Location: San Antonio, Texas
Principals: Ted Flato, FAIA; Andrew Herdeg, AIA
Founded: 1984
Size: 65 employees

What is the biggest lesson you learned from this year’s COTE Top Ten project, Arizona State University's Student Health Services Building?

Ashley Mulhall, Orcutt|Winslow (partner firm on the ASU project): The biggest lesson we learned this year is that the level of success depends on asking the right questions during design, construction and post-occupancy. At the end of design we had a project that was very good from an energy and sustainability perspective. We took that project from good to great by continuing to ask questions, push the envelope and connect with the client, ASU, in new ways. ASU is a large public university with a wide variety of amazing programs and initiatives working towards net-zero energy and transportation. No one person or department had all the answers. Most of the solutions we found for the project to achieve success were already existing, we just had to assemble the puzzle pieces and apply them to this project.

Bill Timmerman

Your firm has won AIA COTE Top Ten Awards in the past. What’s your secret to success in green building?

Andrew Herdeg, partner, Lake|Flato Architects: I think there are two strategies that help us. First is focusing on the big picture of what constitutes a truly effective and meaningful building for a specific client, on a specific site in a specific environmental context. Second is focusing all the consultants, their experience and creativity into the project at the onset and a shared set of goals and vision. If consultants are not empowered to think outside the box, test convention and engage in the design process, we are selling the project and client short.

2012 AIA COTE Top Ten Green Project ASU Polytechnic Academic District.
Bill Timmerman 2012 AIA COTE Top Ten Green Project ASU Polytechnic Academic District.

How does your firm prioritize sustainable design strategies on each project? Is there one area that you focus on more than others, such as third-party certification, energy conservation, human health, or adaptive reuse?

Heather Holdridge, sustainability manager, Lake|Flato: Generally, driving down energy demand and minimizing a building’s carbon footprint are priorities that we bring to each project. Having said that, we also look very carefully at both the environmental context and the client/user group’s needs to determine what strategies will have the most significant impact on their context, program or campus. It requires a fair amount of research up front such that the project kick off is an Integrated Design Charrette where we and our consultants already have gathered data on building performance based on a generic building on the client’s site. With this in hand, the team can identify synergies between strategies and program elements or goals.

2013 AIA COTE Top Ten Green Project: Pearl Brewery/Full Goods Warehouse in San Antonio, Texas, by Lake|Flato Architects
Casey Dunn 2013 AIA COTE Top Ten Green Project: Pearl Brewery/Full Goods Warehouse in San Antonio, Texas, by Lake|Flato Architects

Has sustainability always been an integral part of your firm’s mission? If not, when was it incorporated and what drove this shift?

Herdeg: Our design philosophy has always been driven by the relationship between people and the natural environment within the specific context of a given site. Consequently, sustainability has always been a core component of our design. For many years, the process was significantly shaped by an intuitive response to the site, context and climate. Over the past 15 years, we have taken an increasingly scientific approach by utilizing various modeling tools (early stage energy modeling, daylight, thermal, CFD, etc.) to augment, verify, and inform the design. The incorporation of technology or modeling has had three goals:

  • Enhance the user experience
  • Define passive strategies
  • Minimize a building’s impact to the natural environment
Bill Timmerman

What does your firm see as the next “frontier” of green building?

Holdridge: There is a lot of interest around resilience, healthy building materials, net-zero water, and post-occupancy evaluation right now, and we have enjoyed researching and working with each of these concepts. I think what we are most interested in right now is transparency. We are already asking building materials manufacturers to disclose the ingredients in their products and have been sharing our 2030 Commitment energy modeling data with the AIA and other firms participating in the program. I believe this kind of transparency helps to propel the profession ahead more quickly on sustainability, which is critical, because there is so much work to be done. Increased transparency helps us to be honest and scientific about our progress, and to collaborate within the profession to identify best practices.

Click here to read a past Q&A with the Lake|Flato team.