SmithGroup promotes Greg Mella to Director of Sustainable Design

Champion of green building as necessary, affordable and inspirational

SmithGroup, one of the nation’s leading architecture, engineering and planning firms, has promoted Greg Mella, FAIA, LEED AP BD+C, to the role of director of sustainable design. Mella assumes leadership of SmithGroup’s firm-wide sustainability initiatives after serving as co-director with Russell Perry, FAIA, LEED Fellow, who is retiring from the firm.

Mella is a pioneer and nationally recognized expert in sustainable design. Over the past 15 years, he has risen to become one of the nation’s leading authorities on a myriad of green design topics and initiatives, including net-zero energy design, rainwater harvesting and net-zero water design, resilient design, materials transparency, and energy metrics and benchmarking.

Among Mella’s goals as he rises to direct sustainable design at SmithGroup is maximizing the ecological opportunity of everything the firm designs. Explains Mella, “As I continue to advance our pacesetting sustainable design and leadership in the industry, my mantra is, ‘No project left behind’.”

Mella first gained national attention in 2000 as a visible advocate of sustainable design when he served as SmithGroup’s project architect for what would become the world’s first LEED Platinum building – the Philip Merrill Environmental Center, the Chesapeake Bay Foundation’s headquarters in Annapolis, Maryland. With its energy efficiency, high performance and water conservation, the building became a world-renowned model for sustainability.

Mella led the SmithGroup team to again work with the Chesapeake Bay Foundation to create a new model for energy and water efficiency and climate change resiliency in the Brock Environmental Center, an ultra-green, $8 million workplace and environmental education center completed in late 2014 in Virginia Beach, Virginia. With its aggressive, energy-saving features and ability to generate its own electricity via solar and wind-powered renewable energy, the Brock Center produced 83% more energy than it used over 12 consecutive months. In May 2016, the Brock Center became one of only 11 buildings worldwide to earn full Living Building Challenge certification, a green building certification program sponsored by the International Living Futures Institute (ILFI) that defines the most advanced measure of sustainability in the built environment possible today. Soon after, Mella was honored as a recipient of the 2016 Living Building Challenge Hero Award, given to individuals who have demonstrated exceptional commitment to the Living Building Challenge and whose work has helped to create an ecologically resilient and regenerative built environment. 

“Greg Mella has proven high-performance design is cost effective, beautiful and absolutely achievable,” said Troy Thompson, AIA, LEED AP, managing partner, SmithGroup. “Our clients have greatly benefitted from his expertise and dedication to forward-thinking, pacesetting sustainable design.”

In addition to the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, Mella has been active with several of the firm’s most significant, long-time clients, such as the Smithsonian Institution, St. Mary’s College of Maryland, and Holy Cross Health. His recent projects include a new ultra-green office for DPR Construction in Reston, Virginia that’s targeting LEED Platinum and Net-Zero Energy certification. 

Mella’s contributions to the profession of architecture and sustainable design have been significant. In 2015, he co-authored SmithGroup’s HPD Library, a searchable database containing hundreds of Health Product Declarations that owners and designers can access free of charge to assist in their material selection and LEED documentation process. 

A member of the American Institute of Architects (AIA) since 1999, Mella has served on several of its national committees and influenced the industry by creating resources to accelerate the profession’s understanding and adoption of high performance buildings. He is currently co-chair of the AIA 2030 Commitment Working Group and has helped define the metrics architecture firms use to report their progress towards meeting the 2030 energy targets.  

Mella has shared his sustainable design expertise during more than 50 presentations to academic, professional and general audiences. These include Greenbuild, the world's largest conference and expo dedicated to green building, as well as the Living Future Unconference, a forum for leading minds in the green building movement sponsored by the ILFI. He has presented at multiple AIA National conventions on topics such as materials selection, rainwater collection, energy use intensity, and the 2030 Commitment. In 2006, he was conference co-chair of for the first-ever joint meeting of the AIA Committee on Design and the AIA Committee on the Environment, “The Architecture of Sustainability.”

He is a graduate of The Catholic University of America with a Master’s of Architecture degree and a registered architect in Maryland, Virginia and the District of Columbia. Mella has lived on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC for 25 years.    

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Watch Greg Mella in the SmithGroup video, “Sustainable Design: Looking Forward.”