CEM Design

Architects designing green, sustainable buildings since 1981.

At CEM Design we focus primarily on historic restoration and renovation, and environmentally sustainable “green” design.  While these may seem to be very different areas of expertise, we believe they are essentially complimentary.  The most sustainable building conserves and reuses the embodied energy of an existing building.  We are corporate members of the USGBC, Energy Star Partners, Green America, and Maryland Green Registry.

The practice of architecture is an inherently paper intensive profession.  In 2009, we made a commitment to utilize quantifiably less paper.  We now use FTP protocols for sending documents to engineers, consultants, contractors, and reviewers whenever possible.  We email clients PDF files for contracts, billing, and plan review, and maintain an on-line plan room with limited access.  Our production of waste paper has been reduced by more than 50%.  All paper we use must have 50% or greater recycled content.

We have an on-going program to reduce the carbon footprint of our office by utilizing high efficiency electronic equipment and lighting, and purchasing carbon offsets for interstate travel.

Our corporate culture of sustainability extends back to 1986, when we designed our first passive solar home in Potomac, MD, long before it became popular.  Since then, we have designed numerous passive and active solar buildings, both commercial and residential.  We designed a home powered by photovoltaics in Leonardtown, MD under the Million Solar  Roofs program, that was partially funded by the SMEC.  We designed a high-tech passive and active solar home in Gunnison, CO, and a passively cooled home in central Florida.  We designed our first geothermally heated and cooled building in 2002. 

In 2001, we designed a community center for the City of Rockville that was the first building in the city designed to LEED Certified standards.  This was not a requirement of the City, but we felt it was the right thing to do.  I serve as a volunteer on the City of Rockville Historic District Commission, which is charged under the State of Maryland code with preservation of the historic resources of the City.  Our employees are encouraged to participate in local preservation and environmental projects.  We regularly teach seminars on energy conservation and alternative energy utilization to community groups and the local chapter of the American Institute of Architects.  We are course reviewers for the USGBC Greenbuild convention educational programs.

We converted our office heating system to a 98% efficient natural gas fired boiler.  It was a 1930’s vintage oil-fired boiler.  The air conditioning system is a new, 19 SEER rated system. Our electricity is purchased from a wind power provider.  Even our website host is wind powered.

Whenever possible, our employees are encouraged to work from home.  We provide bicycle storage, and shower and changing facilities on site for bicycle commuters.  We are within 100-yds. of a bus route, and less than a mile from a subway route.  We use teleconferencing for weekly meetings on all of our remote clients or projects.  This eliminates the need for physical meetings, and can eliminate the need for project site visits.  Our office car is a gas/electric hybrid.  Our building is on approximately ½-acre, but our office footprint is a mere 600 sq. ft. The balance of the site is heavily vegetated, and serves as a local storm water absorption area.

CEM Design has built a reputation for excellence in providing award-winning design and management solutions to hundreds of commercial and residential clients.  Our primary areas of focus are historic restoration and renovation, and environmentally sustainable “green” design.  While these may seem to be very different areas of expertise, we believe they are essentially complimentary.  The most sustainable building conserves and reuses the embodied energy of an existing building.

Our residential commissions include numerous custom additions and renovations, including work on historic structures and accessible adaptations, through super-custom one-off houses.  We have won numerous awards and recognition for our residential work from very diverse groups.   A passive solar addition to a 1901 farmhouse in Dickerson, MD won an award from a local preservation organization, and was featured on Old Homes Restored, on the HGTV network.

Commercial work includes regional headquarters buildings for national corporations, general office tenant, professional office tenant and new construction, site analysis, and value engineering. We have also designed several restaurants and retail stores. 

Institutional projects include a regional drug and alcohol clinic, assisted living facilities, half-way houses and a high school for indigent teens, and two community centers for the City of Rockville, MD.

Industrial work includes the laboratory for the company that produces the color-shift ink for the new U.S. currency, and several warehouses.

CEM Design was selected to be the Resident Architect for a federally funded demonstration project for Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) compliance. Design and construction of the renovations required to comply with the Act were filmed for a PBS broadcast special.

Construction has recently been completed on a complex mixed use restoration and addition to the 1764 Falling Green manor house as the corporate headquarters for the Olney Boys and Girls Clubs.  The building utilizes a geothermal heating and air-conditioning system.

CEM Design is committed to the principles providing comprehensive, personalized service; designing aesthetically appropriate, innovative projects that utilize state of the art materials and methods; and insuring that projects are completed on time and within budget.  We have received several awards for our thoughtful, innovative designs, and numerous accolades for the thoroughness and accuracy of the documents we produce.

We are licensed architects in the District of Columbia, Maryland, Virginia, Colorado, and Massachusetts, and we hold national certification (NCARB).