Leslie Schneeberger’s new firm puts sustainable design above all else.Schneeberger Collective’s office. PHOTO COURTESY OF THE BRANDSchneeberger Collective’s office.

When architect and designer Leslie Schneeberger opened the doors to her newest venture, Schneeberger Collective (schneebergercollective.com), last June, she had a vision in mind: to build a highly collaborative operation with an eye toward sustainability. She got to work harnessing a multi-talented team. “Throughout my entire career, every project I have done as a collaboration has been stronger,” she says. She draws on her team’s strengths, like creating serene interiors and stunning exteriors, while designing every aspect of a single-family home, from its facade down to the hardware on the kitchen cabinets. The process—and the end result—can be summed up in one word: cohesive.

Yet above all, the Harwich-based collective underscores a commitment to sustainability. “We’re at a place where everybody has to do something to address it,” Schneeberger says. When starting a project, the first question she asks is: How can we reduce waste? “If it’s a renovation, does it need to be a tear-down? If it doesn’t, what can we keep out of a landfill?” she reasons. In other cases, she finds ways to put materials back into the supply chain, like donating usable flooring and cabinets to one of the Cape’s Habitat for Humanity ReStores.

“The most fun part is the selection side,” Schneeberger says. There’s delight in choosing beautiful sustainable finishes, sourcing materials from factories with low carbon footprints and finding makers locally, thus eliminating the need for high-cost (and high-emission) shipping. “There’s a connection that you make with the people that are actually building things for your project,” she says.

Still, sustainable design has some not-so-sexy, but vitally important, components. “The insulation, the windows, the HVAC systems—they’re an important first piece of every project,” Schneeberger says. “If you do these things really well, they make a huge difference in the home’s footprint.”

Leslie Schneeberger

Deciding on the orientation of the home to maximize sunlight, identifying ways to install unobtrusive solar panels and installing geothermal heat pumps are other considerations. Schneeberger’s welcome challenge is for each green feature to blend in with the rest of the home’s design.

Perhaps the best example of this cohesiveness in green design is in the Schneeberger Collective’s offices. While renovating the space, Schneeberger took care to select materials free of harmful byproducts. Schneeberger researched commercial-grade cork flooring made of recycled wine bottle corks. Once it was installed, it became a conversation piece among clients and designers alike.

“If I’m going to be pushing sustainability, how can I not incorporate it into all the selections that I make for the office?” Schneeberger muses.

It’s this attitude that solidifies the firm’s commitment to putting sustainable design at the forefront.