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Nov 23 • Eco-life, EXTRA! EXTRA!No Comments on EcoLife:

When it comes to architectural and landscape design, Lara Berkley, ASLA/LEED AP, and Scott Ogden, AIA/LEED AP, work literally from the ground up. Partners in B+O Design Studio, located at 205 Princess Street, Berkley and Ogden help homeowners turn green into a lifestyle, not just a practice. The pair began their own firm to bring sustainable building practices to Wilmington with the hopes of adding a more creative edge to eco-design, something Ogden believes people are already searching for. “People come to us, asking for it,” he says.

B+O Design holds a watchful eye on the environmental habitat around building sites. A mission statement for the firm, as Berkley and Ogden explain, would be to remain “lean, small and resource-efficient.”

Having opened B+O Design Studio in 2005 after moving to Wilmington from Seattle, Washington, the team gathered 12 years of experience in architecture and landscape design. “Seattle was an adventure place for us,” Berkley says. They worked with various design firms on custom homes, commercial sites, and education and park facilities. While looking for a new city to call home, Berkley and Ogden came to Wilmington on vacation and were quickly captured by our coastal town.

“Honestly, it wasn’t on our list to start [looking],” Ogden says. “We were between the Triangle and Charleston, but we came through Wilmington to see the aquarium Lara had worked on in Seattle and stay the weekend.” Reminding them of Monterey Bay and Santa Cruz, both enjoyed Wilmington’s “smaller, laid-back, artsy, surf town”—not to mention, it’s closer to family.

After settling down, B+O Designs began to tackle projects on small and large scales, in towns all across North Carolina. Coming from a West Coast city, both Berkley and Ogden each have their own interpretations of the quintessential Southern ambiance. Despite being warned against it, B+O carries “modern” with its name; not to dissuade rustic Southern design techniques, but because of the advanced and hyper-contemporary culture that we live in. “We like to reinterpret vernacular,” Ogden says. “We still like to try and be authentic in what we do for our clients.”

B+O has participated and launched many local projects under the “green” business label. The firm puts the environment on the forefront of design, researching and implementing efficient storm water, native vegetation, clearing and erosion practices as much as possible. “Being resource efficient is green,” Berkley claims, “It’s not something we regard as separate.”

Two notable projects that B+O Design Studio has recently completed are the Midori housing on 29th and the Barrier Island Study Center. The Midori home is a NC Healthy Built Homes Certified Development. Working on the project as architects, B+O designed the townhome vertically to exploit spatial benefits. Vertical homes also have a low impact on the surrounding habitat and tree disturbance; the Midori home is privileged to expansive tree canopy, limiting the need for unnecessary cooling in the summer months. Currently, B+O has another Midori home in progress and one under contract.

Partnering with local architect Jay DeChesere, B+O was also the resident landscaping team for the Barrier Island Study Center, a project geared toward education. Located at the Bald Head Island Conservancy (BHIC), the center boasts research and education laboratories, a library and a conference room. According the BHIC, the barrier islands protect 85 percent of the East and Gulf coasts from wave and wind erosion, but are one of the most rapidly disappearing habitats in the world. The B+O team works to restore important habitat that has been damaged by building and construction; the Barrier Island Study Center is expected to receive platinum LEED certification through the U.S. Green Building Council.

When Berkley and Ogden approach a prospective project, they ask, “How can we do this better?” The design team spends an ample amount of time on the site to determine its needs and restrictions. “There are a lot of geometry exercises that are performed by developers and their surveyors that are laying out subdivisions here,” Berkley voices. “If you hire a design professional, you’re going to get a more qualitative look at how a sight might be altered.”

B+O Design Studio devotes their site analysis primarily to habitat; not only outdoor and wildlife habitat but indoor habitat as well. To address their clients’ needs, Berkley and Ogden have designed a particular, in-depth questionnaire that expands beyond the routine quantitative relationship. In this personal homework assignment, Berkley and Ogden request a spatial history of family, taking into account travel, previous living experiences, the unique characteristics of partnerships, and other aspects that may construct a client’s taste. It also helps them gauge their level of creativity. “We hear a lot of their very personal stories, and that really helps us design specifically for them,” Berkley explains.

In the end, the driving force behind B+O continues to be land conservation and aiding in the reduction of numerous carbon footprints. “We need to build more efficiently, conserve energy, and try to cut down the potential climate change,” Ogden urges.

“We are losing land area, period,” Berkley adds.

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