Thayer Hopkins has been engaged in the analysis and design of environmentally responsive buildings since the energy crisis of the 1970s, beginning with an academic study of how regional vernacular architectural traditions have adapted to local climate. This early interest evolved into practice, and now projects typically employ four distinct areas of study and design: environmental analysis, development of site and building based on natural passive design principles, detailing of the building envelope to incorporate thermal insulation and moisture control strategies, and specification and integration of active energy systems.


Typical project analysis begins with a review of climatological data, geologic reports, solar path diagrams, landscape shading, wind and air movement over the site, and the surrounding context. The initial development of a site plan is based on the results of the research and data analysis, which then influences the building location, orientation, geometry, fenestration and exterior solar control. We draw from many resources and tools in this process such as the heliodon at the PG&E Energy Center, which can model diurnal and annual solar exposure and shading.


Once the building form is determined, energy efficient strategies for insulation, air and moisture control are incorporated into the design and detailing of the building envelope. Interior spaces are considered in terms of comfort, balanced natural light, energy use and health. Through ongoing partnerships with consultants, envelope and environmental design strategies can be reviewed during the development stage and implemented during construction using testing equipment, analysis, site training and quality control support. Active energy systems, which we review with the client and appropriate consultants for cost benefit and improved efficiency, include space and water heating systems, radiant floor hydronics, whole house ventilation, photovoltaics, solar thermal and advanced high efficiency water heating, and fuel cell energy systems.


In a field defined by continually evolving environmental response systems and rapid technological developments, we remain committed to ongoing education and research in order to bring improved efficiency and sustained longevity to each individual project.