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Home > Feature Articles > Sustainable Development Best Practices for Community Sustainability

Green Design for Life
Alchemy Design + Architecture

Laura Loring of Alchemy Design + Architecture pioneers green building for development in the Southern California.

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Laura Loring, founder of LoringCruz -- now Alchemy / Design + Architecture, Long Beach, CA
laura loring, green designer, green architect, Long Beach, Los Angeles, woman owned green design firm

Photo: Mark B. Dell'Aquila of Eagle-Eye-Images

When did people get the idea that green design has to cost more? "But it doesn’t!” Laura Loring assures us. "Green design is about common sense and taking charge of your design to focus on quality of life. Green design is about more than the environment. It's about breathing clean air and having space for our children and planning for productive workspace. All design is about common sense – some day ALL design will be green design because it just makes so much sense!" Laura Loring grew up with science, was trained as a scientist first, and switched gears when she discovered that she had a talent for visual design and a passion for "maximizing life's impact."

"It was a transformational moment in my life when I discovered that design is the way to transform structures -- and life-enhancing structures transform lives." Laura's decision to build on her foundation of pure science with the art and science of design has enabled her to innovate at the edges of today's green building challenge.

"Alchemy is the perfect merging of my two skillsets and my passion. Art plus science. Green design is a natural way to achieve quality of life by bringing the analysis of science and the beauty of design together."

Green building for today's business climate

Green building has changed tremendously over the past ten years. New materials. New, old low-tech solutions. And much lower cost. Ten years ago green building materials could cost 30% more than traditional construction. Today it can be as little as 1% or less. Green philosophy and business momentum gets part of the credit. More people are building green and remodeling green – and that translates into more production of green materials, better designed materials, and better design strategies.

Owners and managers looking for new building and interior design projects are all cost-conscious. "Five percent say 'we require green' – and another 30% are interested, but think it's expensive. After explaining how green design is about quality of workspace, productivity and cost savings, we're able to show that green design is no more expensive than traditional space planning," explains Tiffany Westrich, who tells the green story for one of the premier green design firms in Southern California, Alchemy / Design + Architecture.

loring cruz, alchemy design architecture and green building interior design and green architecture
Can you tell by looking that this is a "green building"? Well designed green buildings emphasize beauty and quality materials used wisely -- and the Mercury building was designed to emphasize comfortable working space and maximize their IT group's productivity

loring cruz, alchemy design architecture and green building interior design and green architecture
Mercury building interiors were finished with non-toxic materials, and designed to foster teamwork and collaboration

The MTA in El Monte (the Los Angeles area) is a Silver LEED Project which Alchemy (formerly LoringCruz) provided with oversite supervision. "That $14 million project only cost $219,000 extra for achieving Silver LEED standards – that’s 1.5% for a 43,000 SF building."

loring cruz, alchemy design architecture and green building interior design and green architecture
Renovation of interiors for Northrop-Grumman in Redondo Beach added green functionality with insulation, water-saving fixtures, energy-efficient light fixtures, and non-toxic, recycled materials.
Photo: Mark B. Dell'Aquila of Eagle-Eye-Images (www.Eagle-Eye-Images.com)

Could you... Would you...?

…Good air, scenic views, natural daylight, temperature always controlled to be the 'perfect level'

…Better return on your investment

…An atmosphere that will survive new threats such as stronger weather patterns

…And a work environment that promotes better health and less sick days

…An environment that can save you 60% on utility costs,

…Design that will promote greater future marketability and will create longevity of function and beauty.

If you could create a work space that allows all of these things to happen without having to exceed the budget by even a nickel…would you do it?

loring cruz, alchemy design architecture and green building interior design and green architecture
PacifiCare in Cypress, CA included new construction and interiors that used daylighting, insulation, water-saving plumbing fixtures, energy-efficient light fixtures and a raised floor for air and electrical infrastructure.

Recent green design strategies were about minimalism. Use less energy. Use air conditioning and escape nature. Create less waste. Today, natural systems are our friend – air flow, sunlight, rainwater, scenic beauty.

Green design isn't new

New green design focuses on time-tested design strategies that just make common sense. High ceilings provide air flow and spaciousness. Windows provide light and air and beauty. Outdoor access provides a connection with landscaping and nature. Multi-purpose spaces provide community and connections. "Green design is about healthy working space for your people," declares Laura, who is a veteran entrepreneurial green designer and consultant for both interior design and architectural projects in Southern California.

"Design is about life, and green design is really just great design," contends Laura Loring, Principal of Design with Alchemy Design + Architecture, in Long Beach, CA. Laura brings her scientific upbringing to her work. Both parents were scientists and she earned a degree in microbiology before she returned for a design degree at Fullerton.

"It just made sense to me. Now we use only green materials – that’s all we have in our materials library. We work to keep people healthy and save money. Clients like that!" "I value old building intelligence that integrated nature. It dawned on me a long time ago when I would get sick on the jobsite from traditional paint, materials and carpeting that simple is better. Those traditional materials affected my quality of life. I worked out low-tech design solutions that used low VOC carpets, paints and adhesives before I even knew a LEED building standards program existed. It just made sense to me. Now we use only green materials – that’s all we have in our materials library. We work to keep people healthy and save money. Clients like that!" LEED is a green building standards certification program conducted by the US Green Building Council (USGBC) that measures energy usage and environmental impact of building materials and systems.

Corporate and business design is about results

Los Angeles has made a commitment to construct all larger buildings to LEED Silver standards and smaller buildings will be certified. Economies of scale always rule, and green building is no exception. Larger buildings cost less. Many communities in California also offer ‘discounts’ to developers and landlords who choose to build on a green path, as well as providing quicker plan check and approval turnaround time.

Alchemy Design + Architecture

Alchemy is one of the only woman-owned design and architectural firm in the Los Angeles area providing green design. “And we take green design very seriously. Our materials library only contains green sources. But we also make sure that green design doesn’t cost any more than traditional construction. We do that by using computer modeling as well as low-tech strategies to complement our creative skills.”

Recent Alchemy green design and architectural projects

Renovation of interiors for Northrop-Grumman in Redondo Beach added green functionality with insulation, water-saving fixtures, energy-efficient light fixtures, and non-toxic, recycled materials.

PacifiCare in Cypress, CA included new construction and interiors that used daylighting, insulation, water-saving plumbing fixtures, energy-efficient light fixtures and a raised floor for air and electrical infrastructure.

The MTA (Metropolitan Transit Authority) building in El Monte was a complete project that incorporates green design for building orientation, daylighting, insulation, water-saving fixtures, energy-efficient light fixtures, non-toxic, recycled materials, water-efficient landscaping, as well as a high-reflective roofing and paving surfaces.

The Boeing project in Huntington Beach was a green renovation project incorporating daylighting, insulation, water-saving fixtures, energy-efficient light fixtures, and non-toxic, recycled materials.

The Jim Henson Studios in Hollywood included providing interiors and site landscaping for 12 buildings that maximized green workspace design with daylighting, insulation, water-saving fixtures, energy-efficient light fixtures, non-toxic, recycled materials, water-efficient landscaping, in addition to high-reflective roofing and paving surfaces.

The new construction and interiors of Oryxe International in Irvine incorporated daylighting, insulation, water-saving fixtures, energy-efficient light fixtures, non-toxic, recycled materials, and a raised floor.

Recent projects have come in on-budget and at no greater cost than traditional versions of the buildings would have cost.

LoringCruz is officially changing its name to "Alchemy / design+architecture" in March, 2007. After growing into a top tier firm in Southern California over fifteen years, the firm is updating its structure with new principals, new designers… to complement their proven design approaches and teamwork philosophy. Laura Loring, original Principal and owner of LoringCruz remains as head of the design firm. Other leaders of the firm who will be intrinsic in the development and success of the firm include Michael Holmes-Architecture and Eddie Osuch-3D Technology.

Design is about living well!

Design is about living well. "There’s an evolution happening in architectural and interior design. All disciplines of design meld science and art – and you can’t separate design disciplines any more, they are all integrated." The growing Alchemy staff of 15 provide architectural, interior, graphic, website and 3D design services. This creative team of architects, interior designers, technologists and graphic designers meld a client’s overall goals into the complete design package.

The Jim Henson office project exemplifies that strategy. Because the Henson mission is to "Delight and enlighten children of all ages," the Alchemy design team defined their goals as “life balance; connections with nature; and fun workspace." The design team kept client goals in the forefront of their work, "We put a poster of those goals in full view as we turned Jim Henson’s precepts into physical reality. We turned life balance into natural light…and connections with nature into large windows and scenic views."

Green design that uses low-tech solutions keeps building simple. And simple saves time and money…and energy. We can make sustainable design easier for people – we're over-complicating it in our heads. Too many people assume sustainable design costs more and won’t last as long - which is the opposite of reality! Green design that uses low-tech solutions keeps building simple. And simple saves time and money…and energy. Take a look at one simple low-tech strategy. Light. When you use windows for lighting workspaces, you cut lighting costs. Electric lights produce 50% of the heat load for a building. Heat load requires air conditioning. So windows also cut your air conditioning costs.

Green design is about smart design ... simple and life-centered

When you use a raised floor for under-floor air flow, you incorporate a simple solution. The 18" raised floor gives every workspace personalized temperature control with adjustable floor grates. It eliminates the need for duct work. That reduces costs both for the installation AND less roof support. All the electrical wires can be run through the floor space – so you reduce electrical construction costs, and the need for dropped ceilings. And because people want temperature control for the bottom of the room – not the ceiling – you can pump 67 degree air vs. 57 degree air through the floor cavity to cool people's feet rather than empty headroom.

When you take control of your goal, your budget and your schedule by using common sense design, you can save as much as 60% of your energy bill. Green design maximizes efficiency through new technologies such as skylights, windows and raised floors that can both cost less and save on energy expenditures for the life of the building.

The foundation of Alchemy's design success is to "understand ourselves; understand our clients and understand the world." And understand how to design for those very human elements of living.

laura loring, green designer, green architect, Long Beach, Los Angeles, woman owned green design firm

"If you understand life and what makes people happy – how to help people connect as human beings, you build your design process on that human foundation." The human factor is what greening is all about. Green strategy is more than lowering electricity bills and protecting the environment. It's about including daycare for employee's children. It's about color and beauty and joy. It's about quality of life. "When we keep our focus on life, we care about our actions and our workspace and our health. The human ability to design connections to each other is what fascinates me thoroughly and forever!"

Laura believes that great design comes from your heart and soul – not from a competitive urge to get certified or save the environment. "If you understand life and what makes people happy – how to help people connect as human beings, you build your design process on that human foundation."

Low-tech design for low cost green building

"We’re totally about green design because we have a true commitment to quality of life. We’ve developed evaluation technologies upfront to reduce technology at the end of the project. Our design systems help us size building systems for simpler construction - and that also reduces cost. We integrate smart, green design into everything we do.

A green building is a thing of beauty in and of itself –- it provides healthy workspace, cost savings in energy, better lighting that puts joy and energy into the workday! Cost isn’t everything. Environment isn't everything. Caring about quality living – that's the strategy of green design.

Alchemy / design+architecture
Principals are:
Laura Loring: Principal of Design
Michael Holmes, AIA: Principal of Architecture
Eddie Osuch: Principal of 3D Technology/Graphics

Simple Green Design Solutions

Prefab panels can save money by having solar panels, insulation and roof structure ready to install. Some even come with perforated inside surfaces to improve acoustics. There's no ceiling construction. No solar installation labor.

Raised floors provide lower cost installation of electrical, air flow and temperature control. And individual control for employees – and they love that!

Low e-glass windows or e-film and skylights provide energy savings as well as connections with nature, -- natural light and beauty that improves health, productivity and enthusiasm – the energy all human success depends upon!

CONTACT:
Alchemy / design+architecture
2883 Easte Spring Street, Ste 100
Long Beach, CA 90806
1-562-426-7126 x 236
www.alchemyda.com

California Green Solutions Newsletter -- Mar. 2007



Edited by Carolyn Allen, owner/editor of California Green Solutions
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