With improved sustainability, architecture gets smarter: the latest in San Diego green building


By Paul Benton

When it comes to improving our city’s

sustainability, architecture

plays a key role both in the smart utilization and conservation of natural energy. As a local architect, it seems to me that, the more we incorporate green designs into our work, the more intelligent and impressive our buildings become. Our homes are getting smarter all the time. Green architecture has brought with it the innovations that make for some wonderful improvements to the way we live, and more importantly to the quality of the design. In fact, I am constantly amazed at the ways that a decision made primarily to conserve energy can lead to innovations in the quality of the daylight, window selection and the supplemental lighting for a space.

Our firm recently completed a luxury kitchen remodeling in which we sized all of the appliances for their energy usage, doubled the exhaust fan capacity, used high-efficiency bulbs throughout, replaced the skylight with a larger and well-insulated skylight assembly and reconfigured the space so that the kitchen can be more easily managed by one person. The result? We reduced electrical usage by about 30%, and cut back on gas usage by nearly 50%. Plus, the quality of the light entering the space is wonderful, making the kitchen a lovely and welcoming space from morning coffee to the evening meal.

This experience in green design extends to our work with San Diego State University, where we are creating Smart Classrooms designed both to enhance the lecture experience and also integrate remote learning sites into the lecture experience. We recently completed work for the design and construction of two Smart Classrooms that have features making it possible for one professor to monitor and control the audio and video being transmitted, control the lighting, insert images and video in just about any medium, and take questions and comments from any remote location with an image of the person asking the question. When a student asks a question, automatic cameras turn to pick up the image of the student, so that everyone can see the person with all of the expressions and gestures as the dialog continues. At the end of the lecture, the lecturer can digitally distribute notes and files as well as the lecture itself. I thought that my experiences with home entertainment would prepare me for this, but was pleasantly surprised to see how much is possible with the Smart Classroom experience. With so many exciting possibilities on the horizon for smart green design, I can’t wait to apply some of these innovations to my next project – be it an office conference room or an at-home theater.

Forward thinking advances, holistic designs and enduring quality: the hallmarks of Alcorn & Benton architecture

Those of you who have followed my previous articles will be aware that my goals as an architect revolve around the overall quality and design of each project, as well as the quality of light at all times of the day and the functions and uses of the space. As we see more and more “Smart Homes” on the horizon – structures that make our world a better place to live while reducing our the energy needs -- I am convinced that we are headed in the right direction.


Alcorn & Benton Architects

, we take sustainable architecture seriously – but we also like to have fun with the massive potential presented by green design initiatives. Even our t-shirts are green: perhaps you have already seen one or two around town. Be the first to respond with an idea for a future article about an architectural topic that interests you, and you could win a free shirt. Contact us today with your questions and ideas, at