AIA SCV AI’22 Symposium

This week, John Diffenderfer, Afsha Ali, AIA, Srivarshini Balaji, Eve-Marie Olimpo, Sanjana Kulkarni, Liam Hanlon, Assoc. AIA, Andrew McClellan, Hamdam Mozaffar, and Chania Bhatia attended the AIA SCV AI’22 Symposium. They heard from fellow professionals on many subjects like Net Zero design, building reuse, housing policy, and design visualizations. They return to their teams inspired and energized, ready to tackle challenges in new ways. Their commitment to learning and the built environment drives their design passion and ultimately creates higher quality spaces for our clients.

“During Cheryl Durst’s moving keynote, I learned how a sense of belonging in the spaces we create can promote optimism, equity, and hope. She left the audience with a profound mission and challenge, that we all need to be great ancestors for the generations to come.”  – Afsha Ali

“The Symposium offered presentations filled with inspiration and innovation.  The sessions expand the way I look at our profession, taking it to a higher level and allowing me to reflect on the importance of what we do.” – Eve-Marie Olimpo

“While the content of the entire symposium was rich with thoughtful and inspiring information, I was deeply moved by Cheryl Durst’s opening keynote.”  – Sri Balaji

“I truly enjoyed the thought-provoking sessions from architectural leaders who are pushing the industry forward with innovation and passion.” – Liam Hanlon

Choosing Mixed Fuels or All-Electric Under San Jose’s Reach Code

San Jose’s newly adopted Reach Code presents a challenge for high-rise multi-family residential developers: build all-electric or stay with “mixed-fuel” (gas and electric). Intending to reduce carbon emissions across all new and renovation projects, the Reach Code all but bans gas in new residential buildings. However, for now, San Jose’s Reach Code continues to allow gas in high-rise multi-family residential buildings, subject to some penalties. The most significant of which is a higher baseline energy performance standard (6% margin above typical California Energy Code). With the bar set higher, potentially increasing costs for the building envelope, HVAC, and lighting systems, developers must consider the following in deciding whether to adopt an all-electric design:

  • Understand What You Need Gas For, anyway: Most of the equipment you need gas for, including clothes drying and water heating) can now be electric, without sacrificing either efficiency or cost. We used to believe that gas equipment was “better” than electric, but product improvements have all but eliminated that myth. The exception -and still subject to debate–is the use of gas-fired stoves in commercial kitchens. This choice has operational implications. It might even affect your menu! Meanwhile, there is evidence that a kitchen without gas is cheaper and safer to operate, and healthier for building occupants.
  • Electrical Power Infrastructure First Costs Are the Same: The Reach Code requires you to install an electrical service sufficient to supply an all-electric building now or later, regardless of your current fuel choices. Using gas does not reduce the size or the cost of the electrical infrastructure.
  • Total Utility Infrastructure First Costs Are Higher for Mixed Fuels: Having gas in a building requires dual infrastructure, hence higher costs.
  • More Floor Area Required for Infrastructure and Equipment: Regardless of fuel choices, you will need to commit more space for larger transformers and other equipment. Electric water heaters are larger than gas, and water storage tanks are required to accompany electric heat pump water heaters. This equipment can be located on the roof.
  • Grid Electricity Costs Are High; PV’s Can Offset That: Rate-based utility costs for all-electric can be substantially higher unless coupled with a robust solar PV system. Do not forget that you will always have outlets, and lights so there is no meaningful escape from your electricity bill without solar.

Recognize that to combat climate change, San Jose, like jurisdictions everywhere, is heading in the direction of eliminating gas service. After August 1, 2021, all new developments will have to be all-electric, without the gas option. A commercial kitchen is the only remaining exception.

Choosing gas now only delays the inevitable switch to all-electric in the future.


You can check out these great resources to help you evaluate options thoughtfully.

San Jose Reach Code Summary:

Statewide Reach Code Program:

San Jose, a Leader, as the State Moves to a More Energy Efficient and Low-Carbon Future

Local Amendments to the State Codes

In general, a Reach Code is a local amendment to the California Building Standards Code. In California, local governments have the authority to adopt amendments to the Code, commonly known as “Title 24” of the state’s Code of Regulations. In this article, we are talking about Reach Codes that apply to Title 24, Part 6 – California Energy Code. Since 1978, California’s Energy Code has reduced wasteful and unnecessary energy consumption in newly constructed and existing buildings. It is updated every three years. Non-residential buildings built under the current 2019 version are about 30% more efficient than those governed by the 2016 code. Residential buildings are about 53% more efficient.

Local amendments are often referred to as Reach Codes because they require performance that exceeds that of the minimum state code, in advance of its future updates. Today, these codes only affect Aedis’ projects governed by the local jurisdictions, such as San Jose, and Palo Alto. On our public-school projects, the Division of the State Architect enforces the basic Title 24, Part 6 (the Energy Code), and Part 11 (CALGreen or “the Green Code”). All local jurisdictions enforce Part 11, also.

There are two categories of Reach Codes:

  1. Prescriptive Reach Codes: Require specific additional energy efficiency or renewable energy measures, such as electric vehicle readiness (EV-Ready and EV-capable), Pre-wiring, and electrical panel capacity requirements.
  2. Performance Reach Codes: Require buildings to perform more efficiently than Title 24, Part 6 Energy Standards, while still allowing applicants flexibility in project designs.

Through a series of calculations, the performance approach achieves compliance by showing that a building’s proposed energy budget (energy consumption per square foot of floor space) is equal to or better than an established enhanced baseline, allowing developers freedom in their designs. This baseline varies by climate zone and building type, so the standards are matched to local conditions.

As of December 2020, at least 29 California jurisdictions have passed local Reach Codes. Notably, these have been in large metropolitan areas–like the City of Los Angeles and across the Bay Area, affecting a vast population–and smaller communities such as Lancaster and Davis.


San Jose’s Goal of Zero-Emission All-Electric Buildings

San Jose’s Reach Code establishes an augmented standard for new construction to be zero-emission all-electric buildings, encouraging the specification of electric equipment such as space heating, water heating, cooktops, and so on. The Reach Code falls short of an outright ban on gas and gas equipment. Buildings designed with gas must still comply with prescriptive measures that make the building capable of being all-electric in the future. They are also burdened with a more energy-efficient baseline to be considered Code compliant.

More information about San Jose’s Reach Code can be found here:

Earth Day


Last week, Scientific American magazine committed to scrap the term “climate change” for “climate emergency” to be more consistent with the position of the scientific community it serves. It is generally believed today that current trends in sustainable business and government policy will get us nowhere near the Paris 2015 Agreement on carbon emission reduction goals.

Always striving to do more, #AedisArchitects has spent the last 18 months studying and now using Cross Laminated Timber in some of its projects, with hopes of promoting its use more universally.
#earthday #savetheplanet #climateaction

K-12 Mass Timber Project – APPROVED!

It is with great excitement we share that our first K-12 Mass Timber project has been approved by DSA and will soon be under construction. Prospect High School, in Campbell Union High School District, will soon be transformed with the addition of two, single story buildings and approximately 1.5 acres of site work that will seamlessly connect with the existing campus and add approximately 20,000 SF of indoor and outdoor learning areas.

The importance of nature and biophilia for student health and wellness was a major focus for this project and the designs truly reflect that commitment. A strong indoor-outdoor connection was woven into the design, and Cross Laminated Timber, a natural, renewable, sustainable, and low carbon footprint material, was used for the roof structure. It creates a warm, pleasant and biophilic space that promotes an increase in student performance as well as boosts the energy level and overall well-being of the occupants. The classroom project is estimated to be completed and ready for the 2022-23 school year.

Project highlights include:

  • Spacious classrooms, Makerspaces and Science labs with large covered, outdoor collaboration spaces for extended learning
  • Exposed CLT roof deck with high ceilings
  • Large skylights to maximize daylight

Aedis’ CLT Projects

With increasing pressure from the community and legislation, our clients have been looking for ways to improve the performance of their capital investments through improved indoor environmental quality (for the health and well-being of their occupants) and earth-friendly building practices (reducing their carbon footprint via embodied and emitted carbon). CLT (Cross Laminated Timber) is the latest addition in our arsenal of best-practice construction materials, and it hits the bulls-eye on both of these factors. We eagerly await these three designs coming to life, leaving a positive lasting impact for this generation and future generations to come.
#CLT #HealthyBuildings #PositiveLastingImpact

HVAC Tech Day

Today is National HVAC Tech Day! This unsung group of pandemic heroes has earned our gratitude for their hard work keeping us cool in the summer, warm in the cooped-up winters, and the air fresh all year round. Now, at the close of the pandemic, they are working tirelessly to help reopen our schools. Soon, HVAC techs will be working at the San Mateo Foster City School District. The HVAC Upgrade Project will efficiently provide a healthy, comfortable environment for all the students and staff of the district. #NationalHVACTechDay #UnsungHeroes #LastingPositiveImpact #SchoolDesign #K12Design


For more information, you can visit their official website at

The Impact of Biophilic Learning Spaces

E.O. Wilson, author of Biophilia (1984) defined biophilia as “the innate tendency to focus on life and lifelike processes”. The subject of his work has inspired countless scholarly articles, research in the ensuing years, and a whole approach to environmental design. With this post we continue our advocacy for the mainstreaming of biophilic design principles into the design of every occupied space—where we live, where we learn and where we work. Here is a study conducted by some of the field’s foremost experts that examines how biophilic design contributes to student stress reduction, and improved learning outcomes.
For the full article, click here.

Electrify commercial kitchens now to save your money, your health, and your planet

John Diffenderfer, Aedis Architects
July 2021


The road to reversing climate change is bumpy and the destination will be arrived at through both new behaviors and new technology. We will all have to trade in some habits and beliefs for some new and possibly uncomfortable ideas. As cities, counties and the states consider legislation to mandate the elimination of gas infrastructure in new construction, many commercial industries and their architects, engineers, developers, and builders are investigating the impact these new rules will have on their operations. As an architect that has designed several Zero Net Energy/Emissions buildings, I can unequivocally declare that the technology exists to decarbonize today, and it has existed for quite some time. So, what is the hold up? Short answer: economics and, simply put, change is hard.

One area that has felt heat in the debate recently is the commercial kitchen industry. The basic technology of the commercial kitchen has not really changed in the last half century, and it continues to be an unhealthy and dangerous place. Nevertheless, there is a lot of tradition back there behind the service counters and swinging doors. Not all traditions are bad, especially when perfecting a great meal, but preconceptions that limit change for the better ought to be questioned.

Need To Know:

  1. The California Energy Commission is considering its 2022 code cycle revisions to the California Energy Code which include the banning of new gas connections to all new construction (CA added a quarter of a million new gas customers to the State since 2013.
  2. Fossil fuel kitchen appliances emit pollutants that are harmful to your health. 12 million Californians with gas stoves are breathing NO2 levels above levels that would be illegal outdoors, and nearly 2 million are breathing illegal levels of carbon monoxide.
  3. 30 cities and counties in California adopted local building codes and ordinances encouraging all-electric new construction, with 50 more considering it.
  4. PG&E, California’s largest rate-payer utility, serving 40% of the State’s gas customers, has formally written in support of the CEC’s proposed energy code changes, including electrification of new construction.

The conclusion from the facts above is that electrification is coming, and it is a good thing, both for the environment, and for our health. I recognize that from some perspectives it is does not always seem so. It will mean capital investment, and it will mean operational change. What about all the new equipment we must buy? Will I have to retrain my crew, learn new methods, and create new menus? One large kitchen manager I spoke to declared, “The challenge is that it’s a different way of cooking and it takes getting used to”. By 2035, all kitchens will be electric, gas will not be allowed, so it is not a matter of if, but when. My contention is that once the transition has been made, the worries will be distant memories, and we may even chuckle at the thought of the arguments we once made.

PG&E established the Food Service Technology Center more than three decades ago to promote energy efficiency in kitchen design. It is a place to test-drive kitchen equipment before you buy, and the Center offers seminars, reports, and consulting to operators and designers. There is myth that persists claiming that gas stovetops and ovens are preferred by chefs because they heat faster and more evenly than electric. It turns out that with a little digging, this is not entirely true. I found a 2011 video where Gordon Ramsey admits that he liked both technologies, and an article where Bruce Mattel of the Culinary Institute of America is quoted saying that he found them to be completely comparable. Most equipment today is available in a gas or electric version, with no change needed in cooking techniques. The real exception is the gas stove. Here, we encounter the “different ways of cooking” that some resist, even though induction stoves a) do not get (nearly as) hot or heat the room, b) cost about the same, less when you consider the gas piping, and c) do not emit the NO2 and CO that is so harmful.  Aedis works with many California School Districts, and student and staff health is a significant economic factor in our schools:  when a child stays home, the school loses “ADA” (average daily attendance) which directly affects operational funding. Studies have shown that children are even more sensitive to the effects of pollutants from gas cooking than adults. A 2013 study in the International Journal of Epidemiology showed that children living in a home with a gas cooking stove have a 42% increase of current asthma risk, and 24% increase of asthma in their lifetime.


“Powerful, immediate, precise, effective, practical … the qualities of induction”, Author/Chef Thierry Molinengo, Paris.


Induction cooking is inherently safer because there is no open flame and are not left “hot” when not in active use. There are no gas leaks, and spilled oil will not lead to a bigger fire. Speaking of spills, clean-up is easier. The biggest downside: you (may) have to buy new pots and pans. Your cookware must have magnetic properties, like cast iron (enameled) and stainless steel. Le Creuset, All-Clad, and many others make induction-ready cookware. Some chefs are accepting the challenge of the all-electric kitchen. “What I realized when working with induction was that there were some things that we did in the traditional kitchen that was just wasteful,” says Chef Chris Galarza, the owner and culinary sustainability consultant for Forward Dining Solutions LLC. Chris helped build and run the Chatham University Eden Hall’s all-electric kitchen (the world’s first ZNE campus). “[Traditionally,] when I know something off the line is coming for me to sauté eventually, I’ll have pans on the burners on low, so they are already hot, and I am all ready to go.” With induction cooking, Chris learned that he just did not need to do that. With a cold pan, he can still cook faster than the chef with the preheated pans – AND he is able to demonstrate savings on fuel, and cooling costs. At Eden Hall, the ventilation systems are controlled and interconnected with the cooktops, so they only run when cooking is happening. Energy AND air quality are monitored in real time. Galarza recognized a 9-month payback, despite spending 3 times the first cost of a traditional kitchen. He credits reduced energy savings and improved operational efficiency.

If You Operate a Commercial Kitchen:

  • Specify electric equipment for everything — If you are considering building a new commercial kitchen or renovating an existing one soon, avoid the gas fired equipment and opt instead for electric alternatives (water heaters, ovens, and induction stoves, for instance).
  • Think creatively about efficiency and sequencing – All chefs learn the term “mise en place”, which means to get things set up before you cook. With induction cooking, this becomes a must-do activity. Old habits can be hard to break, but chefs are used to learning new tricks whenever they enter a new environment, so this should not be any different.
  • Upgrade your electrical panels – Sooner or later, you will be replacing your equipment, or doing a deeper modernization on your facility. When you opt for electric equipment, your load will go up, and this may exceed your capacity. Upgrading your panels requires a lengthy application process through your local jurisdiction, and a lengthier one through your utility company. Hire a consultant, do the calculations, and start now.

When Robert Kenny, Vice President of PG&E, wrote “PG&E believes a multi-faceted approach is needed to cost-effectively achieve California’s broader economy wide long-term GHG reduction objectives” he recognized that it is not just the job of the utility company and the regulators to policy our way out of climate catastrophe danger, but a job for all of us. We must look at what we accept as true and inviolable and consider that there could be another way to operate. Frankly, as an unsinkable optimist, I prefer to think of this as an opportunity to invent something new: a process or product. Doesn’t that sound like more fun, anyway?



GreenePrincipal, S. (n.d.). PG&E agrees: California should go all-electric in new construction. Retrieved January 02, 2021, from

Lin W, Brunekreef B, Gehring, U. Meta-analysis of the effects of indoor nitrogen dioxide and gas cooking on asthma and wheeze in children. Int J Epidemiol. 2013; 42:1724–1737.

Photo Credits:

Liz Seabrook

Richard Perry/The New York Times

Michael Grimm/Business Insider

Woodworks Aedis Feature

In their most recent newsletter, WoodWorks featured Aedis Architects and our passion for Mass Timber design. The article spotlights an interview with John Diffenderfer and Afsha Ali, AIA. In it, they share Aedis’ vision for TimberQuest, a pre-engineered #MassTimber building solution to house all manners of educational programs for California schools. The article highlights how Aedis prioritizes wood as a #SustainableDesign solution in our effort to leave a #LastingPositiveImpact on the communities we serve. We invite you to read the entire interview here: