Firm Profile

VanMechelen Architects is an architectural design firm with a practice in Berkeley, California.  Our projects include a variety of alternative building materials and healthy practice designs, including solar oriented and strawbale houses, schools and a Nature Center for the City of Berkeley. 

Our work involves the integration of building systems and materials with the need to provide healthy and safe environments while respecting natural systems.  This includes creating buildings utilizing passive and active solar energy, renewable and resource efficient building materials, and interior spaces that promote human health through daylighting, natural ventilation, and good indoor air quality.  We have done work for several clients with chemical injury, and are especially sensitive to the need to reduce the toxic chemicals found in many building materials.  Our projects also utilize alternative building materials, such as strawbale and earthen construction, as well as salvaged and sustainably harvested wood, and spray cellulose insulation, made from recycled newspaper.  Our work includes residential, commercial, and institutional projects.

We are the co-author of the Revised Master Specifications for Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, which incorporates a variety of resource-efficient and waste minimizing materials and techniques.  Greg VanMechelen was also the Resource Efficient Building Consultant to the City of San Francisco, advising their Public Works Departments, including Architecture and Construction Management, on Green Building Practices.

Mr. VanMechelen serves on the National Board of Architects/ Designers/ Planners for Social Responsibility (ADPSR), and is Chair of their Northern California Chapter.  He is a founding member of the California Straw Building Association (CASBA), on the Board of Berkeley EcoHouse, and also on the Advisory Board to the Sustainable Business Alliance:  Berkeley (SBA:B), and Project Green Team.  He is co-founder of the Berkeley Green Resource Center, a joint project of ADPSR and SBA:B.

He is also co-author of Building Less Waste, a manual for environmental building practices, and the ADPSR West Coast Architectural Resource Guide.  He has written several articles, and presented Green Building Techniques to the General Services Administration and other Federal Agencies, and at numerous universities and conferences.

The design approach is another unique aspect of our work.  To create a design that truly meets the needs, it is critical that the client actually be involved in the design process.  This works best with a multiple step process of site analysis and synthesis, in which the client is an active participant in the work.  The first step involves analysis to develop a more complete understanding of the physical, social, and spiritual characteristics of place.  The design is then created through an interactive working process, with paper cut outs and clay, to develop the planning and the forms for the design.  The client is active member in the design, and the Architect’s role is somewhat akin to facilitator.  In a group process, it is beneficial to all parties that the entire Community participates in this process, as it is in the collective atmosphere that all voices can be heard, and that the true qualities of the situation can be learned.  Many do not understand the value of their own contribution, and important insights often come from the least outspoken among us.

Greg VanMechelen is a licensed architect with more than 18 years of professional experience.  He is also concerned with the environmental effects of architecture on both global and human health.  He can provide design, construction and material choices that promote good use of limited natural resources, while creating non-toxic environments that increase user productivity and enjoyment.  He is on the local and national boards of Architects/ Designers/ Planners for Social Responsibility, and is a co-author of their Architectural Resource Guide.

VanMechelen Architects