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side view of courthouse with serrated sunscreen facade, a pattern of yellow panels peaking between. Floor to ceiling windows

Sustainability at Every Scale

Premnath Sundharam

Whether a standalone custom detail on one sun-struck building or a systems-based solution covering two million SF, climate solutions come in all shapes and sizes. In celebrating Earth Day, we reflect on climate solutions from nature’s perspective and apply those principles to modern solutions from small to large projects.

Pinal County Attorney’s Office

An avid outdoorsman, as Project Architect Hans Papke, AIA, NCARB, hiked outside Phoenix he was struck with an idea. Despite intense heat and sun exposure, the peaks and troughs of a saguaro cactus’ iconic ribs shade its skin and create a chimney effect, essentially pushing hot air away from the plant. Could the same principles help the new Pinal County Attorney’s Office improve its energy efficiency?

From inspiration to design solution, the peaks and troughs of the Saguaro cactus provided valuable insight when designing the Pinal County Attorney’s Office in Florence, AZ.

After dozens of studies and energy reduction modeling, an optimal solution emerged. Exactly 120 fins – custom-designed by our structural engineers – are strategically placed to ensure that windows don’t receive any direct sunlight during the hottest part of the day. Additionally, ribbed metal panels complement the fins, casting smaller shadows. All these design elements combined yield an estimated energy savings of 22% in rooms on the south side of the building on a typical June summer day.

Together, the fins, rain screen, glazing elements, and high performance glass create a self-shading, heat-reducing, and beautiful façade.

The State of Maine Augusta Area Master Plan

On the other end of the scale, we head to Maine. The State of Maine’s economy is growing even as its greenhouse gas emissions decline, delivering on an ambitious 2019 Climate Action Plan. The Maine Won’t Wait plan mandates 45% reduced carbon emissions by 2030 and 100% of electricity from renewable sources by 2040.

We were hired to develop the state’s master plan to achieve this goal. Along with this plan to address the climate measures, the plan also includes real estate balancing and consolidation models, modernizations geared toward employee wellbeing and improved public service, and increased multi-modal trail connectivity. The campus east of the Kennebec River is activated by a new innovation district and park that visually connects to the primary Capitol lawn across the river. The plan is moving into action with urgency: in the initial two years of implementation, outlined strategies target hundreds of tons of GHG reduction.

This article was originally published in our Annual Report for 2023, which you can find here.

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Connect with me to start a conversation ➔ Premnath Sundharam, Chief Climate Officer


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