About

Carl S. Sterner, AIA, LEED AP, CPHC, has dedicated his career to pushing the boundaries of sustainable design. As Director of Design and Sustainability at Sol Design + Consulting, he leads the design and delivery of ambitious sustainable projects, among them Passive House and Living Building Challenge projects. He previously worked as a Product Manager and Director of Product Marketing at Sefaira, where he helped to create one of the most widely-used energy modeling and daylight analysis tools on the market, and as a Designer at William McDonough + Partners, where he contributed to Net Positive Energy and LEED Platinum projects.

Carl's design work has earned multiple awards, among them the ICF Builder Award for Small Residential Design (2020), the Over-the-Rhine Infill Design Competition (2018) (with Sol Design + Consulting), the Living City Design Competition “Images that Provoke” Award (2011) (with Rollerhaus), and the Emerging Green Builder’s Design Competition (2007).

Carl's work is an effort to leverage the built environment to help foster a truly sustainable society — not only ecologically viable, but also more equitable, humane, and joyous. This means tackling not only the technical aspects of sustainability (energy efficiency, resource conservation, etc.), but also the structural socio-economic issues that are at the root of un-sustainability. This work is currently progressing along three fronts:

  • Resilience, broadly defined. Resilience is core to long-term sustainability; but it must be understood as far more than "disaster preparedness." Carl served on the Advisory Committee for the LEED Pilot credits on Resilience, including helping to develop the Passive Survivability credit — and published "Designing Resilience" in New Directions in Sustainable Design. He is working to build upon this foundation to broaden the discourse around resilience.
  • Making sustainability affordable. High-performance building must be cost-competitive to address the twin challenges of climate change and inequality. Carl's Iowa Nest Residence is one experiment in affordability, targeting Net Zero on a conventional budget. The Iowa City Passive House (currently under construction) is another. At Sol Design + Consulting, which has extensive experience in affordable, sustainable housing, he was a consultant on Ohio's first multifamily Passive House — an affordable senior living community.
  • Architecture and system change. How can architecture, as a profession and an artifact, begin to envision and embody a new way of living in the world? How can it be a catalyst for the deeper systemic changes required? Preliminary thoughts are outlined in "Design Credo," the essay "Responding to Modernity," the Masters thesis "A Sustainable Pattern Language," and the 2018 talk "Toward an Architecture of the Next System."

This work extends to community engagement. He serves on the board of NEST, a local community redeveloped corporation focused on affordable housing and sustainable development; on the Cincinnati 2030 District Working Group, where he is a founding member; and as a member of Green Umbrella's Energy Impact Team, which coordinates the energy-related efforts of the regional sustainability alliance. He also serves as an advisor for several sustainability-focused startups.

Carl's other passion is music. He has studied music composition at The Julliard School and Cincinnati's College Conservatory of Music, and his compositions have been performed in New York and Cincinnati.

He lives in Cincinnati with his wonderful wife, Colleen, and his two children, Theo and Isaac.