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Santa Barbara Direct Relief project wins honor award for green design

Santa Barbara Direct Relief project wins honor award for green design

Direct Relief’s new Santa Barbara corporate headquarters and distribution facility recently was given the Green New Building Design Award by the U.S. Green Building Council Central Coast chapter for its innovative, cost-effective and environmentally responsible design.

Direct Relief is a technology-driven organization that delivers medical assistance to those affected by natural disasters, globally and free of charge.

The 2020 award was presented through a virtual ceremony featuring the best green and sustainable architecture and interior design projects in the Tri-Counties, according to Michael Holliday, principal architect of DMHA Architecture + Interior Design.

“This is a very exciting and noteworthy award for the Direct Relief organization," Holliday said. "We are honored to have been the architects leading the design effort for this significant community benefit project.”

DMHA architects, along with partner engineering consultants, designers, design-build contractors and specialty consultants, were collectively recognized for the award-winning project. 

According to Holliday, the undertaking was a team effort.

The 155,000-square-foot Mediterranean-modern project was designed by landscape architect Courtney Jane Miller of CJM:LA, civil engineers Stantec Consulting Services and general contractor ARCO Design-Build.

Holliday explained that the 7.99-acre project site, which promotes functionality first, was planned to transform the previously impervious concrete airport runway into a new biodiverse resource with extensive drought-tolerant landscaping.

Features of the project include an extensive bioswale and bioretention system to remove contaminants and sedimentation from stormwater while keeping runoff on-site to help recharge local drought-stricken groundwater basins. Landscaping also was introduced to complement the building architecture and the historic nature of the site that was previously a slough during the Chumash era.

The building itself is energy-efficient and utilizes state-of-the-art solar technology, including a Tesla battery system, which can enable the entire facility to run off-grid for up to 6 months in an emergency event, Holliday said.

“This functional off-grid operating capacity is a very impressive energy goal to be achieved for any emergency services organization,” he said. “This project is also reportedly the first permitted micro-grid system in the United States, a milestone achievable only because Direct Relief is the No. 1 rated nonprofit emergency services operation in the country and received favorable support for the system to be permitted and installed."

According to Holliday, local architects are crediting the Santa Barbara Board of Architectural Review for the overall success of the project design, noting a supported vision and innovative design approach as central to the buildout.

“Fortunately, the board saw the value of applying the traditional Mediterranean-modern design review criteria to this unique project in a very creative and innovative manner,” Holliday said.

For more information on the project, or to support Direct Relief visit

Lisa André covers lifestyle and local news for Santa Ynez Valley News and Lompoc Record. 


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