Subversive Sustainability: Subtle Aspects That Form a Powerful Narrative


The Green Building
Rabbit Hole Distilling










We designed the first LEED Platinum building in the downtown Louisville, Kentucky, area known as  The Green Building. It opened in 2008. Little did we know that 10 years later, we would be commissioned to design the new Rabbit Hole Distilling campus right next door. We completed the main distilling building earlier this year.

Subsequent to The Green Building, the Nulu neighborhood received an EPA grant for LEED Neighborhoods, one of only a few across the country. Now the two projects form bookends that set up Nulu’s exemplary core.

Though the new Rabbit Hole campus is not LEED Certified, it is in keeping with pod architecture + design‘s mantra. Which means there are a lot of interesting sustainable bits quietly woven into the project’s design fabric.  I call it “subversive sustainability” —  subtle aspects of the project that form a powerful narrative in the overall design concept.

Consider the  following “subtle aspects” at Rabbit Hole and visit our website at to see a full gallery of images:

  1. Adaptive reuse: We repurposed an 11,000-square-foot former tire warehouse on the property. One of the “greenest” things you can do in construction is not to build but, instead, to re-use and improve a structure that is already there. We fought to keep the 60-year-old building and work around it because we thought it was the right thing to do.  And we re-used the steel framing removed from the warehouse as our trellis at the front entry.  As a result, we were able to sustain the memory of the old neighborhood, tell a story through the architecture about adaptive re-use, and upgrade the experience of occupying a unique space both in the neighborhood and in the building.
  2. Local sourcing: The metal panels came from Metal Sales in Louisville: Developed through R&D, we set up a new product with Rabbit Hole as the flagship project.
  3. We used local materials, suppliers, and contractors to reduce the building’s carbon footprint.
  4. We specified dual-purpose chillers and hot water tanks for both bourbon production and building use — which may be a first in distilleries
  5. Production design efficiency: Most of the processing occurs is gravity flow, which means fewer pumps are needed and less energy is consumed.  The idea: to apply “old school” methods to “new school” technology.
  6. We used outdoor air mixing in production spaces.
  7. We specified Big Ass Fans® in warehouses and back-of-house spaces instead of high-energy mechanical systems.
  8. We devised tiered comfort zone designs to ensure minimal energy use in a usually maximal energy use industry.
  9. The distillery re-uses fermented grain (stillage) as a bio-source of heat for cooker equipment (which also adds complexity and depth to the bourbon taste).
  10. We used exterior wood louvers to eliminate heat gain before it gets trapped in the building.
  11. We opted for hermal mass concrete floors.
  12. Quality of life considerations: The building provides abundant views of downtown, the Nulu neighborhood, and the bridges over the Ohio River
  13. We also like to think that this distillery is a really cool design that integrates all systems into one coherent sense of place.

Author: podnewsandmedia

At pod a+d, we believe in the integration of architecture and all aspects of design to connect buildings + environment + identity. That's why pod a+d is a hybrid firm, offering all architectural services, experiential graphics and wayfinding design. Exterior and interior architecture; furnishings and finishes; financial feasibility and scheduling; engineering and construction; and environmental graphics  – considered simultaneously, these disciplines inform our hybrid/integrated approach to architecture. 

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