Living Architecture

moss believes sustainable design is a holistic design methodology that acknowledges the importance of surroundings and built space.

Our architecture promotes various environmental activities—from biodiversity, water quality, and agriculture to transportation, energy production, and waste management. If these concepts are developed in a communal atmosphere, resources and ideas can be shared among local occupants while minimizing waste and optimizing productivity.


moss provides full-service architectural services to assist our clients through the entire architecture and construction process, from site selection and acquisition to occupancy, while taking great care of our client’s timeline, budgets, and aesthetic aspirations. Below is a detailed description of each architectural phase, along with the drawings prepared.

Site Selection

All design aspects need to be considered to make a design truly sustainable. This includes site design, water efficiency, materials and methods, energy and atmosphere, and indoor environmental quality. Of equal importance is understanding the impact of architecture on a micro-site, regional, and universal level. Any action performed on a project site impacts everything located downstream, which means we have a responsibility, even outside of our local frame of reference.

Schematic Design

During schematic design, moss investigates site characteristics and, if requested, advises on LEED criteria to ensure the design has proper solar orientation for lighting and heating/cooling and natural ventilation to provide proper passive design. Passive design strategies rely on natural and non-mechanical methods to cost-effectively condition the space. At the Carmen Housewe relocated the family room towards the rear of the house to take advantage of the solar heat gain. We added a master bedroom suite with a private balcony and floor-to-ceiling windows to allow natural light in. To maximize natural light at the Cortez Housewe added a cantilevered, modern Corten steel addition at the rear of the structure with a double-height bedroom, bathroom, and a private deck.

By exploring unique ways to reuse existing building stock for new uses, we have transformed several project building sites into beautiful structures that blend with their existing surroundings. An example of this approach is evident at Brew. We transformed the ground floor of the historic Traverse City Opera House by exposing the original maple floors, yellow masonry, and rustic tin ceiling. Also, the Lawrence House, a former residential hotel that was abandoned for 50 years. We rehabbed the building, including 331 apartment units, and restored several historical details, including the lobby and the formerly boarded-up pool in the basement.

Design Development

In the spirit of reuse and upcycling, our designs incorporate sustainable materials without sacrificing design integrity. We will advise on the cost and environmental savings achieved by incorporating alternative and efficient energy sources such as geothermal, solar, and wind and sourcing local, reclaimed, upcycled, and salvaged materials. moss works collaboratively with the entire project team to provide cohesive and thoughtful design details.

moss custom furniture also contains reclaimed local lumber. The Badger State live edge table is made from a rescued slab of storm-damaged black walnut found in Wisconsin. The Great Lakes coffee table is a result of excess Siberian elm wood remaining from another project.

Construction Documents

During the final stage of the design, moss prepares construction documents that can be easily understood and provide precise detail for construction methods and submittal for permitting.


We assist our clients completely through the permitting process by completing permitting documentation. We will coordinate applying for approvals from the various municipal departments involved in reviewing building plans, including Zoning and Building.

Construction Administration

moss has strong relationships with its contractor partners and will help our clients engage a general contractor. Communication is the core of our client-focused approach, and we will be involved through the entire construction phase. Transparency and an online integrated project management system is employed to ensure the project is built according to plan, resulting in a smooth transition to occupancy.

Permaculture | Environmental Stewardship

Permaculture is a design system for meeting human needs while improving ecosystem health. As stated by Bill Mollison in Permaculture: A Designer’s Manual, in order for long-term consequences of our actions to promote sustainability for future generations, we need to use “species that are native to our area, or those naturalized species known to be beneficial; use everything at its optimum level and recycle so-called wastes of any kind; use low energy environmental (solar, wind and water) and biological (plant and animal) systems to conserve and generate energy; bring food growing back into towns and cities, and plan for small-scale, energy-efficient intensive systems rather than large-scale, energy-consuming extensive systems.”

Architectural design is not purely about what to include on a site but how the different elements are connected. Interconnection is the key, and as part of our architectural approach, we incorporate permaculture design methodologies. Locally sourced and recycled materials become part of the building facade and interior. Alternative energy sources, such as solar, wind, and geothermal, are recommended. Buildings can also be used as a food-growing medium and provide essential ecosystem services like habitat, rainwater collection, and filtration. Native plants used around the exterior of a building build soils and degraded land while creating a biodiverse habitat for all living things.