Thursday, September 26, 2019

Getting to Zero Forum, October 9-11, 2019

Marriott Oakland City Center, Oakland, California

Bishop O'Dowd High School Center for Environmental Studies (Photo: David Wakely)

Getting to Zero Forum is a solutions-focused event dedicated to zero energy and zero carbon buildings. The 2019 Forum will bring together more than 550 leading policymakers, design professionals, building owners, systems manufacturers, commercial real estate representatives and others working to define a new energy future for the built environment.

Getting to Zero Forum highlights and recommendations include:

OCTOBER 9, 2019 | 10:45am-1:00pm | Cost $35
Bishop O'Dowd High School Center for Environmental Studies Tour
This award-winning project is home to the school's environmental science and engineering program. Designed to complement the Living Lab—a 4.5-acre hillside restoration site, ecological study area, and wildlife habitat at the perimeter of the campus--a new building along with landscape elements tie the Living Lab to the campus core. The new academic building features two large laboratory classrooms, a faculty office and prep space, restrooms and storage. Sustainable building systems and materials—locally sourced, renewable building materials; roof-mounted photovoltaic panels for renewable power; on-site collection and treatment of storm water, and rainwater harvesting—are easily accessed to serve as teaching tools. Lunch on campus is included in the fee. Separate registration for the Getting to Schools Workshop is required. CEUs pending.

OCTOBER 11, 2019 | 8:30-10:00am
Session 3: A Global Call to Action for Zero Embodied Carbon

Getting to zero requires targeting both operating and embodied carbon. Buildings are responsible for 39% of global carbon emissions—28% attributed to operational carbon, and 11% to embodied emissions from materials and construction processes. As the industry responds to the challenge of eliminating operational carbon emissions from the energy consumption of buildings through design improvements, standards and regulations, embodied carbon becomes even more significant. This session will present a theory of change with case studies that aim to be zero embodied carbon discussing the feasibility of building density goals on embodied and operating carbon and explain the role that building reuse plays in achieving a zero carbon future. (1.5 AIA LU|HSW CEUs)

Moderator: Tony Saracino (Autodesk)
A Global Call to Action for Net Zero Embodied Carbon
Victoria Burrows (World GBC)

Thinking Small, Not Tall, to Get to Zero Carbon 
Ann Edminster (Design AVEnues LLC) & Larry Strain (Siegel & Strain Architects)

Embodied Carbon & High Performance in Landmark Structures: The Transformation of Fort Mason Pier 2
Marsha Maytum & Ryan Jang (Leddy Maytum Stacy Architects)

OCTOBER 11, 2019 | 10:30-11:30am
Jolt Session 2: Essential Technologies for Getting to Zero

The U.S. building industry is creating new products, advancing manufacturing techniques, and altering construction approaches to meet the needs of zero energy and carbon goals. This session will show attendees how building envelopes have evolved and how they progressed to achieve zero energy goals; evaluate three key standard HVAC design features that are outdated and not supporting zero energy; and understand how off-site, modular construction can overcome productivity and help zero energy buildings adoption issues in the national construction market. (1 AIA LU|HSW CEUs)
Moderator: David Reynolds (ERS)
Inserting Zero Energy Design into the Growing Offsite Prefab Construction Market
Stacey Rothgeb & Shanti Pless (NREL)

Design for Off: Decarbonization of Existing Buildings
Jonathan Heller (Ecotope)
Building Envelope for Net Zero Buildings Lessons Learned Over Twenty Years
Henry Siegel & Nancy Malone (Siegel & Strain Architects). 

For more information and registration, please visit:
Getting to Zero Forum
Workshops & Tours

Monday, August 19, 2019

Big Ideas for a Healthier World

Marjorie Smith, Senior Associate at Siegel & Strain Architects, describes working with the Green Science Policy Institute that changed building codes so that flame retardants are no longer required in building insulation.

Published by Green Science Policy Institute December 2018

Green Science Policy Institute, the lead advocate for this change, has been working toward this victory for more than 10 years. Their 2012 paper, "Flame retardants in building insulation: a case for reevaluating building codes," provided the basis for legislation (California AB-127) and proposals to change building codes to reduce the use of flame retardants in building insulation. With this success, more broad changes at the state and national level will be within reach.
To read more, please visit:

Thursday, July 25, 2019

News from Siegel & Strain Architects: new majority owners


Photo from left to right back row: Charlotte Hutton, Jil Eliason, Amanda Knowles, Seth Dunn, Colin Searles, Marjorie Smith, Henry Siegel, Andrej Dekleva, Michael Hayden, Roland Lazzarotto, Jonah Merris, and Felicia Alford. Left to right front row: Lindsey Moder (seated), Laura Levenberg, Susi Marzuola, Allison Hyatt, Larry Strain, Nancy Malone, Austin Justice, Madison Jackson. Seated in front: Judy July, Karen Richards. [Photo: Kevin Meynell 2019]

WE ARE HAPPY TO ANNOUNCE that Nancy Malone and Susi Marzuola are now majority owners of the firm. They will continue their close collaboration with founding principals Henry Siegel and Larry Strain to create a legacy of projects that improve people's lives, shape communities and nurture the environment. Our long-term relations with clients like the National Park Service, NatureBridge, City of Berkeley, Boys and Girls Clubs, Girl Scouts of Northern California and others are also supported by our exceptional team of Senior Associates Michael Hayden, Marjorie Smith, Karen Richards and Director of Historic Preservation Lindsey Moder.

Siegel & Strain Architects is now an Alameda County Certified Small, Local and Emerging Business (SLEB), Women-Owned Business Enterprise and California Department of General Services Certified Small Business (Micro). 

In recent months, we have welcomed new members to our team: Felicia Alford, ASID, IIDA, Designer; Jonah Merris, Designer; Austin Justice, Designer/Intern.

We are pleased to announce that several staff have recently achieved licensure: Charlotte Hutton, AIA; Allison Hyatt, AIA; and Amanda Knowles, AIA, LEED AP. Andrej Dekleva, AIA, LEED AP, was promoted to Associate. 

We would welcome a chance to connect or reconnect. Reach out to Malone, Marzuola, or any member of the Siegel & Strain Architects team.

Monday, July 1, 2019

Sustainable design has a whole new meaning

Apricot tart
Architect [and baker] Larry Strain's latest staff meeting treat. Not a low-carb footprint. Flaky, flaky tart.

Tuesday, June 18, 2019

Pedal Pushers Rise to the Challenge

MAY WAS BIKE-TO-WORK MONTH, although at least half of the staff at Siegel & Strain Architects commute to work on bicycles regularly throughout the year. In the 2019 Bay Area Bike Challenge, our firm team came in fifth in total distance and total points compared with other competing Bay Area organizations with 20-49 employees.

And for Alameda County organizations with 20-49 employees, our firm team came in second in total distance and total points. Seth Dunn is our team champion this year. Helmets off to all of the teams for reducing the number of cars on the roads!

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Berkeley Tuolumne Camp Presentation on May 13

Berkeley Tuolumne Camp south site plan

 Rebuilding Camp Tuolumne

The City of Berkeley has been working with Siegel & Strain Architects, numerous local, state and federal agencies and insurance representatives since early 2018 to bring about the reconstruction of the beloved community camp.

A presentation was hosted last week at Berkeley Rep Theater by The Friends of Berkeley Tuolumne Camp (FOBTC), along with City staff and the Siegel & Strain Architects design team, to show current designs and plans for the new Camp Tuolumne.

What will the camp look like? How will it be different and what will feel the same? When will it be ready? Will there be any trees? What about the stone showers? Has anything changed on the river? What will the tents looks like? How can people help restore the camp? Answers to these and other questions plus the anticipated timeline for the rebuilding of the camp was provided by the Rebuild Project Manager, design team and city staff.

FOBTC has kicked off a Capital CAMPaign to support what insurance will not cover. See more on the FOBTC website for opportunities to get involved.


Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Dear Governor Newsom... a-call-to-action now

March 18, 2019
The Honorable Gavin Newsom Governor
State Capital, Sacramento, California

Dear Governor Newsom,

We are heading into an extremely dangerous period. If we do not take action now, the planet will overshoot 2 degree C warming by a wide margin with consequences that are projected to be devastating to California, our country, and the entire world.

The world will build a breathtaking 260 billion m2 over the next four decades, or an area equal to the current worldwide building stock. About 40% of this construction is expected to take place between now and 2030. That’s an area greater than the total building area existing today in North America, South America, the Caribbean, the entire European Union, and Australia and New Zealand combined, all adding to the emissions problem.

Most of this new construction will take place in China, India, Southeast Asia, Latin America, and Africa, where there are either no mandatory building energy or emissions standards, or inadequate standards at best. If these buildings are designed and built to current standards, it will dwarf all other emissions reduction actions.

Unfortunately, there is a dearth of political leadership on this issue at the national level, yet California has always been the first to take action addressing climate change.

However, according to the CPUC’s “Commercial Zero Net Energy Action Plan”, California’s new commercial building construction is not scheduled to “achieve zero net energy performance” incorporating “on-site or off-site renewable energy” until 2030, too late to influence significant carbon reductions in California and building construction worldwide.

Renewable energy has been demonstrated to be cost effective in California today and industry tools have been developed that incorporate on-site or off-site renewable energy in new commercial building construction and supports grid optimization.

California is positioned to take the global leadership role in reducing carbon emissions in the building sector by accelerating the timeline to reach zero net energy performance, incorporating on-site or off-site renewable energy in all new commercial construction, to 2020. This would send an urgent and powerful call-to-action worldwide. 

The world looks to – and expects – California to lead the way.


Ed Mazria, FAIA, CEO
Architecture 2030
Contact: Edward Mazria, FAIA, CEO (505) 988-5309

See the signatory list here.

Wednesday, May 1, 2019

Oakley Recreation Center grand opening in April

Construction nearing completion.

APRIL 16, 2019, OAKLEY, CALIFORNIA: The ribbon cutting ceremony for the new recreation center in Oakland occurred under blue skies. The Oakley Recreation Center is a new one-story building constructed on the existing city property south of O’Hara Park Middle School. The building is designed for a variety of community events and recreation activities.

The new structure includes two enclosed community rooms, an office/conference area; two multi-use restrooms; storage; mechanical and electrical spaces; kitchen and food storage area and an uncovered patio.

Project site improvements include grading, landscaping and irrigation, retaining walls, bioswales, site paths, service pad, access to mechanical and electrical closets, permeable paving, bicycle and vehicular parking, concrete curbs and sidewalks, and tree replacement.

The Oakley Recreation Center is designed to demonstrate sustainable building design. In addition to those cited above, green design features include daylighting, high-performing building envelope including low-emissivity dual glazing, sunscreens and window shading, Forest Stewardship Certified wood, high-efficiency mechanical, electrical and lighting systems, low-flow plumbing fixtures; high-recycled content materials, low formaldehyde and VOC building materials. The design team worked closely with the Oakley Public Works director and department staff to create flexible spaces that will serve the community for many years to come.

Read more here in the East Bay Times article by Judy Prieve.

Thursday, January 24, 2019

Healthier Buildings on the Horizon

Code changes approved regarding toxic flame retardants in insulation

We are celebrating a huge victory! On January 16, 2019, the California State Building Standards Commission ruled unanimously that the state of California can safely update its codes to permit below-grade use of flame retardant-free foam plastic building insulation. This code change will allow the use of polystyrene insulation WITHOUT TOXIC FLAME RETARDANTS when the insulation is located beneath a concrete slab on grade. The code change is very significant because it sets a precedent for:
  • Considering human and environmental health in building code development.
  • Allowing the elimination of toxic flame retardants when shown, with testing, that fire safety can be achieved through other means.

Marjorie Smith, a Senior Associate at Siegel & Strain Architects, has been writing proposals, participating in working groups, and testifying at hearings since 2014 with the Green Science Policy Institute team. On January 16, Majorie testified at the state capitol in support of code changes alongside a team of toxicologists, public health advocates, combustion scientists, fire protection engineers, fire fighters, construction union leaders, legislators, developers, and architects.

Green Science Policy Institute, the lead advocate for this change, has been working toward this victory for more than 10 years. Their 2012 paper, "Flame retardants in building insulation: a case for reevaluating building codes," provided the basis for legislation (California AB-127) and proposals to change building codes to reduce the use of flame retardants in building insulation. With this success, more broad changes at the state and national level will be within reach.

To read more, please visit:
Experts testify for code changes to allow insulation without toxic flame retardants.
HBCD bioaccumulates up the food chain (Covaci, 2006). Courtesy Green Science Policy Institute.

Thursday, January 10, 2019

Holiday Greetings from Siegel & Strain Architects

This year, in addition to dinner and drinks, our Party Committee hosted the First Annual Holiday Cookie Decorating Competition. It was the perfect event for the company culture that exists at our firm: we love design and we love baked goods. The competition was tough, since some very talented spouses and kids also got in on the action. The winners were:

Most Tectonic: Seth
Most Festive: Sevan
Best Parti: Colin
Best Use of Color: Jill
Best in Show: Ray

'Twas three weeks before New Year's
And all through the house,
All the creatures were stirring
Maybe even a mouse.

The table was set with candles and care
With hopes that the food soon would be there.
The children were busy with games, toy trains and such,
While Colin set up cookies and decorating stuff.

With families arriving all decked out with style,
We settled ourselves around drinks for a while.
A banquet was laid with thought and with care,
We wined and dined until our plates were bare.

After a time there arose such a clatter,
Parents jumped up to see what was the matter.
Ollie and Gray had crashed their trains--what a sight!
Then popped the balloons with so much delight!

Now on to the kitchen where the cookies were laid.
With icing, sugary sparkles, the best would be made.
Now Festive! Tectonic! Parti! Colorful! Best in Show! too...
Visions of Sevan, Seth, Colin, Jill and Ray were all on view!

The cleanup was swift with all hands on deck.
Tamales were gone, salad and salmon, not a speck.
We all bundled up and drove out of sight,
Happy Holidays to all and to all a good night!

Wednesday, January 2, 2019

New tool review: Architecture 2030’s Carbon Smart Materials Palette

Published on the AIA Committee on the Environment blog KnowledgeNet

By Larry Strain, FAIA

In 2006, Ed Mazria woke up the design community by pointing out that buildings were responsible for a much larger portion of GHG emissions than we had previously been aware of. The current UN Environment Report puts it at close to 40-28 percent from building operations and 11 percent from the emissions embodied in making buildings. Architecture 2030 created the 2030 Challenge that laid out a road map to get to zero emissions. In the beginning, the 2030 Challenge focused on reducing operational energy and associated GHG emissions—the AIA 2030 Commitment is about reducing the operational energy and carbon emissions of our buildings.

In 2010, Architecture 2030 added the 2030 Challenge for Products, which set similar reduction goals for the embodied carbon in the materials and products we build with. This was mostly aimed at manufacturers and companies such as Interface, Central Concrete, United States Gypsum, and Owens Corning signed on.

In 2018 Architecture 2030 added another tool for reducing embodied carbon–the Carbon Smart Materials (CSM) Palette—an attribute-based guide to understanding and reducing embodied carbon in the built environment. The Palette opens with a reminder of why embodied carbon is important:
  • 11% of global emissions, 28% of building sector emissions
  • As buildings become more efficient, embodied emission are becoming increasingly significant.
  • Embodied emissions of a building are locked in once the building is constructed and cannot be taken back or reduced.

They are also the first emissions a building is responsible for and can equal as much as 20 years worth of operating emissions. Reducing embodied emission reduces the upfront emissions from a building which is a critical step if we’re going to get to zero emissions by 2050.

The CSM Palette looks at a number of materials that are grouped into two categories:
  • High Impact Materials – Concrete, Steel, Insulation and Wood
  • Carbon Smart Materials – Hempcrete, Sheep’s wool, Straw and Wood. (wood is in both categories because it can have high impacts depending on how it is harvested and processed but is also is a carbon sequestering material)
Each material has its own page that opens with an explanation of the carbon impacts and attributes of the material, followed by advice on how to reduce those impacts. There is a Carbon Smart Attributes section that is about reducing the carbon footprint of the material itself, and a Design Guidance section that gives strategies on lowering carbon emissions through design.

The CSM Palette is great introduction to embodied carbon and how to reduce it - explanations and advice are clear and simple enough for someone unfamiliar with the topic to understand, but it’s also a good resource for those of us that have been working on this for a long time. For instance, I had never heard of the “scatter-filling aggregate” method of mixing concrete which can reduce the cement content of concrete by 20 – 30%. There are also additional resources at the end of each material page with links to papers, books and websites for those that want to take a deeper dive.

There is also a section on Whole Building Approaches with design advice for architects and engineers. It covers everything from - my personal favorite – reusing existing buildings, (significantly lower embodied carbon than building new buildings even with remodeling), to material efficiency, specifying materials manufactured with renewable energy, specifying materials that sequester carbon and a lot more.

The CSM Palette has been in development for about a year, and was launched at the Carbon Smart Building Day at the Global Climate Action Summit in September. Architecture 2030 worked with the Embodied Carbon Network, engineers, material experts and industry representatives to gather the most current information on embodied carbon and strategies and practices for reducing it.

My only real complaint is it needs more materials. The good news is there are a number of additional materials pages in development that will be coming out soon. I have been working on raising awareness on embodied carbon for the last 10 years and this is a great resource that’s only going to get better.
A couple of suggestions for making it even better:
  • Give a little guidance on what to focus on. It is helpful to understand the relative carbon impacts of the materials we build with – high volume materials like concrete and steel and high impact materials like aluminum and some foam insulations have much larger impacts than interior finish materials and batt insulation.
  • Make it clear who the strategies are aimed at. Some strategies aren’t very relevant for architects and engineers and are aimed more at product manufacturers.
Architecture 2030 welcomes feedback to the Carbon Smart Palette. Contact Erin McDade or Lindsey Rasmussen at Architecture 2030 via

Larry Strain, FAIA, is a founding principal of Siegel & Strain Architects (in Emeryville, California). He has written extensively about carbon and architecture (one example is his paper, “The Time Value of Carbon”). He served as an AIA Delegate to the Global Climate Action Summit in September in San Francisco.