Friday, November 2, 2018

National Environmental Science Center dedicated at Yosemite National Park

The premiere nature education campus – and interactive model of sustainability – was designed by Siegel & Strain Architects for NatureBridge and the National Park Service.

In October, the National Environmental Science Center was dedicated; the new campus by Siegel & Strain Architects will be the site of immersive environmental stewardship education for many. (Photograph: Siegel & Strain Architects)

EMERYVILLE, Calif., Nov. 1, 2018 /PRNewswire/ -- On October 11, NatureBridge and the National Park Service held a ribbon-cutting ceremony to dedicate the National Environmental Science Center. The new Henness Ridge campus team is celebrating the completion of five of 17 buildings designed by Siegel & Strain Architects.

This is the culmination of a decade-long partnership in planning and design. Completed so far are a dining hall, bath house, two cabins, and a maintenance building. Additional buildings will include the main dining hall, classrooms, a fire station, more cabins, staff housing, and support facilities. Planning for the next phase will commence soon.

Each year, more than 15,000 students and teachers come to experience and learn from Yosemite National Park through outdoor science programs offered by NatureBridge. This new residential campus uses the latest sustainable design and energy conservation concepts with the site's inherent attributes to provide an interactive model of sustainability in which program participants can engage firsthand. The center is projected to be net zero energy; provide 60 percent water savings compared to conventional use; and minimize construction waste. The project is designed to attain a LEED Platinum rating.

The National Environmental Science Center features replicable green building technologies that students use while at camp and are ideas that they can take back to their schools and homes. (Rendering: Al Forster)

Architect Nancy Malone, AIA, who led the project for Siegel & Strain with Henry Siegel, FAIA, explained that the project was designed to reflect the natural conditions. "We hope it will inspire students by connecting them to this special setting, to the cultural tradition of rustic park design, and to the educational mission of environmental stewardship," Malone said.

Kristina Rylands, NatureBridge director of the Yosemite Campus, described how students will interact with this place: "This will be a permanent home for youth education in Yosemite -- one of the most iconic parks in the world," she said. "The grandeur of Yosemite allows students to become part of something larger than themselves. This new center will be a portal to self-discovery and a home for youth education for the next 100 years."

Phil Kilbridge, President/CEO of NatureBridge, said that this is a long-term investment in people and park. "The Center will enable transformative educational experiences in the outdoors for more than one million kids in its first 50 years," he said. "It is more than a campus, it is a declaration – that our parks belong to all of us, and that these experiences are essential to the health of our children and planet."

The design team developed formal and informal learning spaces to foster environmental literacy using visible and interactive sustainable design strategies. Students will learn from different types of photovoltaic panels, local and renewable materials, and interactive monitoring systems for greywater harvesting and renewable energy. The center integrates the latest design and energy efficiency concepts to provide a model of sustainability that, with 100% universal access, will allow all participants to interface with the next level of experiential education.

At the ceremony, Yosemite National Park Superintendent Mike Reynolds put the project into context: "Many people are familiar with legacy projects in our parks," he said. "The National Environmental Science Center is a legacy project for the next 100 years."

About NatureBridge
Founded in 1971, NatureBridge connects young people to the wonder and science of the natural world, igniting self-discovery and inspiring stewardship of our planet. As the largest residential education partner of the National Park Service, the organization serves more than 35,000 students each year and offers programs in six national parks: Yosemite National Park, Golden Gate National Recreation Area, Olympic National Park, Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area, Channel Islands National Park and Prince William Forest Park.

About Yosemite National Park
Not just a great valley, but a shrine to human foresight, the strength of granite, the power of glaciers, the persistence of life, and the tranquility of the High Sierra. First protected in 1864, Yosemite National Park is best known for its waterfalls, but within its nearly 1,200 square miles, you can find deep valleys, grand meadows, ancient giant sequoias, a vast wilderness area, and much more.

To view the original press release, click this link.

Thursday, October 18, 2018

Coffee Tasting Field Trip

As a rule, architects LOVE coffee. Here at Siegel and Strain we are not the exception. On Friday, October 5, we walked the two blocks to Counter Culture's Bay Area Training Center. We did an hour of "cupping" tasting where we first smelled and then drank two Ethiopian coffee roasts, comparing the subtle flavors that differentiate the two. Not only did we get to spend an hour in their beautiful tasting room, we also got to learn more about one of our favorite water cooler topics, before heading back to work.

Tuesday, October 2, 2018

Global Climate Action Summit

by Larry Strain, FAIA

Zero-net energy verified Center for Environmental Studies, Bishop O'Dowd High School, Oakland, CA

IN SEPTEMBER, I ATTENDED THE GLOBAL CLIMATE ACTION SUMMIT (GCAS) in San Francisco as a delegate of the American Institute of Architects (AIA). I also attended two affiliated events: The Carbon Smart Building Day and Climate Heritage Mobilization. I’ve been working on reducing Green House Gas (GHG) emissions from buildings for the last decade or so, and while none of what I learned came as a big surprise, I did come away with a clearer idea of the challenges we are facing and also more hopeful about the potential solutions.

The Global Climate Action Summit brought together people from around the world to, as its organizers said, “Take Ambition to the Next Level.” This was structured (by organizers that included Jerry Brown, Michael Bloomberg, and others) as a time to celebrate the extraordinary achievements of states, regions, cities, companies, investors and citizens with respect to climate action. It was also meant as a launching moment for big commitments from countries, cities, NGOs, companies, and others. The goal is to put society “on track to prevent dangerous climate change and realize the historic Paris Agreement.”

The GCAS website states: “The decarbonization of the global economy is in sight. Transformational changes are happening across the world and across all sectors as a result of technological innovation, new and creative policies and political will at all levels. States and regions, cities, businesses and investors are leading the charge on pushing down global emissions by 2020, setting the stage to reach net-zero emissions by mid-century.​​” Community activists and indigenous populations also called for more inclusive, bottom-up solutions. It was good to see people who usually do not have a voice being heard.

The Carbon Smart Building Day focused on buildings and had great keynote talks by Ed Mazria of Architecture 2030 and Amory Lovins of the Rocky Mountain Institute. Session topics ranged from reducing and storing embodied carbon, to retrofitting existing buildings, to creating highly efficient new buildings. Architecture 2030 introduced the Zero Code and the Materials Palette.

The Climate Heritage Day was about the importance of historic buildings, human culture and indigenous peoples and the roles they must play in addressing climate change. Traditional buildings and cultures have a lot of the answers we need. We also need to reuse and upgrade what we have. Representatives from native peoples from all over the world added their voices and perspectives on climate issues, mitigation and adaptation.

Some key takeaways:
  • Our climate models are too conservative. The effects of climate change on our eco systems – human and natural – are more extreme and happening faster than predicted and are already being felt all over the world.
  • We need to step up our understanding and efforts to adapt to the changes we are already experiencing and design more resiliency into human and natural systems.
  • Many of the solutions needed to reduce GHG emissions – decarbonization of the grid, electric vehicles, divestment from fossil fuels, and many more – are expanding and being adopted at exponential rates. This is exactly what needs to happen if we are to avoid catastrophic, irreversible climate change.
  • Those most impacted by the changing climate – the indigenous, poor and displaced peoples of the world – have a unique perspective on both the impacts and the solutions and need to have a say in creating those solutions.
  • Things are also more hopeful than we thought. And we can be part of sharing the leverage points for accelerating positive change.

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Part I: Sustainable Action Plan


Siegel & Strain Architects is a proud signatory of the American Institute of Architects 2030 Commitment, a national initiative to track energy use reductions for all new building with the goal of achieving carbon neutrality by 2030. Since its start, the reduction target has been steadily increased. Currently, the goal is a 70% reduction in energy use compared to similar buildings. The goal will increase to 80% in 2020, 90% in 2025 and finally 100% in 2030. The platform allows firms to compare data, best practices and energy use from around the nation. In 2016, signatory firms achieved a national average of 42% energy use reduction vs the national average, short of our goal, but an increase from previous years.

Our goal: Hit the target of 70% reduction versus the national average.


We hold ourselves accountable and ensure our projects perform as intended. Beyond the 2030 goals of energy use reduction, we track 80 different data points on a range of sustainability goals including cost, energy, building envelope, lighting, water, materials and site.  When possible, we collect post occupancy data to compare how our projects perform. Some of the modeling criteria we perform includes:
  • Life Cycle Analysis
  • Daylighting
  • Energy Modeling, auditing and benchmarking
  • Building Assembly Analysis
  • Water Conservation Analysis
Our Goal: Track and compare data points on all incoming projects. Perform energy modeling at the conceptual stage of every projects.

Daylight Modeling of the Brisbane Library

Tracking our projects' Energy Use Intensity against 2030 Commitment Goals

Click here to download our 2030 Commitment Sustainable Action Plan.

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Siegel & Strain Summer Kick-off BBQ Potluck

Twice a year, when the weather is good, the office organizes a lunch time potluck. Roland Lazzarotto grills sausages on the Weber grill and everyone else brings salads, dips, veggies and treats. This being the first potluck since moving to our new offices on Doyle Street, we were able to take advantage of the park that runs adjacent to our new space. We set up lawn games and spent the early afternoon playing Kubb and Cornhole.

Bay Area Bike To Work Day 2018!

This year, nearly 100,000 Bay Area residents participated on May 10 in the 24th Annual Bay Area Bike to Work Day.

While our office prides itself on the number of employees who daily walk, bike and use public transportation to work; we are proud to have had such a strong showing during this year with almost half the office participating.

During the entire month of May we participated in the Bay Area 2018 Bike Challenge. Our Top Commuter was Architect Seth Dunn, biking 22 days and 130 miles to work. Principal Susi Marzoula meanwhile was our Top Rider, making 59 bike trips and riding 220 miles. Way to go Seth and Susi!

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Golden State Warriors dedicate new spaces at the Boys & Girls Club of San Leandro

The Boys & Girls Club of San Leandro was selected by the NBA and Golden State Warriors as a community improvement projects. The NBA and the Warriors, with partners Kaiser Permanente and State Farm, opened a new NBA Cares Learn & Play Zone at Boys & Girls Club of San Leandro on June 1, 2018.

Warriors team members and executives, as well as NBA and WNBA legends and league executives, unveiled three newly-renovated spaces, and joined students and local community partners for several activities including an African dance class, an NBA Voices Community Conversation, science project, planting in a new garden, mural painting, digital design instruction, playing video games like NBA 2K and snack-packing for youth in need. Click text to watch the video.

The new Learn & Play Zone, which includes a multi-purpose room, teen room and garden, will provide youth with a safe place to play and resources to help them explore educational interests.

Watch the Warriors and the thrilled boys and girls at the opening.

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Architects & Climate Change

by Larry Strain

Climate change is happening. No help and a lot of hurt is coming from Washington. Architects are going to have step up our efforts. Buildings account for close to half of the Green House Gas (GHG) emissions in the U.S.

So what can we do now?

Bishop O'Dowd Center for Environmental Studies

ZNE-verified: Center for Environmental Studies, Bishop O'Dowd High School, Oakland, CA

Reduce Operation Emissions
We can design and advocate that all new buildings be zero net carbon (ZNC) – super-efficient, all electric and powered by renewable energy. (Adding short term on-site battery storage also helps the grid stay off fossil fuels when the sun isn't shining.) If our buildings can't achieve ZNC, they can be ZNC ready, and can still be powered by 100% off-site renewable power, through programs like Community Choice Energy or PG&E's Solar Choice program.

Reduce Embodied Emissions
We can reduce the embodied carbon footprint of our buildings. Building a new home generates 30-50 tons of GHG emissions and larger commercial buildings generate a lot more – equal to more than 10 years of operating an efficient, code compliant building. When our new buildings are ZNE, embodied carbon accounts for all the emissions. We can reduce those emissions by 25-30% by just focusing on concrete and a few other materials. Higher reductions are possible when we pay attention to everything else, and use carbon sequestering materials. Building with materials that are made from atmospheric carbon – wood, straw, and, coming soon – concrete and even plastics – could transform our buildings into carbon sinks instead of carbon emitters.

Reuse & Upgrade Existing Buildings
We can design and advocate for reusing and upgrading existing buildings instead of building new ones, which saves carbon twice – reuse generates less carbon emissions than building a new building and upgrading reduces the operating emissions from existing buildings. (Operating existing buildings accounts for 95% of all building emissions). Most existing homes and a lot of commercial buildings could be retrofitted to be ZNC.

None of this is easy, but if we're serious about addressing climate change, it's what needs to be done.

Friday, January 5, 2018


Rebuild Green Expo

Santa Rosa Veterans Hall, 10 am-7 pm, Free

Presented by Rebuild Green North Bay Coalition  


Resilient, affordable, community-centered
GREEN rebuilding options for the North Bay

Home owners involved in rebuilding after the fires face thousands of decisions: design, builders, materials, budget, the list goes on and on. Many of those decisions offer a variety of green options, but it’s a challenge to know how to go about it.

Fortunately, Northern California is home to many of the world’s most experienced and knowledgeable green and sustainable building professionals, who have formed the Rebuild Green Coalition. The Coalition is hosting the Rebuild Green Expo on Friday, February 23, at the Santa Rosa Veterans’ Hall. Admission is free to the public, and promises to make the process of rebuilding green much easier.

“Mostly, it’s about showing people that green and sustainable approaches are not only viable and affordable, they are also healthier and offer better resilience for communities to survive disasters with less disruption,” says Steve Sheldon, architect and builder with Ibis Builds of Sebastopol who represents the US Green Building Council Redwood Empire, and one of the Expo organizers. “We’ll also be offering folks the chance to meet and speak to the experts about their own home designs while learning about all aspects of green building.”

The Expo will showcase information on fire-resistant materials and methods, rooftop solar and micro-grid systems, healthy homes and interiors, resilient communities, defensible and drought-resistant landscapes, zero-net energy, efficient home design, safe induction cooking, financing green building, accessory dwelling units, battery storage for homes, and much more. Professionals on hand will include architects, engineers, energy providers/consultants, landscape designers, contractors, and materials suppliers, to name a few.

Why green? A few benefits include:
  • Economic: energy, water, and other efficiencies don’t necessarily cost more, and yet most pay for themselves within a few years and offer significant savings in long-term operating costs. In addition, efficiencies in construction can actually reduce building costs, and incentives can often provide even more savings.(PG&E and Sonoma Clean Power are developing incentives for homeowners rebuilding after the fire, and will be sharing them at the EXPO.)
  • Health: homes designed to provide good indoor air quality and non-toxic materials are healthier for people and other living things.
  • Resiliency: making sustainable and renewable choicessuch as micro-grids, batteries, water reuse systems, and more — make neighborhoods and communities more likely to withstand fires, earthquakes, and other potential threats with less disruption and faster recovery.
  • Environment: making sustainable choices is good for the planet.

“The question really is ‘Why would anybody NOT choose green?’” Sheldon adds. “Who wouldn’t want a more efficient and healthier home? We aim to make it as easy as possible, and the group is ready do whatever we can to help folks who are facing the daunting challenges ahead. We are in it for the long haul. The Expo is only the beginning.”


For more information, visit


Presented by Rebuild Green North Bay Coalition
Contact: Oren Wool, Sustainable North Bay
(707) 636-4732