Thinking Outside the “Box” for Greater Sustainability

Meet “Box Factory” – a model for decarbonizing the building sector

Photography by © Branded Content Media, Doug Birnbaum

#MagnificentMetalMonday takes a closer look at the “Box Factory,” the brainchild of Hafsa Burt, AIA, LEEP AP, BD+C, NCARB, and Studio Head at hb+a Architects of San Francisco. Burt has not only been actively helping California become “clean,” she “walks the talk.” For the past 20 years, her firm’s motto, “Zero (energy/carbon) is everything,” has kept them focused on explorations into environmental sustainability, indoor air quality, and the health of the planet and its people,

In an article in Rise Magazine, she says “Experimentation and innovation are the backbones of our company. We’re constantly looking for new ways to solve old problems.” Through Box Lab, the R&D arm of Burt’s firm, whose primary focus is on research in product and space design and zero energy/zero carbon buildings, the team designed and built the Box Factory — a 1750 sq. ft. prefabricated, zero energy/zero carbon single-family residence.

A Zero-Energy / Zero-Carbon Structure

With a goal of solving old problems, Box Lab set out with the intent of exploring construction efficiencies to produce a project resilient to climate emergencies. The result: a zero-energy, zero-carbon structure that has R-50 walls and roofs, and is powered by a solar array that provides more energy than the building consumes. The structure is clad in Galvanized Metal Wall panels with air, water, thermal, and vapor barriers. The project proves to be a successful, working example of electrification not dependent on fossil fuels. The use of prefabricated efficiencies significantly reduced construction time and waste.

Built in 2019, it will be a patented product that Burt’s firm can customize to the specific site conditions of each client. Learn more about how the Box Factory can be a future solution for your clients.

Understanding EPDs at METALCON ’23 Presented by Hafsa Burt

Burt will share her 23 years of experience and expertise this month at METALCON during her educational session, Understanding EPDs, focusing on the decarbonization of the building sector.

What is an EPD?

According to Ecochain, “An Environmental Product Declaration (EPD) is a standardized document informing about a product’s environmental and human health impact. The general goal of EPDs is to use verifiable and accurate information to encourage the demand for, and supply of products that have a lower negative impact on the environment. It functions as proof and/or claim for a sustainable product, which companies can use for commercial reasons.”

Why is Decarbonizing Important?

“California made history by codifying embodied carbon reduction measures as part of the Title 24 part 11 CalGreen,” Burt says. “Specific language mandates prescriptive requirements in line with Buy Clean California, adding GWP limits for concrete. Embodied carbon has been in the background since the beginning of the efforts to control greenhouse gas emissions, but it was hardly mainstream. Difficult to define, measure, control, it was, for a long time, considered more ‘aspirational’ than ‘functional.’ As we’ve run the clock down and are now facing a level of urgency that is palpable, especially when surrounded by people who have cared about this for a long time, and who are understandably frustrated by the lack of progress, today embodied carbon is moved to the spotlight.”

Burt says a growing “patchwork” of policies across the country uniquely address embodied carbon. “For a successful climate policy, jurisdictions, designers, developers and product manufacturers alike need a unified approach,” she says. “Through embodied carbon standards that are adopted by codes and policies, the built environment can reduce 11 percent out of 40 percent of global GHG emissions associate with buildings. In order to comply with prescriptive requirements of these policies and codes, design professionals will need to understand environmental product data of various materials to understand their carbon footprint and GWP limits.”

More about our Speaker

Burt has been practicing architecture for 23 years after earning an undergraduate degree and a professional Master of Architecture from the Savannah College of Art & Design (SCAD). She has been running her own studio, hb+a Architects, since 2006 with a portfolio spanning work at the San Francisco Airport, institutional buildings, multifamily buildings, hospitality, retail, and medical office buildings. An environmentalist, Burt adopted the 2030 challenge a decade ago and is a huge proponent of high-performance buildings. An industry expert on “Healthy Building Practices,” her focus includes eliminating toxins with indoor air quality as a specialty and actively speaks on the topic as it relates to the practice of architecture. She is a member of the AIA California Climate Action Committee and has been advocating for de-carbonizing the built environment.


Sustainability is a buzzword at METALCON ’23. Where else will you have the opportunity to learn from one of the most inspiring and extraordinary sustainability leaders in the design industry? Burt’s educational session will take place on the first official day of the event, Wednesday, October 18 at 12:45 pm in the Sustainability Learning Center, located on the exhibit floor at the Las Vegas Convention Center. This course is approved for 1.0 AIA CEC Health, Safety, Welfare Learning Unit.

There is still time to REGISTER! Use the discount code — DISCOVER — to get $20 off your registration. Or save up to $140 by upgrading your registration with a Value Pass and add on one or two workshops.

We look forward to seeing you soon at METALCON ’23! Only 16 days to go!


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