Studio Meng Strazzara
Specialty: Architectural design, planning and engineering with focuses on K-12, higher-education facilities and urban mixed-use projects
Schools are increasingly seeking green design elements that can be made visible to students and used in lesson plans, said Charles Strazzara, partner at Studio Meng Strazzara.
Strazzara said for the past four or five years, schools and districts have been curious about certain sustainable features or products. But now, both private and public schools want sustainability included in project conceptualization.
“A lot of the private schools see (building green) as part of their brand identity,” Strazzara said. “I think we’ll see more and more of that as institutions and architects come together to see how they can make green building more of the learning environment.”
Strazzara said examples of visual sustainability his firm has used in area school design include solar panels and rainwater collection. As part of the recent expansion at the Island School on Bainbridge Island, SMS designed a courtyard where kids could learn about rainwater runoff.
Strazzara said demand for passive cooling and natural ventilation will increase in the future as school districts learn more about sustainable design and energy use.
Overall, Strazzara predicts an increase in demand for natural ventilation in Seattle projects, especially in office buildings.
“The days of people wanting to be in that environment where they want that kind of cocoon feeling have come and gone,” he said. “In Seattle, because of our temperate climate, we’re going to experience that more and more.”
But he said users need to embrace the idea as well, and designers need to educate them on their responsibility to monitor themselves to make the environments work.
For SMS, the last year has brought a lot of growth. The firm added 10 new people to its design team — all of them from out of state.
“It’s a sign of the times here in Seattle,” Strazzara said.
The architecture and engineering market is tight in Seattle, Strazzara said, and the city is considered a destination spot for designers wanting to do more green design. The city is also booming while other markets are starting to sag, Strazzara said. The firm’s most recent hire was from Phoenix.
“Of course, everyone thinks they can leave work and get right into a canoe,” Strazzara said. “Seattle has managed to keep up that persona about itself but maybe that won’t be able to continue.”
Strazzara says the nationwide sub-prime mortgage effect is starting to slow building growth here. Already, he has seen clients put condo conversion projects on hold or slow their schedules as buyers struggle to get funding.
So far, the slowdown hasn’t affected the firm because of the diversity of the projects it pursues. Office building is on the rise, Strazzara said, and apartment building is edging up as well.
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