Sustainable Design

At VMDO, sustainability is integral to our business philosophy and our design approach. We are committed to designing socially responsible buildings that make palpable contributions to their communities, particularly in terms of human and environmental health as well as high performance building design.

Sustainable Design for Educational Institutions

We design buildings that provide enduring value to our clients – reduced operations costs, happy employees, engaged students, connected communities, and greater flexibility and resilience. We believe that every project is an opportunity to support the health of surrounding communities and ecosystems, and to address global challenges like water scarcity, resource depletion, and climate change. Our holistic approach incorporates data-driven design strategies, existing site resources, full cost accounting, and health and wellness considerations to create environments that harmoniously connect place, performance, and purpose.

Unique places (PLACE). We begin every project by listening and learning. We work hand in hand with our clients to understand their needs and aspirations, and we study the specific qualities of the site. We actively seek out opportunities to integrate buildings into the larger context, whether it means protecting and restoring watersheds, encouraging alternative transportation, or sending carbon-free power back to the grid. We weave the historical, cultural and environmental qualities of the site through our designs so that our buildings – and, by extension, their occupants – are deeply grounded in each unique place.

High-performance designs (PERFORMANCE). VMDO’s evidence-based approach combines best practices, thought leadership, and robust performance analysis to help our clients make informed decisions. We encourage the use of rating systems and certifications –including LEED, the Living Building Challenge, the WELL Building Standard, and Fitwel – to engage stakeholders in an integrated design process and maintain accountability to project goals.

VMDO has joined the AIA 2030 Commitment, an industry initiative to make all new buildings and renovations carbon-neutral by the year 2030. As signatories, we continually monitor and annually report the predicted energy performance of our projects, thereby helping to transform the industry and to build everyone’s capacity to address some of the most challenging issues of our time. However, we don’t stop there; we measure and improve our approaches to water, waste, air quality, and materials to increase the health and resilience of our projects. We use robust Post-Occupancy Evaluations (POEs) and building systems commissioning to ensure that our designs perform as intended and work with industry experts to improve outcomes.

The results of these commitments are tangible. VMDO is a recognized expert in Net-Zero Energy building design and is one of only a few east coast firms to have secured two Top Ten Awards from the AIA Committee on the Environment.

Great experiences (PURPOSE). Our designs are driven by the conviction that buildings shape how we experience the world around us. Fresh air, thermal comfort, controlled daylight, abundant views, and excellent acoustics have all been shown to affect alertness, focus, and performance of building occupants and are considered essential qualities of our buildings. We are constantly learning from our work and contribute to industry-leading research on occupant health and well-being, including the Healthy Eating Design Guidelines for School Architecture and the Physical Activity Design Guidelines for School Architecture, published by the CDC and PLOS ONE, respectively.

Good designs also determine what we experience. When we connect occupants to the change of seasons, activate spaces using the flows of water and energy through a building and site, and celebrate the history and ecology of a place, we share meaningful lessons about our relationship with the larger world. We are committed to making these lessons visible in a range of media, from mindful design that connects occupants to nature and each other, to educational exhibits, real-time building performance displays, and other hands-on interactive experiences.

We design buildings that provide enduring value to our clients – reduced operations costs, happy employees, engaged students, connected communities, and greater flexibility and resilience. We believe that every project is an opportunity to support the health of surrounding communities and ecosystems, and to address global challenges like water scarcity, resource depletion, and climate change. Our holistic approach incorporates data-driven design strategies, existing site resources, full cost accounting, and health and wellness considerations to create environments that harmoniously connect place, performance, and purpose.

Unique places (PLACE). We begin every project by listening and learning. We work hand in hand with our clients to understand their needs and aspirations, and we study the specific qualities of the site. We actively seek out opportunities to integrate buildings into the larger context, whether it means protecting and restoring watersheds, encouraging alternative transportation, or sending carbon-free power back to the grid. We weave the historical, cultural and environmental qualities of the site through our designs so that our buildings – and, by extension, their occupants – are deeply grounded in each unique place.

High-performance designs (PERFORMANCE). VMDO’s evidence-based approach combines best practices, thought leadership, and robust performance analysis to help our clients make informed decisions. We encourage the use of rating systems and certifications –including LEED, the Living Building Challenge, the WELL Building Standard, and Fitwel – to engage stakeholders in an integrated design process and maintain accountability to project goals.

VMDO has joined the AIA 2030 Commitment, an industry initiative to make all new buildings and renovations carbon-neutral by the year 2030. As signatories, we continually monitor and annually report the predicted energy performance of our projects, thereby helping to transform the industry and to build everyone’s capacity to address some of the most challenging issues of our time. However, we don’t stop there; we measure and improve our approaches to water, waste, air quality, and materials to increase the health and resilience of our projects. We use robust Post-Occupancy Evaluations (POEs) and building systems commissioning to ensure that our designs perform as intended and work with industry experts to improve outcomes.

The results of these commitments are tangible. VMDO is a recognized expert in Net-Zero Energy building design and is one of only a few east coast firms to have secured two Top Ten Awards from the AIA Committee on the Environment.

Great experiences (PURPOSE). Our designs are driven by the conviction that buildings shape how we experience the world around us. Fresh air, thermal comfort, controlled daylight, abundant views, and excellent acoustics have all been shown to affect alertness, focus, and performance of building occupants and are considered essential qualities of our buildings. We are constantly learning from our work and contribute to industry-leading research on occupant health and well-being, including the Healthy Eating Design Guidelines for School Architecture and the Physical Activity Design Guidelines for School Architecture, published by the CDC and PLOS ONE, respectively.

Good designs also determine what we experience. When we connect occupants to the change of seasons, activate spaces using the flows of water and energy through a building and site, and celebrate the history and ecology of a place, we share meaningful lessons about our relationship with the larger world. We are committed to making these lessons visible in a range of media, from mindful design that connects occupants to nature and each other, to educational exhibits, real-time building performance displays, and other hands-on interactive experiences.

Recent Work

Discovery Elementary School

Discovery Elementary School

Recognizing that students are the creators of our collective future, Discovery Elementary sets the stage…

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Young Harris College Rollins Campus Center + Miller Library

Young Harris College Rollins Campus Center + Miller Library

Named for its donor, the O. Wayne Rollins Foundation, the Rollins Center is the signature facility at…

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Recent Blog Posts

VMDO Receives Top National Sustainable Design Awards

VMDO Architects is the recipient of two national awards honoring excellence in sustainable design and practice, including: an AIA Top Ten Committee on…

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Discovery Elementary Partners with DOE on Zero Energy Schools Accelerator Program

Our long-time partner, Arlington Public Schools, is one of six school districts, two states, and several national organizations that are working collaboratively…

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JMU's Wayland Hall: A Dynamic Living-Learning Environment for a New Century

Wayland Hall residents and Associate Professor of Theatre share how the LEED Platinum renovation transformed the residence hall into an innovative new…

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