sd studio

Go Back To All Projects
View of the kitchen with employees having a casual conversation.
Kitchen area adjscent to workspaces. Image Credit: Chipper Hatter


The new Miller Hull San Diego studio was a tenant improvement project in a building designed by the firm's late partner, Bob Hull. When the San Diego studio began to outgrow its old space in 2018, this location was an obvious choice to start their next chapter.

One of the project's main goals was to serve as a model for sustainability, succeeding in Living Building Challenge Certification to demonstrate the firm's commitment. It was also awarded an "Orchid" for design excellence by the San Diego Architecture Foundation.

My role on the project involved 3D modeling, visualization, and documentation support. I also helped with consultant coordination during the design process.

The project taught me a lot about working within constraints and making data driven design decisions.

I've included a gallery with some of the final images for the project below. Click on any photo to view full screen. All photos were taken by Chipper Hatter.



As a firm that consistently preaches sustainable practices, Miller Hull found it essential to teach by example when building out the new San Diego Studio.

The location's high visibility along the waterfront posed a perfect opportunity to spread the message of sustainability. Following suit with the remodel of the firm's Seattle studio, there was no better way to do this than pursue the Living Building Challenge.

The project succeeded in certification for six of seven petals, or core areas. Those areas included energy, materials, health & happiness, place, equity, and beauty. The seventh water petal was not pursued because the project was a tenant improvement.

I'm focusing on the first three here as those required the majority of our focus. If you want to learn more about what the certification involves, click here.

Sketch of the outside of the building from across the water.
Isometric diagram showing a 24kW PV array on the roof of the structure.


To meet this requirement, a project must generate more energy on-site than it uses by incorporating renewable sources like solar panels. Instead of demonstrating performance through calculations, the certification requires documentation for a full year of operation to prove functionality.

A difficult task under ideal conditions, it gets even more complicated in this case because we were working with an existing building with built-in constraints.

For example, the only roof area flat enough for our panels was limited in size. We had to test many different panel layouts to calculate the array's output and make sure it would exceed our expected energy consumption.


Another big hurdle is the materials petal. It's goal is to reduce the number of harmful substances in a building by specifically banning certain products.

To ensure our compliance, we had to work closely with the contractor to find products that met the certification's standards, could be easily sourced, and would also work within our budget.

Unfortunately, many harmful products are so cemented in the standards of today's construction that it's nearly impossible to find healthy substitutes.

However, putting in the work and reaching out to manufacturers to express interest in these healthier products goes a long way in educating people and pushes the industry towards a more health-conscious future.

View looking across workstations into a small meeting space with people working.
View into conference room from exterior during a meeting.

health & happiness

The last major petal was health & happiness, which could easily be argued is the most important.

With employee health in mind, there was a strong focus on providing natural light, fresh air, and views to the exterior. Windows surrounding the main workspace served the main strategy to accommodate these needs.

They provided great views of the adjacent marina and gave employees immediate access to operable windows and sun shades.

As a precaution, air sensors were also installed to ensure consistent healthy air throughout the day.

Sketch showing varied options for working and ample access to natural light and ventilation.
Sketch showing varied options for working and ample access to natural light and ventilation.


The final project exceeded expectations, and as my new workplace, became a constant reminder of the importance of the work I was doing.

It also became a helpful tool to educate our community and stood as a great example of the firm's mission.

The project's lofty goals sharpened my ability to think critically and come up with unique solutions to complex problems. It also built my confidence in designing with data to make big project decisions.

Exterior view of the building in the evening from across the courtyard during an event in the office space.