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Building with New Wisdom

Sustainable Design and Architecture in Idaho

Article by Chelsea Chambers

Photography by Provided

Originally published in Boise Lifestyle

If you’ve been in Idaho for longer than even an hour, it becomes immediately apparent that we are one of the most breathtaking, showstoppingly gorgeous states in the U.S. Or maybe I’m biased but I could talk at great lengths about our bountiful rivers, expansive meadows, deep forests, and the beautiful way we incorporate living with nature into our daily lives, even in the bustling metropolitan Treasure Valley.

Nature and the outdoors are a way of life here in the Gem State, and businesses have learned to mirror that in their practices, especially in building and design. It no longer comes as a surprise that Idaho has officially been discovered. Rapid growth and mass influx of people means that there is a greater need for housing and infrastructure. That’s become more than obvious.

So how are architecture firms, engineers, and designers accommodating the increase in demand while balancing Idaho’s nature-minded mentality? Sustainable design.

Hempitecture (

“Sustainability is at the heart of everything we do,” shared owner and CEO Mattie Mead. “In fact, Hempitecture is a Public Benefit Corporation with a mission to benefit both people and planet through offsetting and storing carbon dioxide in long lasting, high performance, plant-based building materials. On a daily basis, our manufacturing team located in Jerome, ID, is turning hemp fiber into a variety of building materials, ranging from batt insulation to rigid board insulation, as well as acoustic products.”

Every project that Hempitecture sets their sights on incorporates sustainable design as top of mind and many of their clients seek them out to eliminate their reliance on toxic materials. Mattie and his team are able to create products like insulation and long-lasting fireproof, and thermally resistant walls by combining hemp stalk with a mineral binder. Hempitecture helps clients across the country achieve more sustainable outcomes in their building projects by providing building materials solutions that are better for both people and planet.

JSDA Inc. (

Janice Stevenor Dale, owner of JSDA Inc., knows a thing or two about getting creative and by combining the use of sustainable, smart, and artisanal materials, JSDA is able to develop beautiful, eco-friendly designs for the Treasure Valley and beyond. “Our mission is to create personalized spaces that transform workplaces and living spaces, particularly designed to enhance life balance and wellness,” Janice said. “Using sustainable design, we capture the essence of your culture, creating an active, comfortable and beautiful space that galvanizes the gathering of people.” She continues, “On a project designed to capitalize on sustainable design, we scoured through slab ends and scraps to find the perfect vanity for a colorful Mediterranean one-of-kind hand painted sink. Leftovers have never looked better.”

VY Architecture (

Scott Yribar and co-founder Hannah Vaughn specialize in delivering products that mean what is called the 'Passive Building Standard'. “This standard was originally developed in Germany and is the most stringent energy-efficiency standard in the world,” Scott explains. “The main goal behind the Passive House Standard is to create a very well insulated and air-tight building shell so heat either stays in or out of the building.” Projects that align with this standard can require a fraction of the energy that code-built building might use. “Energy consumed by the world’s buildings accounts for a third of the world’s energy use. So, working to increase energy efficiency in buildings is a very important way to reduce overall carbon emissions.”


Lyndsay Watkins, Architectural Designer & Climate Specialist for GGLO, explains their three-faceted method to sustainability. “Our design ethos functions at the intersection of the built environment, human health and well-being, and ecosystem health. We focus on a holistic approach to carbon accounting on our projects which includes embodied carbon, operational carbon and carbon sequestration.” Beyond working with the Carbon Leadership Forum and continually fine-tuning their practices, they also put together integrated sustainability workshops with all the players at the table—clients, contractors, consultants, and the design team—so that everyone is on the same page with their goals. “Sustainable management is important to me because I believe that deepening our connections with the land, each other, and the built environment is critical to responsible and equitable growth in our cities moving forward, particularly in Boise. Growing up here and seeing how the city has developed and how we’ve experienced climate change in the valley, I feel incredibly motivated to help shift our path towards a future that is both resilient and moves beyond sustainability into the regenerative.”

NeighborWorks (

From concept to implementation, NeighborWorks integrates sustainable building in a variety of ways including drought-tolerant gardens, solar panel installation, and community-mindedness. “The design should also include a range of housing sizes that are affordable for

As a lifelong Idahoan, I take deep solace in knowing that we are building not just for the now, but for our future.

  • Hempitecture
  • Hempitecture
  • Hempitecture
  • Hempitecture
  • JSDA
  • JSDA
  • GGLO
  • TOP: Exploring the qualities of natural light and air, and the relationship to the skyline, GGLO
  • LEFT: 5th Street Passive House, VY Architecture
  • VY Architecture
  • Ashtree Passive House, VY Architecture
  • NeighborWorks
  • ABOVE: Creating innovative housing solutions that contributes to building stronger communities, NeighborWorks