January 9, 2019

Biophilic DesignEco DesignGreen ArchitecturePassive House Architecture

TBDA’s vision is to design a healthy, beautiful, low-carbon future.

We’re a service profession, so the core of what we do is design buildings where people live, work, and play; but our vision is the attitude and purpose we bring to that service, the reason you would hire or work for us instead of the next firm.

Let’s look at these values—healthy, beautiful, low-carbon–in a little more detail. How do we incorporate these into our work?


The starting place for designing for health is avoiding toxicity—a challenge with current building materials and practices. At TBDA we’ve developed a long list of specifications, from sealants, caulks, and adhesives to cabinetry, paints, and sealers that meet stringent air quality standards (ideally Declare Label Red List Free, at least Greenguard certified).

That’s how we do less harm—but how do we actively promote health? Our primary guide is biophilic design, using the innate human-nature connection to guide our design decisions as we shape space, light, views, and structure. The EPA says we, a species that evolved outdoors, spend about 90% time indoors; our senses and genes aren’t getting what they’re programmed for in most indoor environments unless we employ biophilic principles. For example, use of natural materials and forms, meaningful connections to the outdoors, and active ventilation systems that keep the air clean (I like to call them the “lungs of the building”) are all keys to creating a healthy indoor environment. I explored this in a bit more depth in this previous blog post.


Yes, Beauty is subjective—but Quality is direct and immediate; what I mean when I say Beauty is closer to a Quality experience, really a sense of caring interaction between person and environment. It’s a beautiful thing if your environment is helping you reach a Flow State, and a lost opportunity if its boring or chaotic or overly stimulating character prevents you from doing your best. Our most fulfilling projects are ones in which users say they feel nurtured, cared for by the building and its siting.


I’ve got great news: you can build or remodel today so that your building will produce as much energy as it uses over the course of a year. Even better, you can do it for such a small up-front cost that your increased mortgage will be offset by energy cost savings. Why wouldn’t you do it?! Our experience with Passive House design and building has shown us that we can achieve radical results with mostly off-the-shelf components, and that your building will be healthier, (air quality control as part of the Passive model), more durable (due to Passive moisture control and DOE water management requirements), and more comfortable (due to the high insulation levels and Passive solar control). It’s such a smart way to build, and you get to be part of the solution to climate change while enjoying a great building.

As architects, we’re always dreaming of that better world. This vision statement articulates our values and the qualities that better world needs to have. Let’s build it.