Say Hello to San Francisco’s Newest Director

Atelier Ten is excited to announce that Mike Martinez is joining Atelier Ten’s leadership team as a Director of our San Francisco office!

With nearly two decades in the industry and as leader of the firm’s Daylight Practice, Mike is has greatly expanded the firm’s technical capabilities, making Atelier Ten a leader in façade optimization. Mike has impacted the design of a wide range of buildings including commercial offices, academic buildings, museums, and k-12 schools. His project work includes the Campus at Horton, the Sunnyvale Civic Center, and the SFO Terminal 3 West Modernization. As a Director of our SF office, Mike will continue to advance Atelier Ten’s daylighting & façade optimization for energy performance, human experience, occupant health and thermal comfort.

To celebrate his promotion, we picked his brain on his impressive career and project work:


What sustainability topic(s) have you been obsessing over lately?

Lately I’ve been focusing on integrating the human experience into Atelier Ten’s rigorous analysis. I love getting lost deep in the weeds of analytical study, simulation, and thinking, but I’ve been forcing my brain to reconnect with the human experience as the primary thing we’re solving for in the built environment.

I’ve been working with project teams to define a more expansive definition of “performance” to include both quantitative and qualitative criteria for façade design. That’s not to diminish our analytical metrics, but it’s working to constantly contextualize and focus our efforts throughout the design process on the human experience. My great shading and minimized solar heat gain is meaningless if the resultant indoor environment is view-less, dark, and unoccupied in reality. I fear our industry still belches a shameful amount of embodied carbon into the world in the form of buildings people don’t actually want to be in.


When you are designing facades, what are the most important factors that you consider and/or that make the biggest impact in the occupant experience?

While human experience first leads to a lens on occupant experience, personifying each entity responsible for designing, building, commissioning, operating, and occupying a building is critical. The most important factor is equipping projects teams to clearly translate and communicate the design intent of a high performance façade to each of those players – which is really hard as those players all have really different backgrounds and expertise! The new junior operations engineer in an office building shouldn’t need my 20 years of daylighting experience to run my dynamic façade design. If I want a comfortable and happy occupant at the end of the day, I need to communicate effectively to everyone involved in the process.


Do you have a favorite project you’ve worked on Atelier Ten? 

This is always an impossible question! But one current project I’m really enjoying is the SFO Terminal 3 renovation and new C4C building. The architecture team has been wonderful to work with, and we’ve been able to establish an expansive definition of performance together, leading to some very thoughtful and targeted façade design strategies. As a complex public project delivered by an integrated design build team, our process has embraced the real world constraints of cost and constructability into our expansive understanding of performance in a collaborative and productive way.


What sustainability priorities have you seen in the industry lately? Have you seen any major shifts in priorities since you started working at Atelier Ten?  

I think our priority to design the built environment such that we avoid the most catastrophic impacts of climate change hasn’t changed in my almost 20 years of practice. What has changed is the robust capability of our work to accurately quantify the effects of our design decisions, and know quite precisely the climate impact of our projects. Talking with teams about steel procurement from fabricators operating in low-emission grid regions isn’t a conversation I had when I finished grad school, and it’s really exciting that it’s normal now. As embodied carbon is increasingly a prime design driver, I see that much more importance on ensuring the human experience is brought back to the center as well. If we actually think the planet will benefit from the belch of new construction emissions associated with a project, it’s critical people can comfortably thrive and want to exist in these places.


What is your favorite part about working at Atelier Ten?

At risk of sounding like too easy of an answer, it’s the people. People who are brilliant, passionate, and dedicated to the work – and who are also kind, inclusive, and have the ability to see other people well. Being a good environmental design consultant requires you to think about a lot of other points of view and priorities. People at Atelier Ten have that natural ability in spades, and it not only led to successful projects, but to a really special workplace. I know a lot of organizations have cool people – but there’s something particularly special about this place and this collection of humans.


Beyond work, any other exciting news in your life?

My 8-year-old is getting quite good at playing Green Day songs on the guitar, my 4-year-old is thrilled to ride his bike, and my wife and I just got back from a fun adventure in Japan celebrating 15 years together (thank you grandparents for the kid care!).


Please join us in welcoming Mike to our leadership team!