Miami

With a need to bring together multiple academic and research programs for Florida International University's (FIU) Extreme Event Institute under one roof, Perkins+Will designed a technologically advanced building that is dedicated to hurricane-based research and academics: the Stempel Complex.

By Darling Associates | London

A landmark building inspired by both the past and future in London’s Soho neighbor- hood, Ampersand brings a sophisticated approach to design while integrating new features into its luxury residential units and high-spec offices.

America's Second Harvest of Coastal Georgia
By Sustainativity, Inc. | Savannah, Ga.

As a humanitarian and sustainability consultant who is passionate about green building, Tommy Linstroth was frustrated when he saw his philanthropic efforts go to waste.

Smith College's Bechtel Environmental Classroom
By Coldham & Hartman Architects | Whately, Mass.

What was once an astronomical observatory is now Smith College’s Bechtel Environmental Classroom at the Ada & Archibald MacLeish Field Station—a 2,500-square-foot, single-story, wood-framed building on a 233-acre forest and pasture property.

Argonne National Laboratory's Energy Sciences Building
By HDR Architecture | Lemont, Ill.

When designing a home for scientists who work toward some of the most significant findings of our time (advances in how the world consumes and conserves energy), there’s only one route to follow: that of transparency.

Mental Health Center of Denver
By Davis Partnership Architects | Denver

Built originally as a psychiatric facility, Davis Partnership Architects renovated a four-story, 72,000-square-foot building to consolidate patients and staff from four remote Mental Health Care of Denver facilities.