8 dwellings

145-151 Laurel St.

Northern Liberties, Philadelphia


The first LEED for Homes Platinum duplex residences

in the U.S.A.

This eight unit residential project explores the highly efficient and architecturally latent potentials hidden within the traditional form of the Philadelphia “Row” home. The vertical rhythm, regularity yet diversity of this most prevalent residential urban typology was the primary source of inspiration for this experiment. (more…)

LEDs as Task Lights...



For me, using LEDs as task lighting is still a developing technology. I am very happy with the lumen output that we are starting to see now, along with the color quality. I personally lean towards a warmer color tone that is close to that of incandescent (2700° Kelvin), but many others do prefer the slightly cooler color temperature like that of halogen (3000° Kelvin). Still others that are doing fine detail work, such as jewelry making, like to have a color temperature close to that of daylight (5000° Kelvin).

Where I am seeing room for improvement is how to deal with the creation of multiple shadowing when more than one LED source is used in a task light. Those fixtures on the market with a single source LED act like a single source incandescent or fluorescent. One source equals one shadow, which is what we have all grown up with what we are used to seeing. But a single source LED may not provide enough illumination for many people. When multiple light sources are used, as we are seeing in the LED task lights that are coming onto the market, you get a shadow image for each light source. The more individual LED diodes you have in a fixture the more shadowing you get as well. When reading a book or a magazine this really isn’t an issue, but if your hand, pen or pencil comes in between the light source and the work surface it can have a lot of disconcerting shadowing with which to contend.

Although I am not lighting fixture designer, per se, I think of myself as an informed consumer who is constantly testing what is available out there on the market. My suggestion to the task light designers is that when multiple LED sources are used then some sort of diffusion material, in the form of a lens, will help ameliorate the problem. As individual LED sources become stronger and only one source is used then shadowing no longer is an issue.

Many manufacturers of recessed LED fixtures have seen that that this multiple shadowing was an issue and have produced fixtures with an integral diffusion lens. It would be a good idea if the manufacturers of LED task lights would take a look at what the recessed LED fixture manufacturers are doing and see how they can incorporate the addition of a diffusion material into their products.

I still am a very strong advocate of using LED sources for task lighting. I would just like to see the next step in refinement; so that when people make the investment they are getting something that they can live happily with for the next 16 or 17 years. Since LEDs last for so darn long I want to make sure that my love will last.

Randall Whitehead is a frequent contributor to Green Architecture Notes.

The Great Triumvirate: Architecture, Beer and Climbing...

The Feldman team set out Friday on a field trip of epic proportions: an overnight excursion to the Pinnacles National Monument.  Along the way was a stop at the site of one of our projects under construction (see On the Boards: Walnut Farm Retreat) to have dinner and take in the sunset.  The following day everyone explore the park at their own pace – hiking, rock climbing and pool-side. – Bridgett (aka Chairwoman of Feldman Social Committee ’11)

DAY ONE – Site Visit and BBQ at Walnut Farm Retreat


DAY TWO – Pinnacles



The Dirt on Airing Your Laundry...

An easy way to save energy this summer is by foregoing your dryer and using a clothesline to air dry laundry.  In the heat of summer, I can’t bear to use my dryer, so I picked up a simple, retractable clothesline from my local hardware store.  I am surprised how much I enjoy using my clothesline!   There is something romantic about seeing a line of clothes fluttering in the wind.  And sun-dried sheets on a freshly made bed is heaven!  Of course, being a designer, I couldn’t help search for more design-y clothes-drying products.  – Lindsey

Here are my favorites:


Above Left:  The Alberto clothesline from Fabrica.  Each “tree” is about 6’ tall.
Center:  Vintage clothespins are so cool looking.  They are easy to find online too, this image is from a shop on Etsy.
Above Right: For those who don’t have the luxury of outdoor space for air-drying, uncommongoods offers an easy mount indoor clothesline.
Below Left: There are even cute ways to store clothespins.  You easily could make your own, but this one is from
Below Right: I love this idea.  Start them young!


Greenways: Feldman and Clients Get Around Town...

Most of Feldman Architecture’s clients appreciate the importance of sustainably built homes and ask us to help them make choices that use materials wisely and reduce energy use. We know that buildings consume almost half of all fossil fuels burned in the United States, but not surprisingly, transportation consumes the next largest percentage of fossil fuels.

The team here at Feldman Architecture does its part to reduce carbon emissions by making smart choices in the buildings we design and how we commute to work. With few exceptions we all regularly bike, walk, take public transportation, or ride a scooter to our offices in SOMA. One of us even recently started taking a ferry that runs on bio-diesel.  Since 50% of our office does not own a car, we visit job sites using City Car Share or Zip Car whenever possible.

We bring this same awareness of alternative transportation issues to our projects. Four projects under construction will offer dedicated 240 volt outlets with upgraded electrical panels for owners’ future electric cars. Several of our completed projects generate sufficient electricity through photo-voltaic panels to charge these vehicles. A project site in Santa Cruz was specifically chosen for its proximity to the beach, schools, transit and shopping. Though this particular client currently lives in Ohio, he has already bought a bike to avoid renting a car on his frequent site visits. For another project under construction, the owners will enter their home – frequently sweaty and muddy – directly through a large bike storage room. These clients have gotten creative with their bikes – see the photos below!

All of these efforts use energy wisely and conserve resources, but they’re also a great way to travel around the City and appreciate the sights.  –  Brett


Heron’s Head EcoCenter: Part 2 – Structural...

The completed EcoCenter from the South East.

As a follow-up to a recent post on Heron’s Head EcoCenter, we caught up with Alex Rood of Fulcrum Structural Engineering to discuss his contributions to the project. For those who have not read our recent post on the project, Heron’s Head EcoCenter is San Francisco’s first off-the-grid educational facility and laboratory for sustainable design sponsored by the non-profit organization Literacy for Environmental Justice. A project 10-years in making, the EcoCenter was finally completed in 2010, and incorporates many innovative sustainable design features including solar panels (both PV and solar thermal), living roof, rainwater harvesting, greywater reuse, living machine on-site wastewater treatment, SIP panels, super green concrete mix, recycled building materials, passive design, and the list goes on.


Site/soil: Located on a former industrial landfill in Hunters Point neighborhood of San Francisco, Alex’s first challenge was to design the foundation system that could sit atop the soil with extremely poor bearing capacity. To overcome the less than favorable soil condition, he decided to utilize 10” mat slab but he also had to incorporate a series of troughs for the indoor constructed wetland into the slab/foundation design. The challenge did not end there. The soil condition was so poor that he was told to anticipate as much as 10” to 12” of settlement over time. This meant utilities that would typically be laid below the slab now had to be routed within concrete troughs formed into the slab until they exited the structure above grade to make service connections. To make matters worse, he found out that below the site is a clay layer of landfill cap designed to remediate the contaminated soil, but the exact depth of this cap layer could not be determined. He had to proceed with caution to ensure that the weight of the structure would not cause the cap layer to fracture. In addition to solving all of these engineering challenges, it was his job to provide a cost effective foundation design to fit the tight budget of the project.

Rebar prior to pouring of the concrete foundations.

Concrete: Almost every modern structure in the world uses concrete to varying extent. While its longevity makes it a good building material, the environmental footprint of cement production is something Alex wanted to tackle on this project. According to Alex, experts estimate that cement production contributes to about 7% of carbon dioxide emission from human source. He started by specifying a green concrete mix containing 50% slag for cement replacement but once the job broke ground, he collaborated with the concrete sub-contractor and the supplier, Bode Concrete, to push this green concrete mix further, ultimately ending up with 80% slag and 100% recycled course aggregate. In the end, not only was he able to use the greenest concrete mix he, or Bode Concrete, had ever heard of, but the builder was able to provide concrete that was superior to the original specification in many ways. It ended up exceeding the compressive strength requirement by two fold, the concrete showed no cracks and will provide superior protection against rebar corrosion, all thanks to its high slag content.

SIPs panels prior to sheathing

Framing: Once out of the ground, the remainder of the structure was designed using Structural Insulated Panels (SIP). Having worked on many other SIPs jobs with the project architect, Toby Long, Alex knew that Toby would want to use SIPs for the project for many of its environmental preferable attributes. There are always challenges in designing SIPs structures in seismically active zones, especially when the building is not a simple box but he was able to use his extensive experience with SIPs to help Toby realize his design. Being the first SIPs project for the builder and the framing crew, he worked very closely with the builder and was often asked to offer creative solutions to troubleshoot issues arising in the field. Thanks to the countless hours of research by the LEJ project manager Laurie Schoeman, SIPs panels made with FSC-certified OSB panels were sourced. All framing lumber used in the job to amend the SIPs system was also all FSC-certified.

We asked Alex what was the best part of the project for him.

The completed EcoCenter from the South East




It was the collaborative effort with the concrete sub-contractor, Gerald Creed of OSM Co. and the local concrete producer, Bill Garland of Bode Concrete. In fact, it was Gerald who initiated the idea of exploring an even greener concrete mix than the 50% cement replacement originally specified. Bill had worked with a concrete mix with 75% cement replacement, and he has also used crushed returned course concrete aggregate in non-structural flatworks. Not only did we decide to combine both of these ideas, but we also decided to use the mix for the structural slab/foundation, while increasing the slag content by additional 5%.

Alex believes it was the collective knowledge and will to do the right thing for the environment that allowed them to take the leap of faith to push the boundary of the green concrete mix. Everyone went above and beyond their call of duty to come up with the greenest concrete mix they have ever worked with.

Taisuke Ikegami is an architect working at Feldman Architecture and is a frequent contributor to Green Architecture Notes.

Object Lessons: Design Across Disciplines...

Recently, we undertook a re-branding of our graphic identity at Feldman Architecture, a process led by graphic designer Anjel Van Slyke.  Sitting in the seat of client and being guided through the design process by Anjel gave us a chance to reflect on our own process.  Like a short architectural project, the trajectory of the graphic design followed a familiar path, including outlining a scope, budget and schedule; gathering research, precedents, and materials; brainstorming; refining the details; and production/construction.

Recently while watching the documentary, Objectified, which chronicles several Industrial Designers and major corporations known for design, I was struck by a section of the film in which Dieter Rams, Former Design Director of Braun, brings to light his philosophy on good design.   Herr Rams eschews the idea that a designer is an artist, noting that industrial designers spend much of their time working with business people, engineers and clients.  Herr Rams goes on to elaborate on the values of good design:

Good design should be innovative.
Good design should make a product useful.
Good design is aesthetic design.
Good design will make a product understandable.
Good design is honest.
Good design is unobtrusive.
Good design is long-lived.
Good design is consistent in every detail.
Good design is environmentally friendly.
Last but not least, good design is as little design as possible.

Undergoing the re-brand process had our team elucidating the principles we stand for and thinking inspirationally about the image we wish to publicly project.  Dieter Rams ‘manifesto’ is a great reminder of some of the goals we tend towards for our architectural projects.  But one could argue, contrary to his statement that designers are not artists, that there is actually an art to the decisions which are made and lead to what appears to be as little design as possible. Simply put – this is hard to do simply.

We were immediately drawn to the logo you see now on our website, but we were even more fascinated as Angel described where she had chosen to tip the edges of the letters and why certain sketches were not eliminated.  She led us through her sketchbook of cast-aways and final cuts.  In the end, we feel we have an amazing fit to our firm’s work with a simple elegance that does not appear fussy or labored over, but expresses lots of ideas and complexity with minimal moves. – Hannah

Canstruction: Fear the Beard...

This spring, Feldman Architecture teamed up with Fulcrum Engineering to create a structure for this week’s Canstruction benefit for the San Francisco Food Bank.  The theme of the event was Spirit of San Francisco, which we took as an opportunity to celebrate the Giants’ victory in the 2010 World Series.

Throughout the Series, Giants’ fans adopted the slogan “Fear the Beard” in support of the famed pitcher, Brian Wilson, who helped bring the team to victory for the first time since 1954. Wilson’s thick, dyed black facial hair became an icon for the team’s tenacity and was the subject of one of the favorite chants among crowds leading up to the series win. The Beard continues to grace t-shirts, hats, and headlines as the Giants continue the 2011 season with high hopes.

Our representation of The Beard, which won an honorable mention at Wednesday’s award ceremony, evokes this spirit which we all experienced in the final days of last year’s World Series. We chose dark colored labels to represent the dyed black beard and shaped the sculpture to best represent the recognizable icon with the full beard, mustache, and tall side burns.  Most of the cans are beans, which also answers the Food Bank’s request for high protein canned goods.

Visitors are welcome to check out the amazing Canstructions created by several local architect and engineer firms at the Metreon on the 4th floor through Sunday, June 26th.  Further information and details on donations can be found at the Canstruction website.


Notes from Designing Living Roofs – Part III...

The roof garden from above with terrace.

In previous posts, we have looked at the addition of a green roof over a garage at a residence located on a steep slope which provided the clients with a planted space in the front of the house.  In a second post, we looked at the implementation of a green roof as a key design component which allows the new residence to blend into a lush landscape.

In this section, we will take a look at the design of a new residence which provides a garden hideaway for the clients.  For the 2 Bar Project in Menlo Park, California, the clients came to the project looking for cost effective, energy efficient solutions for their home. They are also avid gardeners and offering the clients additional square footage to plant, as opposed to a traditional roof, was appealing to the clients.

The 500sf roof garden is hidden from view until climbing the main stairway and catching a glimpse of the garden from the second floor bridge.  Accessible from the master bedroom,

View to the garden from the master bedroom.

the green roof includes a recessed roof deck which comfortably seats the family of four. In terms of sustainability, the green roof over the living/dining/kitchen area serves to insulate the house in cool weather, controls solar heat gain and reduces water run-off.

Typical, intensive green roof assembly would have required up-sizing of the roof framing, including additional steel, rendering it cost prohibitive. Instead, an exceptionally lightweight engineering with a shallow 2-6” soil depth for the 2 Bar green roof assembly with sedum plants and river rock edging overcomes this challenge. The garden, designed and planted by Lauren Schneider of Wonderland Garden, has been blooming for two years.  Sedum, succulents, aloe, vivums, and ice plants make up the garden which flowers in swaths of white and purple – an unexpected, secret garden in a suburban neighborhood.


View of house and green roof.

The green roof here includes a layer of plastic coating, a roofing barrier, a drainage mat to facilitate drainage, a capillary mat that holds water and encourages plants to take root, a subterranean drip system, a filter fabric to prevent the soil from clogging, a lightweight planting material (15 pounds per square foot) and the seedlings.

Jonathan Feldman is Editorial Director of Green Architecture Notes and Principal of Feldman Architecture.

Summer 2011 Newsletter...



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Feldman Architecture

2011 AIA San Francisco Design Awards

The Caterpillar House Wins Citation Award in Energy + Sustainability

Caterpillar House Image
From the AIA San Francisco Website:
The design for the Caterpillar House, sited on the softly rolling hills of the Santa Lucia Preserve, sought to accentuate a connection to the land. Having lived in a Cliff May home, the client came to the project with a love of modern ranch houses and looking for an environmentally-conscious response to a beautiful site. The Caterpillar House implements sustainable elements while exploring a contemporary version of the ranch ideals: massing that is low and horizontal, an open plan with a strong connection between indoor/outdoor spaces, and living areas which center informally on the kitchen. The jury commented: “This is a project that gets the priorities straight. Design for energy efficiency first, then add renewable energy sources.”

Or click here to learn more and view the 2011 winners!

Launching Our New Graphic Identity

Feldman Architecture has a new look courtesy of Anjel Van Slyke of A Dangerous Business.  To see our revised website click here.

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