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C&H Architects Celebrates 30 Years of Sustainable Design

AMHERST — C&H Architects is celebrating 30 years of designing sustainable architecture.

The firm’s work serves as an example of how, in a time of critical climate challenges, developers can add to the built environment in a way that improves the sustainability of future generations, rather than threatening it, partner Jesse Selman said. “We have an ethical duty to understand the impact of our work — both socially and environmentally. It is a challenge that forms the basis of our work — and is what gets us up in the morning.”

At their most basic level, buildings protect individuals from the elements. Beyond that, they shape the environment and provide texture to people’s lives. Buildings, however, are also one of the largest contributors to global warming, accounting for nearly 40% of all greenhouse-gas emissions worldwide — a statistic expected to double by 2050. In an effort to mitigate these impacts, there has been a steady increase in sustainable architecture — the design of buildings that work in harmony with the environment.

C&H Architects has been at the forefront of this effort for the past 30 years. It designed the fifth-ever certified Living Building Challenge project in the world (and the first in New England) for Smith College’s MacLeish Field Station, the most rigorous performance standard for buildings available. The firm has designed more than 10 net-zero homes, the most recent of which won the top honor at AIA (American Institute of Architecture) Rhode Island in 2018, and includes a solar array that powers both the house and the car of its occupants.

Founded in 1989 by Bruce Coldham to create architecture that responds to our rapidly changing climate and resources, the Amherst-based firm has served hundreds of clients with projects at every scale, from small residential renovations to large institutional construction.

Today, the firm’s four partners — Tom Hartman, Garth Schwellenbach, Jesse Selman, and Elizabeth Morgan — carry on the tradition Coldham started, while constantly incorporating advances in building technology, materials, and practices. Their forward-thinking mindset is embodied by their mission to “design for the next hundred years.” Their work can be seen on their website, candharchitects.com.

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