April 22, 2019

30 Sustainable Projects Leading the Way for Green Design

Sustainability is more important than ever and is on its way to becoming a standard in architecture, but LEED certification is only the beginning. Sustainable interior design requires a multifaceted approach, thoughtful consideration, and careful planning. From a SuperBowl stadium where 91 percent of waste is recycled, composted, or donated, to green roofs galore, to a university center that could be the most environmentally responsible building in Boston, these projects prove green design is good for all.

Editor’s note: This story was updated in August, 2023, to include our latest stories on sustainable design.

These Sustainable Spaces Showcase Innovative Materials and Designs

1. A Sustainable Home Overlooking Puget Sound

A sustainable house overlooking Puget Sound

At times, renovating a home can prove more challenging than starting over from the ground up, especially when it comes to putting sustainability first. But the architects and designers behind The Miller Hull Partnership thrive on such a mission. Read more

2. An Eco-Sensitive Update for the American Geophysical Union

An open-air rooftop with a lattice ceiling

Nearly 20 white papers later, the American Geophysical Union’s Washington Headquarters and Hickok Cole had mapped out a comprehensive plan of energy reduction, reclamation, absorption, and generation for the 84,000-square-foot project, which includes two underground levels (the lowest a parking garage), five above-grade floors, and a rooftop penthouse and terrace. Read more

3. Industrial Meets Natural for a Bike Park in Chicago

A building made of cubelike shapes for an environmental center

The marshes on Chicago’s southeast side were once a dumping ground for slag from nearby steel mills, the casualty of little to no environmental regulation up until the 1970’s. Now they’re Big Marsh, a new bike park that covers almost 300 acres with walking and cycling trails plus a 9,300-square-foot environmental education center that tells the history of the site. Marrying the industrial with the natural, VDT designed a nail-laminated timber structure with hydraulic hangar doors that close over windows at night. NLT is a renewable resource, highly effective at carbon sequestration, and requires less energy to produce than steel or concrete. Read more

4. A New Cultural Center Celebrates UNESCO-Protected Wilderness

A cultural center on the edge of a cliff overlooking a lake

The Danish nonprofit Realdania and local governmental groups have opened the Ilulissat Icefjord Centre on the edge of the UNESCO-protected Greenland wilderness, 150 miles north of the Arctic Circle. The 16,000-square-foot winglike building is by Dorte Mandrup, an architect whose namesake Copenhagen studio won the 2016 competition to design the project, beating out such firms as Snøhetta and Kengo Kuma & Associates. Read more

5. Inside an Energy-Efficient Educational Space

A reception area with a glass wall overlooking a patio

ZGF was initially commissioned for the upgrades to make the building habitable on a temporary basis for both administrative staff and student services while a replacement was being built. Then came the pivot. “We said it’s such a good building with the potential for energy efficiency,” Woolum continues. “Wouldn’t you rather adapt and re-use and create the new building for something else?” Why not indeed. Read more

6. Behind the Design of the Arvo Pärt Centre in Estonia

A woman looks out into a forest in a room with glass wall and wood floors

Spanish firm Nieto Sobejano Arquitectos won a two-phase competition to design this center with their thesis that links music and architecture. Considering the ratio of glass to metal also became essential because of the layers of thermal insulation needed to create a sustainable and easily heated structure. But first Nieto Sobejano decided what the project shouldn’t have: right angles, a main facade, and a discernable front or back. Instead, what emerged was a pattern of “continuous links echoing the trees,” Sobejano says. Read more

7. Sustainably Designed Buildings in Singapore

The exterior of the Oasia Hotel is covered in greenery and red brick

Not only is the entire 27-floor external facade wrapped in a natural vine covered sunscreen, but the Oasia Hotel Downtown also has four lush sky terraces, 1,793 large planter boxes, and four large structural cores that allow for good cross ventilation reducing the overall energy cost. Designed by WOHA and completed in 2016, the hotel is home to over 33 species of plants and 21 species of creepers. In addition, the 314-room property is notable for its striking interior design by Patricia UrquiolaRead about 7 more sustainable buildings in Singapore

8. 3XN Creates a Modern Design for Olympic House

Circular forms seem to swirl around this lobby for the Olympic House

Two of the most poignant concepts International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach wanted the design to articulate were sustainability and transparency. 3XN certainly delivered; the build is LEED platinum-certified, and has reused 90 percent of the concrete from the previous headquarters that was demolished to make way for the new build. Read more

9. Inside Mega Project Parq Vancouver

The exterior of Project Parq Vancouver reflects the clouds and nearby buildings

Six stories high, capped with a 30,000-square-foot roof garden, this contemporary structure “is an urban oasis,” ACDF Architecture CEO Maxime-Alexis Frappier says. ACDF partnered with Architecture49 and their response was not a looming hulk but rather a curving, low-rise presence wrapped in a mirrored facade that reflects its surroundings. Aluminum louvers, capturing sunlight, reflect pixelated images of the Rocky Mountains in the distance. The daylight resulting from abundant glazing contributes to the project’s LEED Gold status, proving Parq fits into the global environment, too. Read more

10. TPG Architecture Designs the Associated Press Office in New York

A meeting area inside the Associated Press office in New York

The AP staffers have had a chance to settle into their new digs by TPG Architecture, which have since been awarded LEED Gold certification. As you might expect, good news travels fast. As Carmel says, the office “compliments who we are as an organization.” That includes a bit of spirit, as seen at the perimeter of the café. There the white floor tile bursts into a confetti of colors, as if celebrating the much-decorated news agency. Read more

11. A Sustainable Space for an Amsterdam Tech Company

Green industrial staircases intersect and green lighting fixtures hang from above

When an Amsterdam company that manages a file-sharing platform decided to move from the city center to a warehouse near the city limits, it shared a few tasks with local design firm Studio Rianknop: Create a flexible space for the company’s staff; make it sustainable; and take advantage of the industrial space in a relaxing, inviting way. In a clever nod to the wires funneling data across the globe, a “cable tree” grows from the lower level with branches powering first-floor public spaces and a tubular chandelier. Read more

12. The Center for Fiction Brings Books and Sustainability to Brooklyn

A workspace with wood desks and rolling chairs inside The Center for Fiction

The Center for Fiction started out as the Mercantile Library in 1821 and moved locations throughout Manhattan over the years. In 2008, it was rebranded, and more than 10 years later, the Center has a permanent home in a LEED Silver-certified building in downtown Brooklyn by BKSK Architects. In the writers’ studio, locally-made custom wool felt panels are perforated with the Center’s logo, an open book. Read more

13. The World’s First LEED and WELL Platinum-Certified Space

Two read armchairs face a white couch in this office with plants along the windows

The Washington, DC office, designed by Perkins + Will, is brimming with features that support health and wellness. One is a circadian lighting system that mimics natural daylight, paired with automated shades that follow the sun’s movement to help eliminate eye strain. The design team also implemented biophilic design strategies, for instance by using a range of natural materials and patterns. Read more

14. Mohawk Group’s New NYC Showroom Embraces Wellness

A low black sofa and two armchairs in Mohawk Group's New York showroom

Located in a former textile factory in historic Chelsea, Mohawk Group‘s 13,000-square-foot showroom was designed by Gensler and incorporates LEED and WELL Building Standard qualifications, fully expressing Mohawk’s company ethos: Believe in better. Read more

15. Huntsman Architectural Group Downsizes McKesson for Maximum Efficiency

An office with a vibrant orange wall and gray flooring

For McKesson’s San Francisco office, Huntsman Architectural Group went with undeniably contemporary furnishings. Sui generis, however, is a break room’s custom bench, a repurposed conveyor belt hinting at McKesson’s core business. Which brings us to the fact that the premises are going for Well Building certification as well as LEED Gold. Read more

16. Perkins&Will Designs the Nixon Peabody Office in New York

A white open staircase looks out into the surrounding city

Perkins&Will designed this space to be easily reconfigured as needs change. A feature stair connects the office’s three levels with show-stopping views of the city, and floor-to-ceiling glass walls help foster synergy between practice areas. It was also awarded LEED Gold certification. In all, the office is a balance of functionality and design statement. Read more

17. Five Global Green Projects Pay it Forward

A cathedral-like ceiling with a long table and chairs opens to the outdoors

For Park + Associates‘s own office, minimal intervention transformed a 1960’s former school into a showcase of clean-lined design, thanks to vintage furnishings, a black-and-white palette, and painted-steel arches highlighting the reinforced-concrete barrel vaults. Read about all 5 global green projects

18. SKB Architects Creates Lively Lobby for Key Center Office Tower

People sit in high-backed blue chairs i in the Key Center Office Tower

No longer merely pass-through places, lobbies have become hotel-esque settings. They entice potential tenants to lease, and existing tenants get a perk that might entice them to stay. Such is the case at the Key Center office tower across the water from Seattle. After purchasing the 23-story building, Kilroy Realty Corporation opted to implement changes resulting in LEED Platinum certification and to transform the immense lobby into a “people place,” SKB Architects senior principal Shannon Gaffney recounts. “That’s our thing.” Read more

19. Mosa Tiles Enliven Venetian Villa by JM Architecture

A pool at dusk in a sustainable home

Italian studio JM Architecture outlined a sustainable agenda to maximize the home’s energy-efficiency. Mosa’s LEED-contributing ceramic tiles, which received Cradle-to-Cradle® Silver certification, join the multitude of eco-friendly features that distinguish the villa, including inlaid photovoltaic panels and radiant floor heating. Read more

20. Alliance Architecture Designs a Sustainable Law Office

A hanging installation reflects light in this LEED Platinum law office

Moving to a gleaming LEED Platinum palace in the booming East End, this 117-year-old law firm left behind the endless dreary silos of its former headquarters and embraced a cultural shift toward wellness and ergonomics. Thanks to Alliance Architecture, sunlight penetrates offices with clear glass enclosures, every employee has a motorized standing desk, and the café opens onto a terrace complete with barbecue grills, a fire pit, a bar, and a bocce court. Read more

21. 1 Hotel’s Miami Beach Debut by Meyer Davis Studio

1 Hotel Miami Beach features white couches and white sculptural trees in the lobby

Meyer Davis Studio was charged with transforming the lower eight stories of a 1968 building into 1 Hotel Miami. “We paid homage to the natural landscape of south Florida,” Meyer notes—versus the art deco razzle-dazzle typically associated with the area. Moves large and small rack up points in the quest for LEED Silver certification. Uses of reclaimed wood represent a virtual forest preserved. Dialing down to details, Meyer and Davis specified organic bed linens, hemp mattresses, and clothes hangers molded from recycled paper, while bedside note pads have disappeared in favor of chalkboards. Read more

22. Six Futuristic Projects Sprouting Green Roofs

A green roof that curves gently

From reducing storm water runoff and city dust to energy-efficient cooling, the benefits of green roofing go beyond beautification. As costs lower and technology makes installation easier, this environmentally conscious trend is increasingly defining the facades of both existing and new buildings. A 660-foot-long undulating wave of verdant green grass forms a rooftop park at Université Paris-Est’s technology and science center, the Espace Bienvenüe designed by Jean-Philippe Pargade. Read about all six green roofs

23. Kimpton Travels to the Caribbean

A restaurant area with wooden tables and chairs overlooking a caribbean beach

Amid the sea blues and sandy whites of this resort, there’s a good amount of green, too: A solar array generates electricity, rainwater is harvested for maintaining the landscape, and air-conditioning is geothermal. Read more

24. HKS’s Loretta Fulvio Decodes Site of Super Bowl LII

The exterior of the US Bank stadium at dusk

When designing for a Super Bowl–sized audience, there’s no greater expert than Loretta Fulvio, lead interior designer for architecture firm HKS’s Sports sector. When tasked with designing the U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis, Fulvio and her team sought to create experiences that extend far beyond Super Bowl Sunday. In the stands, visitors can feel good about making a positive impact: 91 percent of waste is recycled, composted, or donated, due to the concession stands using compostable packaging. And the entire venue is run on wind power. Read more

25. A Bamboo Kitchen Dominates This Super-Green House

A green wall in the bathroom of a sustainable home

Built with prefab panels, this 2,500-square-foot structure by Minarc is sustainable to the max. Bathrooms overflow with eco consciousness. In the powder room, wood scraps stack up to form a vanity supporting a sink in recycled rubber. For a truly back-to-nature experience, right next to the soaking tub in the master bathroom, there’s a lush plant wall. Read more

26. Sleek and Sustainable Automobile Examples

Maserati GranTurismo Luce.

Debuting at Milan Design Week, the Maserati GranTurismo Luce boasts interiors made of ECONYL, a regenerated nylon yarn, resulting in a unique aesthetic metamorphosis: the monochromatic blue interior references the sea from whence the sustainable material came. Other auto manufacturers are also riding the green wave, with Kia committing to phasing out leather interiors completely in all new products. Read more

27. A Sustainable, Passive-House Design by OHLab

a penthouse living room opens up to an ash terrace and plunge pool

Paseo Mallorca 15, an apartment building designed by OHLab in Palma, on the Spanish island of Mallorca, is a stunner: Covered in pine shutters, it relies on passive heating and cooling techniques and consumes little energy. The design draws on vernacular Mallorcan architecture, such as Mediterranean pergolas and shutters, and uses such traditional techniques as cross-ventilation to keep rooms cool. Read more

28. A Delta Airlines Terminal With Sustainability Principles Takes Off

LaGuardia Airport Delta Air Lines Terminal C

The Delta Airlines Terminal C in New York’s LaGuardia Airport is gaining accolades after a eco-forward redesign that highlights abundant natural light. Suspended above the concourse is an assemblage of salvaged skylights from the atrium ceiling that forms Skylight Gems, an installation that encourages visitors to look up and celebrate the sen­sation and spectacle of flight. Additionally, the design team employed a vast thermal storage system, harvesting to reduce artificial lighting use, and electrochromic smart glass to control glare and heat gain. Read more

29. A Zero-Waste Coffee Shop Uses Upcycled Materials

A spiral staircase

A community gathering space and premier example of sustainable design, Early BKK café, a two-story coffee shop in Saphan Sung, Bangkok, was forged from local upcycled materials. Milk cartons mixed with plywood, known as re-board, were utilized for the door, ceiling, and furnishings while 600 beer bottles frame its facade. Read more

30. This Boston University Building Puts the Planet First

the facade of the Boston University Center for Computing & Data Sciences

The Center for Computing & Data Sciences at Boston University is one of the most environmentally responsible buildings in Boston, if not New England. For one, there are no gas lines: 31 geothermic wells 1,500 feet underground provide heating and cooling. It’s also resilient, set 3 feet above the Charles River Dam to guard against floods. The sustainable ideas don’t stop there, though. Read more

These eco-friendly projects are setting an example for the architecture and design world. Green design is no longer an afterthought; it’s a requirement. See INTERIOR DESIGN’s complete coverage of sustainable projects, products, and news here. For more ideas about sustainable interior design, see how the 2023 Sustainability Giants are putting Mother Earth first.

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