Ratcliff Architecture News

RATCLIFF launches "Sustainability Planning" Service to Address Climate Change - February 9, 2011

RATCLIFF, http://www.ratcliffarch.com, the San Francisco Bay Area architectural firm that has developed such web-based “green” design tools as GreenMatrixTM and Green Action Plan, has expanded its capacity in order to address climate change, moving beyond “green” architecture into systems-wide sustainability planning. 

Established in 2010 and headed by architect Ross Levy, AIA, LEED, the firm’s Director of Sustainability, the Sustainability Planning group http://www.ratcliffarch.com/Sustainability includes firm president Kit RATCLIFF, FAIA, NCARB, LEED® AP and Brian Feagans, AIA, NCARB, LEED® AP. 

The service guides the firm’s new and existing clients in academic, civic and healthcare sectors to assess their planned--or existing--facility and ultimately eliminate detrimental climate impacts from all activities where the organization has influence.

One of Levy’s first initiatives was to organize a workshop for K-12 educators in the San Francisco Bay Area. Thirty teachers, administrators, trustees and faculty representing a dozen campuses came to RATCLIFF’s offices on November 11, 2010, where they were led through a group exercise to collectively gain an understanding of how their efforts to “green” their schools might be better organized. 

In the second phase of the process, Levy and Feagans are visiting each campus to gather baseline data on current sustainability practices.  This information will be distilled and published in an online format using “CoolClimate Carbon Calculator,” http://coolclimate.berkeley.edu/, a tool developed by the UC Berkeley Institute of the Environment.  Schools will then be in a position to compare important performance metrics and share best practices. 

“Architects can and must lead the building industry in making critical changes in infrastructure and building design,” said Ratcliff, in announcing the new division and Levy’s appointment. “Ross Levy is this kind of leader. He has the knowledge, dedication, influence and passion to bring our firm to the next level, offering our clients a comprehensive sustainability solution.”

Levy views the solution as comprising systems that are adaptive and resilient, mutually supportive, flexible and overlapping so that necessary functions may be fulfilled in a variety of ways.  “Adaptive system planning brings us towards a vision of the future with the knowledge that we live in a dynamic environment,” said Levy. “By engaging in the sustainable discourse at the most encompassing level, we are gaining a tremendous amount of knowledge that we are bringing back to our architectural practice.”

“All of our actions have associated consequences, many of which are not considered in traditional practice,” said RATCLIFF. In this sense, we are re-inventing the practice of architecture, expanding the definition of environmental design by looking at complete systems, inputs and outflows and taking responsibility for long-term resilience and sustainability.”

Levy is involved in a number of environmental initiatives both nationally and internationally. He is representing RATCLIFF in work with the Rainforest Action Network and Environmental Protection Agency to facilitate Southeast Asian forest protection as a portion of California’s new Cap and Trade legislation (AB32, REDD).  He attended the Governor’s Climate Summit in 2010, and is leading the firm’s volunteer efforts to assist Berkeley High School, Berkeley, California, with a curriculum for their new Green Academy http://sites.google.com/site/greenacademybhs.


Ross Levy, AIA, LEED is a licensed architect and building contractor. Prior to joining RATCLIFF he established one of the first independent design studios in San Francisco dedicated to progressive, sustainable design in 1999. He holds a B.A. in Architecture from the University of California, Berkeley, and a Master of Architecture from The Harvard University Graduate School of Design.  He is a Certified Green Building Professional, a member of the U.S. Green Building Council, Founding Board Member of the Vietnam Green Building Council and is a member of the National Resources Defense Council—E2.

Headquartered in Emeryville, California, RATCLIFF provides architecture, interior design, and planning services to healthcare, academic, and civic clients throughout the Western United States.  After more than a century of practice, the firm remains committed to a holistic approach to building design. The firm is a signer on the 2030 Challenge and 2030 Commitment (AIA) that obligates it to evolve the practice so that by the year 2030 it will be designing entirely carbon-neutral buildings.