A lot of architects in the area offer sustainable alternatives to common building practices. There are a handful of architects in San Jose that design eco-friendly residential projects, from small single-family homes to multifamily developments. This article lists some of the best green architects that service San Jose’s growing demand for environmentally conscious living. Most of these architectural firms are either Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certified or Build It Green members. This article highlights their most notable green project, which can help determine which firm is the best fit for you.
644 N Santa Cruz Ave. Suite #6, Los Gatos, CA 95030
About Acadia Architecture
Certified LEED Architect Davide Giannella established Acadia Architecture to provide high-end residential architectural design with sustainability as its core value. The firm understands that a home’s natural relationship with its site is just as important as its aesthetics. With this in mind, Acadia Architecture applies sustainable design to make a home environmentally intelligent.
Take, for example, this San Jose Corner House. Since it’s a corner lot, the home has a healthy exposure to the sun. The angled roof regulates its exposure to the sun, its architecture was designed to control traffic noise, and budget-friendly durable materials created a unique textural finish.
Mark Stoklosa Architect
351 S Baywood Ave. Suite B, San Jose, CA 95128
About Mark Stoklosa Architect
Buildings have always fascinated Marek Stoklosa. He recalls sketching buildings at the tender age of three as the city served as his inspiration. Pursuing architecture was inevitable and he eventually established his own firm in 1982. When Stoklosa was younger, he had an avid interest in a variety of facades, but now his firm leans towards making more sustainable and adaptive reuse projects.
One of its first sustainable projects is the Eco-House in Walnut Creek. East Bay Times reported it as “the first two-story recycled steel frame and straw bale home in Contra Costa County.” Instead of using wood, the home is made of recycled steel frames and rice straw bale insulation. The Eco-House is a pioneer in sustainable housing and has set trends for the Green Building Program.
Noel Cross + Architects
148 E Virginia St. Suite #2, San Jose, CA 95112
About Noel Cross + Architects
Noel Cross + Architects is a sustainable firm that always takes into consideration the long term effect of its projects. The firm goes beyond conservation and aims for actually regenerating natural resources. It practices the “eco-effective” method that acclaimed environmental architect William McDonough advocates. This eco-effective solution entails projects that can clean the air, make energy reusable, and, above all else, be made with reclaimed materials.
A prime example of the firm’s “eco-effective” homes is the Villa Terra located in San Jose. The home has Pneumatically Impacted Stabilized Earth (PISE) walls that help lessen the use of trees for framing lumber. This alternative material outlasts any wood frame building which makes it durable as well. The home’s architecture was strategically designed to reduce electrical lighting by installing various skylights. Its landscape was also designed to heat the home during the winter and protect it from the heat in the summer.
710 E McGlincy Ln. Suite #109, Campbell, CA 95008
About GKW Architects
Established in 2010, GKW Architects is a wide-scale architectural firm that services commercial clients and residential projects ranging from single-family homes to apartments. Its founder, Gordon Wong, is a LEED-certified architect who has worked on international projects found in Shanghai and Chongqing. Like its founder, GKW Architects is also LEED-certified and a Build it Green member.
Primarily serving the Bay Area, a lot of its unique residential projects are found in San Jose. One of these is the JC Tower in Japan Town, San Jose. The mixed-use building has clear Japanese influences, including its curved tiled roofs designed to stand out on its urban site. Its landscaping was also designed to replicate zen gardens and it features Japanese-inspired sculptures as well.
OJK Architecture and Planning
97 E St. James St. Suite #42, San Jose, CA 95112
About OJK Architecture and Planning
San Jose-based OJK Architecture and Planning has been designing apartments, community housing, and commercial buildings since 1982. The firm aims to design establishments that are “a delicate blend of art and science.” Its creative design philosophy has earned the firm numerous awards from the American Institute of Architects (AIA). Some of these distinctions include a Special Award on Sustainability for the Salinas Apartments and another Award of Excellence for Sustainable Development for the Gish Apartments in San Jose.
The Gish Apartments is a Gold LEED-certified project that aims to provide accessible transportation to its residents. A large percentage of its residents are disabled persons who benefit from the apartment’s strategic location. Moreover, the Gish Apartments is an affordable housing project that caters to families below the median income area.
M. Designs Architects
4131 El Camino Real Suite #200, Palo Alto, CA 94306
About M. Designs Architects
Palo Alto-based M. Designs Architects is an internationally renowned architectural firm that offers specialized sustainable residential design. One of its award-winning founders, Malika Junaid is a big name in the local and national architecture industry. Her projects on sustainability have been trendsetters via the unique aesthetics only her firm can offer.
Junaid’s Star Trek-inspired sustainable home grabbed the headlines of the San Francisco Chronicle. The home was designed to merge with its environment and a grand double-pane glass completed with an awning-style lift achieved this vision. It also has a solar-powered airport hangar door that showcases the picturesque view of Los Altos Hills. This home is the firm’s most notable project, having won the First Award for Residential-Private House at the 2019 World Architecture and Design Awards.
Studio S Squared
1000 S Winchester Blvd., San Jose, CA 95128
About Studio S Squared
The unique cultural connection of man and nature has always been of interest to architect Eugene Sakai. A son of a Japanese gardener and grandson of a walnut farmer, Sakai’s creativity was always inspired by his environment. His firm, Studio S Squared, designs sustainable establishments that are creatively resonant with the Bay Area’s diverse, historical architecture. The firm has hundreds of projects found in Silicon Valley and the Bay Area.
The LEED-certified firm has constructed stunning residential and commercial projects in San Jose. Willow Glen is a neighborhood filled with charming traditional homes. The homeowners of this Spanish style house wanted to be innovative without being too flashy. A modest exterior was given to the home to highlight the homeowner’s ornate tropical backyard.
746 The Alameda Suite #30, San Jose, CA 95126
About Modulus Architecture
Award-winning Modulus Architecture designs creative spaces that play with light, space, and experience. The firm’s diverse portfolio features unique residential and commercial projects. Founder David Fenster is an award-winning architect who has experience working with diverse residential, retail, and corporate designs. His experience is reflected in the firm’s achievements as Modulus has won several awards from AIA Silicon Valley.
The Six Oaks project in San Jose is one of the firm’s most sustainable creations. Located in a redwood forest, the home is made with recycled shipping containers painted with a brick red color in order to better blend with its surrounding. Functional essentialism is the theme of this home. This means every space of the home has been optimized and all of the materials were repurposed resources. Aside from the shipping containers, recycled plywood sheets and fallen redwood trees were used for the home’s flooring and staircases.
The firms on this list have the core competencies to complete these often frustrating, confusing tasks. To construct this list, our team compiled a number of firms within the Bay Area. We then considered each firm’s overall work quality, the awards each firm has accumulated, any press features about the firm, and the work history of each firm; the result is this ranked list of five fantastic contractors.
The Design Build Company
3554 Round Barn Blvd. Suite #205, Santa Rosa, CA 95403
About The Design Build Company
The Design-Build Company was only recently established in 2018. Though the company is a new face in the design and construction industry, its team supports it with over 80 years worth of custom home building experience. Another strength of this company lies in its founder and CEO, Rob Auger. For well over a decade, Auger has gathered experience in high-end general contracting, high-end new construction, and development work. Thanks to these skills and the experience of the design team, the company was able to successfully design and execute high end custom homes like the sleek Wikiup House—A modern contemporary styled home which required the firm’s talent for architecture, interior design, and construction.
Just some of the styles the firm is known for building are the modern, contemporary, farmhouse and Craftsman styles. Homes like these were built with the talent of a diverse team. Some of these members came from companies that built high end multimillion-dollar Estates, semi-custom residential and upscale commercial projects. Aside from building residential homes, the firm also has experience building semi-custom commercial structures which require orderly execution and the capability to manage schedules. The skill and workmanship exhibited from these projects result in reviews from clientele that usually boast experiencing The Design Build Company’s organizational skills, high involvement throughout the process, and transparency. Along with these work ethics, the team also is said to have great chemistry that makes the clients experience fun and exciting.
Jon Ballard Construction
665 Joaquin Dr., Sonoma, CA 95476
About The Jon Ballard Construction
Specializing in remodeling and additions, Jon Ballard Construction has been serving the Sonoma and Napa counties with its highly-recommended architects and engineers. For over two decades, this firm has designed and built a plethora of commercial structures and homes. Just some of these projects have been recognized by industry publications such as Sonoma Magazine, California Home + Design, The San Francisco Chronicle, and Wine Spectator Magazine. Two of the firm’s most notable works is a historic barn in Sonoma and an addition for a contemporary house, which has an open design allowing for more natural light to stream in through glass doors and skylights.
In addition to contemporary-styled homes, the firm has also built ranch and barn-styled residences. Structures like these usually come from repeat clients who have witnessed the team’s well-rounded craftsmanship. Leading this team is firm owner Jon Ballard who has done new construction and remodeling work for over 25 years.
Arrowtown Construction, Inc.
17180 Park Ave., Sonoma, CA 95476
About Arrowtown Construction, Inc.
Arrowtown Construction has been doing construction projects for 10 years. Though it has only been around for a decade, this firm has a team of craftsmen who possess over 20 years of experience building in the Sonoma and Napa areas. Known for crafting single-family homes, Arrowtown Construction’s work mostly leans toward the farmhouse, modern, and contemporary styles. One of the firm’s most notable projects is a contemporary home called the Sleepy Hollow Estate, which is distinguished by the wide floor plan that allows for spaces to entertain guests and an open design that caters to California’s sunny climate and Sonoma’s vineyard views.
Elaborate homes like this were built and expertly executed thanks to the firm’s head general contractor—Clayt Bertlesman, who, during his early twenties, flipped houses with his father and brother. At that time, he learned every facet of home building and found efficient ways to create a quality finish in each aspect. Before the firm was founded, Bertlesman also spent time in New Zealand where he built elaborate luxury custom homes that emphasized green sustainability concepts.
Reiter Fine Home Building
9212 Sonoma Hwy., Kenwood, CA 95452
About Reiter Fine Home Building
Reiter Fine Home Building prefers using reclaimed architectural elements from around the world and blending it with eco-friendly building materials. Because of this unique combination of materials, the firm is able to create authentic and elaborately-designed estates. One of these notable estates is a Mediterranean-style Sonoma Valley home called Montevigna which houses materials that come from France, Italy, Mexico, and even Canada. Inspired by the solid, stone houses seen in Italy and Southern France, this residence incorporates a blend of French and Italian materials along with stone quarried from the building site. The exterior meanwhile showcases a loggia with an Italian-styled roof featuring wood slats from recycled wine barrels. One of the oldest items in the house is the solid oak door carried in from a Parisian home built during Napoleon’s time.
Making such elaborate projects, the firm has been featured in numerous publications including Valley of the Moon, C Home, Sonoma Index-Tribune, Home and Architecture Trends, Sonoma Magazine, Ideas and Trends, Press Democrat, and Kitchen Trends. Currently, the firm is guided by Jon Reiter. A contractor possessing a unique blend of design sensibility and contracting knowledge, Reiter has built about 20 high-end homes in the Sonoma Valley. All this was done within 15 years. Reiter also frequently visits Europe to source materials (windows, gates, sinks, stone, and ancient wooden doors) carrying different histories that lend new homes their own bit of historical flare.
2151 Union St. Suite #1, San Francisco, CA 94123
About Upscale Construction
Upscale Construction maintains its name through its work. Known for building single-family homes and distinctive estates, the firm has been featured in industry publications such as architecture and interior design website Home Adore and Luxe, in which a modern getaway in Sonoma was featured. Anchored on two levels into a vineyard ridge, this contemporary home is surrounded by scenic views and has many notable features. Photovoltaic solar panels were placed on the main roof, engineered wood products were used for framing, reclaimed lumber sidings were placed as exterior elevations, stained concrete floors were carpeted over radiant heating throughout the interior, and a fireplace was embedded between a boarded wall in the living room. Projects like these show the team’s skill as craftsmen carrying rigorous training and creative thinking, the senior management service of a larger company, and the competitive cost and personal accountability of a newly-founded builder.
Upscale Construction has three principals—Tony Kelly, Brad Hayes, and Danny Bernardini. With these principals, the firm became mindful of green building and is a member of the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) and Build It Green.
LEFF Construction Design Build
6791 Sebastopol Ave. Suite #140, Sebastopol, CA 95472
About LEFF Construction Design Build
Based in Sebastopol, California, LEFF Construction Design Build was founded in 1978 and has completed hundreds of projects in Sonoma County, garnering numerous national and regional awards over the decades. In the town of Sonoma, LEFF designed and built an open yet intimate custom home for a family that often entertained family and colleagues for their gourmet-food products company. The rural property is surrounded by trees and vineyards; an open floor plan was designed to allow for natural light to flood the gathering spaces where guests could wine and dine, or visit together outdoors. To further enhance the expansiveness of the interior, skylights and large sliding doors were installed, bringing in more light, blue sky and the country view.
To maintain a sense of history within the new structure, an old barn that had existed on this family property for over 100 years was deconstructed and the wood harvested for use in the new construction. The recycled and repurposed wood and barn fixtures were used to create several new interior barn doors. Another notable feature of this home is the waterproof deck built above the garage which allows access from the master bedroom suite and via an exterior spiral staircase leading to the backyard.
Homes such as these helped LEFF Construction Design Build gain recognition from industry publications such as Qualified Remodeler and Remodeling Magazine’s Big 50 list. The firm has received numerous remodeling awards, including Qualified Remodeler’s 2017 Master Design Award for Universal Design. In the same year, NARI also awarded LEFF two first-place Regional Awards for a home remodel over $1 million, and another award for a whole home remodel priced at $750,000 to $1 million.