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Higby Project Receives LEED Platinum Certification With Help From MBH Architects


Sustainability and resource efficiency are two issues at the forefront of the minds of developers, architects, general contractors, property managers and others in the commercial real estate sector.

MBH Architects has an in-house sustainability committee with 20 LEED-certified professionals dedicated to promoting sustainability in design. The committee is responsible for organizing lunch seminars around sustainable design practices and a LEED study group to support MBH employees passing certification exams.

The committee also engages employees to volunteer for environmental cleanup opportunities. MBH’s office reflects this spirit of sustainability, and its corporate ethos resonates with it.

MBH molded its HQ to meet LEED Gold certification standards, reducing the company’s electricity and water usage and introducing a stringent composting and recycling program to decrease the amount of waste.

Tax incentives, long-term cost savings and enhanced corporate image are three reasons companies are increasingly gravitating toward sustainable design.

“As the push for more environmentally conscious construction becomes the norm among developers and consumers, designers must follow suit. Designing green has become attractive among developers and consumers for its business incentives as much as the sustainable implications,” says LEED-certified professional and MBH senior associate Ryan McNulty.

Despite mounting interest, adopting sustainable practices is sometimes hampered by the associated cost and complexity. MBH's team of architects help obtain the desired certification level by collaborating with the developer, engineers and third-party LEED raters.


There are two different paths to the LEED rating: the simple prescriptive method, where each system is evaluated on its own, and a more holistic performance approach, in which LEED points are rebalanced amongst all the systems.

Reaching the LEED point threshold for a project can be challenging, and teams need an approach that’s flexible, versatile and adaptable.

For example, MBH’s latest mixed-use project, Higby (shown above and below), was conceived as wood construction, but converted to light-gauge metal studs, which are flame-retardant and dry rot resistant. This meant the heat conducted by the metal then needed to be minimized.

To this end, several alternatives had to be considered, including additional insulation for the exterior.


Ultimately, the LEED points were creatively rebalanced by addressing other building systems to obtain the desired, highest LEED Platinum certification level. The Higby is designed to operate 25% more efficiently than a typical code-compliant building. It uses a stormwater management system that directs rainwater for irrigation. It also provides space for 45 bikes. In the heart of downtown Berkeley, it is close to bus lines and BART, encouraging residents to take advantage of public transportation.

As Ryan puts it, “aside from being a smart business move, designing green can produce beautiful results. Building sustainably is paramount to ensuring the health of the planet and its habitants for future generations."

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Related Topics: MBH Architects