Sustainable Design

We believe creating environments that protect user health and wellness and reducing greenhouse gas emissions are critical goals for every project. 


Green design strategies that create healthy indoor environments, promote energy efficiency, and provide long-term value are central to our design approach. MDS has broad experience designing renovations and new buildings that meet or exceed Architecture 2030 targets, LEED certification requirements, support institutional, municipal and state performance standards, and advance our clients’ broader sustainability goals. We are committed to designing environments that promote:

  • user wellness and comfort,

  • energy and water efficiency,

  • use of healthy, low-VOC materials,

  • use of recycled materials,

  • use of materials that are locally manufactured, and

  • responsible waste management.

AIA 2030 Commitment

MDS is a signatory of the American Institute of Architects (AIA) 2030 Commitment, which seeks to reduce fossil fuel consumption and greenhouse gas emissions of the built environment by tracking energy usage. As part of the 2030 Commitment, we confidentially report energy performance projections of each project to the national AIA 2030 Design Data Exchange (DDx) database. This focus on performance helps us identify best practices and anonymously compare performance metrics of MDS projects and others. We developed a framework to define goals—such as Predicted Energy Use Intensity (PEUI)—for each project type as it aligns with the 2030 Commitment. The following charts describe our progress towards meeting the initiative's goals.


AIA 2030 Design Data Exchange (DDx)

Interior-Only Projects: 61 projects and 463,977 GSF included in analysis.
Non-Residential and Residential Projects: 13 projects and 832,247 GSF included in analysis.

Harvard Business Publishing Headquarters Green Design Charette

Harvard Business Publishing Headquarters Green Design Charette


Integrated Design Process

We encourage an integrated design process that brings all stakeholders and experts around the table early in the process. Typically, we have a green design charrette to establish project goals. We then map out a work plan and assign responsibilities for meeting building performance targets and other project goals. We review passive strategies, such as daylighting, envelope thermal improvements, and occupant comfort, while evaluating mechanical system options. Energy modeling and Life-Cycle Cost Analysis (LCCA) are typically done at the end of schematic design to evaluate mechanical system options in greater detail. As a best practice we use certifications such as the USGBC LEED Rating Systems and Well Building Standard to guide some of the goals in the early phases. 

Prioritizing User Health + Wellness

Enriching the experience of those who will occupy the buildings and spaces we create is our primary design goal. This influences our approach to material selection, ventilation, and daylighting strategies, among many other factors. Our in-house Specifications Team continually researches and updates our standards with green materials. In evaluating new materials, we review the chemical composition to limit usage of materials that contain chemicals of environmental or health concern, or products that have unvetted, third-party certifications. We also seek out materials with recycled content and ones that are manufactured locally to reduce transportation impacts.

Resiliency Planning

As architects and planners working with clients in Boston and the greater New England region, we understand our region is vulnerable to sea level rise, increasing intensity of storm events, rising temperatures, and other impacts of climate change. We are committed to providing high-performance buildings that are flexible and respond to these external stresses. While each project is site- and place-specific, we evaluate structure and system types and placement so they can withstand climate events and our buildings can provide shelter in the event of a disaster. Our collaborative design teams work to provide buildings that contribute to resiliency and provide a positive transformation to the built environment, while also creating new landscape amenities for public use.

Massachusetts College of Art and Design, Kennedy Campus Center Renovation and Expansion, Boston, MA, LEED-Gold certified

Massachusetts College of Art and Design, Kennedy Campus Center Renovation and Expansion, Boston, MA, LEED-Gold certified

MDS is committed to integrating green design concepts that are appropriate for each project’s unique context and programmatic goals.


LEED + MA-CHPS Project Experience

Maseeh Residence Hall Renovation
Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, MA

LEED-Gold certified

External Education Department, HIM 4
Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA

LEED-Gold certified

Kennedy Campus Center Renovation and Expansion
Massachusetts College of Art and Design, Boston, MA

LEED-Gold certified

Administration Building Renovation
Worcester State University, Worcester, MA

LEED-Gold certified

Microbiology and Immunobiology Laboratories Renovation
Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA

LEED-Gold certified

Yawkey Center for Cancer Care
Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Boston, MA

LEED-Gold certified

Lithgow Building Renovation
Codman Academy Charter Public School, Dorchester,
LEED-Gold certified

Lower School Classroom Building
Perkins School for the Blind, Watertown, MA

LEED-Gold certified; MA-CHPS-verified

Nock-Molin School Renovation
Newburyport, MA

LEED-Gold certified

Dana Building Transformation
Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Boston, MA

LEED-Silver certified

El-Hefni Allied Health and Technology Center
Northern Essex Community College, Lawrence, 
LEED-Silver certified

Blanchard Campus Center Renovation and Expansion
Mount Holyoke College, South Hadley, MA


Myles Standish Hall Renovation
Boston University, Boston, MA

targeting LEED Gold certification

Braintree East Middle School Renovation and Expansion
Braintree, MA

targeting LEED Silver certification

Braintree South Middle School Renovation and Expansion
Braintree, MA
targeting LEED Silver certification

Harvard Business Publishing Headquarters
Brighton, MA

designed to LEED Silver standards

Hartleb Technology Center
Northern Essex Community College, Haverhill, MA

designed to LEED Silver standards

Academic and Theatre Building
Three Rivers Community College, Norwich, CT

designed to LEED Silver standards

Lamont Health and Wellness Center Renovation and Expansion
Phillips Exeter Academy, Exeter, NH

designed to LEED Silver standards



Culture of Sustainability

Our commitment to the principles of sustainable design extends beyond our project work. We strive to continually improve our green practices — from replacing computers and other equipment with more energy-efficient models to using green cleaning products, and encouraging staff to pursue healthy and sustainable commutes to our office and project sites. 

If you have visited our office, you know MDS is a community of passionate bicyclists and active commuters. The firm and individual staff members participate in a range of organizations and groups that encourage safe and sustainable transportation options in the Boston area and beyond, including Green Streets Initiative and MassCommute Bicycle Challenge, among others. For the second year in a row, MDS was recognized by Green Streets Initiative as its Walk/Ride Day Corporate Challenge winner. The firm also received the 2015 Biking Tourney Enthusiasm Award from the MIT Changing Places Group, a collaboration between the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Media Lab and Austrian Institute of Technology.