Carbon Neutral Mixed-Use
The scope of our projects, often combining commercial and residential uses, allows us to leverage diverse energy profiles at both the building and district scale, facilitating the path to full carbon neutrality. Embedding energy efficiency through smart building system integration, program allocations, and high–performance façades, allows for reduced energy density. For example, Channelside in Boston introduces a low–carbon district, with full electrification of office and residential buildings enabled by a triple-glazed façade design, resulting in 35% carbon emission reductions. In Guangzhou, the new campus for the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology relies on the diversity of uses to generate over 90% of its hot water needs from district–scale heat recovery, with the goal of becoming carbon neutral by 2060.
The scale and impact of our work shape our approach to sustainability
and drive our continued pursuit of better, more viable solutions.
Our philosophy is founded on three core principles, to design for:
Often urban, dense, mixed-use developments, our projects are located in some of the fastest growing cities in the world, faced with some of the biggest challenges posed by climate change. As designers committed to sustainability, we use each project as an opportunity to further advance decarbonization and create resilient, healthy, and vibrant urban places. By implementing design solutions at all scales that integrate with and enhance mobility systems, energy and water infrastructure, and the microclimates around them, we positively impact the environment beyond a building’s site and brief.
Our experience working on sustainability-focused projects with some of the most innovative clients and technical partners allows our design teams to continuously explore new concepts that advance KPF’s climate action and environmental mission. These evolving ideas, deeply rooted in research, application, and user feedback, have shaped the core elements of KPF’s sustainable design practice.
1. DESIGN FOR A DECARBONIZED WORLD
Buildings contribute to nearly 40% of annual global carbon emissions, both in the form of energy use and embodied carbon in construction materials. To enable the future decarbonization of the built environment, KPF projects integrate high-performance building solutions while engaging larger energy, water, waste, and material systems.
Carbon Neutral Mixed-Use
Low Carbon Hybrid Materiality
Continuous innovation in hybrid structural systems in our high-rise projects helps bring mass timber construction and low-carbon concrete solutions to new heights while reducing the life-cycle embodied carbon of the project. This approach cuts down on material weight and transforms the building into a carbon storage system even if a full mass timber structure is impractical due to site constraints, local regulations, or climate challenges. Burrard Exchange in Vancouver taps into the city’s material geography to combine cross-laminated timber slabs with optimized concrete vertical elements, increasing floorplan flexibility while cutting embodied life-cycle carbon by over 40%. In London, the Bermondsey Project takes a vertical approach to structural innovation, proposing an ultra-light timber residential structure constructed over an existing concrete industrial building that enables higher density with minimal lifecycle impacts.
Reuse and Retrofit First
We firmly believe that the most sustainable building is the one already built. From our retrofit projects in New York City, where new density is integrated into existing structures, to our circular approach to building materials, building reuse is at the core of KPF’s approach to decarbonization. Embracing adaptive reuse as a part of our common design philosophy is crucial for us to reduce waste, while also honoring the history and craftsmanship of the original structure. One Madison Avenue demonstrates this low carbon approach to densification, reusing an existing structure and saving over 40% material emissions. In Lisbon, Oriente Green Campus takes a subtraction approach, opening new courtyards on a structure designed as a retail mall to create an office space focused on wellbeing while saving embodied carbon. In London, 81 Newgate Street goes even further by treating the existing structure as a quarry and repurposing the stone cladding of the existing building.
Density in the Right Place
Mixed–use urban projects, when integrated with multi-modal transit and micro-mobility design solutions, have a multiplier effect for the reduction of urban greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions associated with transportation. This encourages lively neighborhood experiences, contributes to a richer urban escape, and reduces our reliance on car-only transit. As part of One Vanderbilt, we created a new gateway to Grand Central Station, facilitating the connection between subway and rail for over 1,000 passengers per day.
2. DESIGN FOR AN UNCERTAIN CLIMATE
It is undeniable that human activities are radically transforming our climate, resulting in more extreme and unpredictable weather events, increasing temperatures, and resulting in emergency situations in our cities. To respond to these uncertain conditions and guarantee the safety of users and property, KPF projects take advantage of flexible design strategies to create resilient urban microclimates and robust envelope solutions, that work today and in the future.
Futureproof Thermal Environments
Rapidly developing cities, especially in hot, humid climates, face the combined challenge of global warming and urban heat island (UHI) effect, making urban spaces increasingly less usable and safe. Passively cooled spaces that create flexible thermal transitions between the outdoors and interior air-conditioned spaces can decrease energy use and dependence on mechanical systems, offer safety in a heat wave or blackout, and provide more healthy and enjoyable architectural experiences. Singtel Headquarters in Singapore introduces planted shading canopies open to prevailing winds in order to reduce outdoor effective temperatures by over 8 degrees Celsius, creating a more comfortable thermal experience. The HKUST Guangzhou campus combines extensive tree canopy with shaded, open-air spaces to maximize hours of thermal comfort. Supporting a district UHI mitigation strategy, 18 Robinson introduces public landscaped and tree-shaded public terraces equivalent to 100% of the building site.
Resilient Performance Envelopes
In the context of climate change, it is not enough for a building’s skin to efficiently reduce heating and cooling needs. Its long-term performance becomes critical, both in terms of reducing embodied carbon in its materials and adapting to future climate conditions. KPF’s long experience with high–performance facades has shaped our design approach, where passive shading, insulation, and thermal mass are integrated with natural ventilation features and dynamic building systems. Hybrid passive cooling solutions can reduce the need for mechanical cooling and offer flexibility for building occupants in case of extreme weather emergencies or infrastructure concerns. As part of a low-carbon office prototype for hot climates, we combined façade controls with a solar chimney passive ventilation system, to eliminate cooling needs for six months. Puerto de Somport 21-23 in Madrid takes advantage of optimized solar shading by orientation to reduce peak cooling loads and increase MEP flexibility. Rethinking the modern curtainwall with CTF Finance Centre, the high-performance façade integrates protected operable panels for ventilation with vertical shading.
Urbanization for Water Systems
The fast urbanization of natural areas radically transforms ecological water cycles on site, polluting watersheds and reducing our cities’ capacity to manage stormwater. In a changing climate, higher frequency of heavy storms and coastal flooding can overwhelm the local drainage systems, amplifying the long-term vulnerability of communities and ecosystems. KPF’s approach to urban water systems takes advantage of density to create blue-green infrastructure networks on and around buildings which control stormwater runoff, mitigate district-scale flooding, and introduce passive water filtration strategies. Channelside in Boston introduces a landscaped berm system to protect against coastal flooding both for the site and the larger Seaport District. Embracing the Pearl River Delta, the HKUST campus combines floodable wetlands with a network of rain gardens capable of controlling over 85% of rainwater during a storm. in Incheon, Songdo Canal Walk relies on planted bioswales to filter runoff pollutants before reaching the urban waterways.
3. DESIGN FOR HEALTH + WELLBEING
With an average of over 90% of our time spent in or around buildings, architecture plays a critical role in the physiological and mental wellbeing of its occupants and neighbors. As we think about the future of the built environment, KPF is committed to creating healthy and accessible spaces where all members of society can thrive and contribute to a more sustainable and equitable future.
Spaces for Health and Wellbeing
Design decisions for a building’s indoor and outdoor spaces play a defining role in boosting occupant wellbeing, protecting their health and safety, and contributing to happier experiences. Low-emission materials and air quality can drastically improve productivity; daylight access can improve sleep quality; and biophilic and active design can offer restorative benefits. KPF projects extend these advantages into shared urban spaces through design, from an occupant’s desk to the building’s lobby, all the way to the street. 101 Victoria Street in London enables an active lifestyle through human powered micro-mobility, by bringing the cycling lane directly into the building through a daylit space offering bike storage. In New York City, 55 Hudson Yards integrates multiple terraces, offering tenants the biophilic benefits of access to the outdoors, views, and nature in the heart of Manhattan.
Engaged Urban Communities
Often the brunt of climate change consequences is felt by the most vulnerable members of society, especially in urban settings. Historically underserved neighborhoods are exposed to air pollution from fossil fuels or traffic, are located in higher flood risk areas, or have no protection against heat waves or blackouts. From our work in policy advocacy to our urban design and campus projects, KPF sustainable designs are deeply rooted in the communities they serve through engagement and direct participation. Our proposal for increased resilience at the NYCHA Red Hook Houses, born from continuous discussion with residents, creates a flood safe public realm that protects critical heating and power infrastructure while offering upgraded outdoor gathering spaces. Our collaboration with NYC’s Municipal Art Society, in their “Fight for Light” campaign, showed the importance of sunlight access for health and resilience across districts and catalyzed new municipal policy in the City.