June 10, 2023


Creative living

Direct Relief Building Project Wins Honor Award for Green Design | Good for Santa Barbara

3 min read

Direct Relief’s new corporate headquarters and distribution facility won a 2020 Honor Award for Green New Building Design from the U.S. Green Building Council Central Coast.

The award was presented recently in an online ceremony that featured the best green and sustainable architecture and interior design from throughout the tri-county region.

The 155,000-square-foot project was designed in a “Mediterranean Modern” style and was sensitively integrated into the 7.99-acre site utilizing an innovative, cost-effective, environmentally responsible design that reflects the non-ostentatious, function-first organizational values of the No. 1-rated nonprofit organization in the United States.

Local architects with DMHA Architecture + Interior Design were recognized for the award-winning project along with a team of diverse engineering consultants, designers, design-build contractors and specialty consultants.

A monumental steel entry trellis defines the public entry to Direct Relief’s new corporate headquarters and distribution facility.Click to view larger

A monumental steel entry trellis defines the public entry to Direct Relief’s new corporate headquarters and distribution facility. (DMHA Architecture / Erin Feinblatt Photography photo)

Courtney Jane Miller, ASLA, of CJM:LA led the landscape architects, and Stantec Consulting Services provided the civil engineers. The general contractors were from ARCO Design-Build, based out of Atlanta and which specializes in large pharmaceutical and distribution facilities around the nation.

“This is a very exciting and noteworthy award for the Direct Relief organization. We are honored to have been the architects leading the design effort for this significant community benefit project,” DMHA principal architect Michael Holliday, FAIA, said. “Direct Relief is a world-class, technology-driven organization that delivers medical assistance to those affected by natural disasters nationally as well as around the world, free of charge. Therefore, it was important that an innovative ‘function first’ design ethic be brought to every decision balanced with a strong concern for aesthetics, energy efficiency and cost effectiveness.”

The project site was sensitively planned to transform the previous impervious concrete airport runway into a new bio-diverse resource with extensive drought-tolerant landscape areas. An extensive bio-swale and bio-retention system was utilized to keep rainwater from a 100-year storm on site, helping to recharge local drought-stricken groundwater basins. Landscaping was introduced to complement the building architecture and the historic nature of the site as a previous slough during the Chumash era.

According to the award’s jury comments, “The thoughtful design embodies a careful integration of interior and exterior spaces creating functional and visually interesting outdoor areas with clearly identifiable building entries. The vehicular circulation systems, truck delivery docks and pedestrian plazas were strategically located and planned to accommodate environmental site constraints and the strict security and functional requirements of the client.”

Steel screen walls, pedestrian seating and inspired hardscape complement the planar concrete structure.Click to view larger

Steel screen walls, pedestrian seating and inspired hardscape complement the planar concrete structure. (DMHA Architecture / Erin Feinblatt Photography photo)

The energy-efficient building utilizes state-of-the-art solar technology and incorporates a Tesla battery system, which can enable the entire facility to run “off grid” for up to six months in an emergency event.

“This functional off-grid operating capacity is a very impressive energy goal to be achieved for any emergency services organization,” Holliday said. “This project is also reportedly the first permitted Micro-Grid system in the United States, a milestone achievable only because Direct Relief is the No. 1 rated nonprofit emergency services operation in the country and received favorable support for the system to be permitted and installed.”

The architects also give much credit for the design success of the project to the City of Santa Barbara Board of Architectural Review, which supported the project vision and innovative design approach.

“Fortunately, the board saw the value of applying the traditional Mediterranean Modern design review criteria to this unique project in a very creative and innovative manner, within more of an industrial neighborhood context,” Holliday said.

Click here for more information about the project. Click here to support Direct Relief.