"If you renovate an existing commercial building in an urban area, close to transit, you're already there, everything else you do is icing on the cake," says David Baker.
Since its founding in 1982, David Baker + Partners, Architects has designed more than 6,000 housing units, from homeless shelters to custom houses to live/work lofts to SRO hotels. The firm's staff of 19 work in the ClockTower, a Baker designed live/work development that gave new life to a former lithograph warehouse in San Francisco's once-scruffy South of Market district.
"We make sustainability one element in design, alongside our goals of community, urban social justice, and affordability," Baker says. The firm's website further explains: "Our work acts as an advocate for improved urban planning, where looking good only counts if it does good too."
Baker emphasizes that "green requires a comprehensive, not piecemeal, approach." Whether tackling renovations or new construction, he recommends using a green building checklist like those provided by the California nonprofit Build it Green
. "They're excellent for getting you to cover all the bases," he says. With renovation as well as new construction, the strategies for environmentally responsible design are the same: cut waste, cut fossil fuel consumption, weigh the environmental pros and cons of each product, and steer clear of materials that compromise human health. But when offering advice about greening adaptive-reuse projects, Baker keeps hitting upon two words: "It depends"—on scale, location, the building's condition, and a dozen other variables. With those caveats in mind, here are his top-ten strategies for green adaptive reuse.