Taking a Look at Non-extractive Architecture

In our journey towards a more sustainable future, architecture plays a pivotal role. At Optima®, we’re constantly exploring and embracing innovative practices that not only enhance our living spaces but also protect our planet. Among these forward-thinking approaches, non-extractive architecture stands out as a beacon of sustainable development.

So, what exactly is non-extractive architecture? It’s an approach that minimizes the environmental impact of buildings by using recycled, reclaimed, or repurposed materials. This method significantly reduces the demand for new resource extraction. While sustainable architecture is a broad term encompassing various practices, non-extractive architecture uniquely focuses on material sourcing and lifecycle. 

Unlike biophilic design, which integrates natural elements to enhance human well-being, or green building, which emphasizes overall environmental responsibility, non-extractive architecture specifically targets the reduction of raw material use. It’s a crucial step towards reducing our carbon footprint and fostering a more circular economy in construction.

Kenoteq’s K-Briqs made of recycled construction waste, Courtesy of Felix Speller

Recent examples of non-extractive materials include the K-Briq Construction Waste Bricks, a low-carbon alternative that is made of 90% recycled materials, Hybrit Steel, the world’s first fossil-free steel, which has the potential to reduce Sweden’s carbon emission by more than 10%, and Biotic, material research of biologically grown textiles made from resources like bacterial cellulose and dyed using natural plant and fruit waste. 

Globally, several projects embody the spirit of non-extractive architecture. The Bullitt Center in Seattle, with its self-sufficient and long-lifespan design, sets a high standard. The building is home to a rainwater-to-potable water system and composting toilet system, and when developing the project, builders ensured that over 360 toxic chemicals typically used in their building materials were absent from the project.  

Optima’s signature vertical landscaping system at Optima Kierland Apartments
Optima’s signature vertical landscaping system at Optima Kierland Apartments

At Optima, we embrace non-extractive architecture through xeriscaping in the use of our vertical landscaping system, which features self-containing drainage and helps reduce the waste of water while contributing to a sustainable urban environment.

The world of architecture is evolving, and non-extractive design is at the forefront of this change. Our commitment to sustainable practices is unwavering, and we invite you, our community, to join us in this exciting and necessary shift towards a more sustainable world.

A Brief History of Architecture in the Expressionist Movement

Although many know expressionism for its evocative poetry and painting, expressionist architecture was also a subsect of the Modernist Movement. While coexisting with the minimalist rigor of the Bauhaus, this avant-garde style allowed designers to explore new, radical perspectives, gifting to the world some of the most dynamic, expressive architecture of the 20th century. 

Origins of Expressionism

Expressionism originated in the late 1800s from a small group of artists based in Germany. The artists who founded the movement felt that 19th-century impressionism – which commanded the art world – was out of touch with the social climate of the times due to the various changes that came with the Industrial Revolution. This feeling of detachment helped inspire what would soon be known as expressionism.  

Acclaimed painters like Van Gogh, Paul Gauguin, Edvard Munch and Francis Bacon all contributed remarkable works of art throughout the movement, but artists who worked with other mediums also adopted the ideals that expressionists held close. Because of the vivid colors and distorted lines and angles associated with expressionism, German cinematography, in particular, took advantage of the moody standards. 

Einstein Tower by Erich Mendelsohn. 1921
Einstein Tower, Erich Mendelsohn, 1921. Credit: H. Raab on Flickr Creative Commons, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 Deed

After more than 30 years of commanding the art world itself, expressionists became banned from showing and selling their work in Germany, where the majority of the artists lived. The result left many artists suppressed, eventually leading to various radical movements, including Abstract Expressionism, Pop-Art, Minimalism and in the late 20th century, Neo-Expressionism. 

Expressionism in Architecture

Expressionist architecture took advantage of the many characteristics associated with the movement’s other works of art, including distortion of form, themes of romanticism, expression of inner experience and the conception of architecture as a work of art, among others. Much of the movement’s builds featured Gothic, Romanesque and Rococo affinities. 

Glass Pavilion’s interior featuring the seven-tiered waterfall. Public Domain photo.

Bruno Taut’s Glass Pavilion is one of the earliest examples of expressionist architecture. The structure was built in 1914 as a feature of the Cologne Deutscher Werkbund Exhibition. Constructed using only concrete and glass, the exterior of the pavilion showcases a vibrantly colored prismatic dome and a grand staircase. The interior of the building featured a kaleidoscope of color from the crown above it and a seven-tiered cascading waterfall.

The Einstein Tower is another striking example of expressionist-style architecture. The observatory was built by German Architect Erich Mendelsohn from 1919 to 1921 and was envisioned to hold a solar telescope. Mendelsohn designed the building to reflect the radical theories formed by Einstein – specifically his theory of motion. The structure is built with brick but covered with stucco to give it its smooth, tidal-like exterior. 

More recent examples of expressionist-style architecture include Walt Disney Concert Hall designed by Frank Gehry in Los Angeles, the Lotus Temple designed by Fariborz Sahba in Delhi, and Zaha Hadid’s Vitra Fire Station in Weil am Rhein. 

Architecture in the Metaverse

Throughout history, architecture has taken various shapes and forms, influenced by the rich context that surrounds each creation. As technology advances and philosophies continue to evolve, so do the characteristics of architecture and its landscape. Today, we’re feeding our curiosity about a fresh vision for the future of architecture that embraces the decentralized principles of Web3, the construction of digital landscapes in the Metaverse. 

The Metaverse

Coined by American author Neal Stephenson in his 1992 novel Snowcrash, the Metaverse was conceived as the successor to the Internet and establishes Stephenson’s vision of what a digital world in the near future resembles. Today, the Metaverse is broadly defined as a fully-realized digital world that exists beyond the analog world we live in and refers to a variety of virtual experiences, environments and assets.

While the Metaverse is a far-reaching landscape, the freedom and encouragement to creatively innovate leaves everyone, from amateur designs to adept architects, an enormously untapped environment to build new worlds. 

What Architecture Looks Like in the Metaverse

Architecture in the Metaverse exhibits everything from fully-realized cities to intimate digital houses to virtual furniture pieces. Since the Metaverse is decentralized, meaning no one person or entity has control over the network, users have the ability to shape their 3D surroundings in any way imaginable. 

The majority of the digital creations in the Metaverse exist as NFTs, or non-fungible tokens, which certifies them as totally unique, in turn assigning them value. While NFTs are more generally associated with digital assets such as images, GIFs, songs and videos, they can also include forms of digital architecture, artwork and even land. 

In March 2021, Krista Kim sold the Metaverse’s first NFT-backed digital home, Mars House. Designed entirely by Kim, the virtual design which overlooks a mountain range mirrors her philosophy of meditative design. Color gradients ranging from fuchsia to turquoise fill the open-plan design and help characterize the house as a ‘light sculpture’ as Kim defines it. 

Other famous architectural designs in the Metaverse include Andrés Reisinger and Alba de la Fuente’s modernist Winter House, Bjarke Ingels Group’s Viceverse office space and Zaha Hadid Architects’ virtual city, Liberland Metaverse

Although fully digitized, architecture in the Metaverse is created with the same inspiration used in the construction of traditional architecture. And as the world and architectural landscape continue to change around us, more and more designers and architects will continue to find opportunities in virtual landscapes, constructing digital assets with a similar passion, vision and thoughtfulness found in the designs that surround us here on Earth.

5 Innovative Materials Changing the Future of Architecture

As technology continues to advance, changemakers and visionaries are discovering ways to push the boundaries of sustainable design in architecture. Today, we’re spotlighting five of the most innovative materials currently in development that are setting the stage for the future of architecture and design. 

Green Charcoal Loofah Bricks

Engineered at the Indian School of Design and Innovation in Mumbai, the Green Charcoal Loofah Brick is another revolutionary twist on traditional brick material. Soil, cement, charcoal and organic loofah fibers – the plant commonly used in sponges – make up the lightweight, biodegradable product. 

Similar to the cavernous gaps that are found in loofahs, the bricks’ fibrous network allows it to double as a home for plants and animals to thrive. The bricks’ pours also act as water chambers, which, when filled with water, act as a coolant for the structures they support. While the name might suggest charcoal is a significant part of the material’s build, it only appears on the brick’s surface, purifying the air by absorbing a compound used for growing plants. 

Hemp Rebar

Hemp is one of the most carbon-sequestering and strongest fibers on the planet, making it a perfect material to shift the future of architecture. Engineers at the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute developed the low-cost, low-carbon alternative to traditional steel rebar. One of the material’s most outstanding features is its ability to avoid corrosion, further extending the potential lifespan of the structure it is used to build. 

The rebar’s sustainable makeup has the potential to decrease construction time and triple the lifespan of the most costly traditional infrastructure — including everything from bridges to dams to seawalls. Its engineers intend the product to be cost-competitive, making it an obvious alternative material choice for future builds. 

Blast Studio’s 3D Printed Mycelium Collum, Courtesy of Blast Studio

3D Printed Mycelium

An ever-growing number of engineers are discovering how to incorporate mycelium – a root-like structure of fungus that creates a network of threads and branches – into their designs, with a huge impact on advancing sustainable design. One of the teams leading the drive is Blast Studio in London. Their team takes advantage of mycelium’s strong webbing structure to form columns that not only support builds but also grow mushrooms. 

The tree-like structure is made up of a mixture of mycelium fiber and recycled coffee cups. After being constructed through 3D printing, the mycelium eventually consumes the recycled material and grows to command the entire form of the column. Along with cultivating its own food, the dynamic material also produces natural insulation and fire-retardant properties. While mycelium-based materials are still sparse, more and more engineers and architects are beginning to see their advantages in designs. 

Chip[s] Board

One of the best single-use alternatives to fibreboard, corkboard and even wood, Chip[s] Board is finding its place in today’s architecture landscape. Created by Rowan Minkley and Robert Nicoll, the biodegradable material is one of the healthiest building components used on the planet due to its absence of toxic chemicals or resins like formaldehyde. When creating the material, Minkley and Nicoll were set on combining the issues of material and food waste – eventually resulting in the sustainable wood substitute. 

The product’s name is a play on the ingredients used to make it, which includes a blend of potato peel binding agents mixed with fibers from potatoes, bamboo, wood or hops. To develop Chip[s] Board, the blended composite is heat-pressed into a sturdy board that becomes functional in everything from furniture to buildings. 

Kenoteq’s K-Briqs made of recycled construction waste, Courtesy of Felix Speller

K-Briq Construction Waste Bricks

Invented by Gabriela Meder, an engineering professor at Edinburgh’s Heriot-Watt University, the K-Briq is one of the leading sustainable and recycled brick materials today. The unfired brick is made of 90% construction waste and produces less than 10% of carbon emission in manufacturing compared to clay bricks, making it an obvious low-carbon alternative in construction.

Designers of 2020’s Serpentine Pavilion – an annual design commission known for its experiential architecture – were one of the first to utilize the brick due to its versatility and similarity to the weight, look and functionality of standard bricks. Meder, who spent ten years developing the K-Briq, still produces it herself through her company Kenoteq

With new forms of sustainable design being created daily, we can’t wait to continue exploring the ways innovative architecture can contribute to a healthier, more sustainable world.

Our Beliefs: Freedom to Innovate

At Optima, all aspects of our work are deeply saturated by the passion and values instilled in Our Beliefs. Our team unifies around these beliefs, enabling us to create more collaboratively, to communicate more effectively and to be collectively inspired by a shared vision. One belief — freedom to innovate — speaks to the degrees of freedom that we enjoy, allowing us to continually instill our work with inventive thinking and approaches.

As a vertically-integrated business, we serve as the owner, the architect, the general contractor, the developer, and property manager, allowing us to keep our hands on all parts of the process. With a full-throttle, approach to every aspect of building, from inception to execution, inherently we hold unique degrees of freedom and adaptability.

7160 Optima Kierland
7160 Optima Kierland

Take when we were building 7160 Optima Kierland, the first tower of Optima Kierland Apartments, for example: we were able to shift on a dime and seize opportunity when it was presented. At the time of construction, we identified a rapid increase in market demand for three-bedroom units and quickly adapted mid-build, creating three-bedroom units, even after concrete had been poured.

As project architect, we modified plans and ensured no adverse cost impact resulted, coordinating with our design team maintaining bathrooms and shafts in their original location. As general contractor for the project, we engaged quick responses from partners without affecting project delivery. 

Each and every day we make our decisions based on what we believe is right, without compromising our vision. The freedom to innovate is at the core of this decision making process — driving our work each and every day to be better, more efficient and more inventive.

The History of IgCC

When it was developed, Optima Sonoran Village had the privilege of being the pilot project for Scottsdale’s International Green Construction Code, an alternative to LEED fully managed by local municipalities, and was one of the first projects in the world certified under IgCC. To understand the true breadth of its merit, we’re taking a deep dive into the code: its history, its mission and its modern day impact. 

History of IgCC

IgCC was first conceptualized by the International Code Council (ICC), a nonprofit association that provides a wide range of building safety solutions including product evaluation, accreditation, certification, codification and training. ICC also develops model codes and standards that are used around the world to construct safe, sustainable, affordable and resilient structures. 

ICC realized that there was a significant gap in construction in the way of a mandatory baseline of codes that would address green commercial construction. This kind of regulatory framework was becoming an increasingly appealing concept, with many local and state jurisdictions already exploring their own potential “substitute codes.” 

In response to the call, ICC collaborated with cooperating sponsors – the American Institute of Architects (AIA), ASTM International, ASHRAE, the U.S. Green Building Council (USBGC) and the Illuminating Engineering Society (IES) to help get the code passed. And in 2010, ICC established The International Green Construction Code(IgCC) to provide model code regulations that promote safe and sustainable construction. 

IgCC Today

IgCC “provides the design and construction industry with the single, most effective way to deliver sustainable, resilient, high-performance buildings.” Support of the IgCC promotes a new era of building design and construction that includes environmental health and safety as code minimums.

Benefits of certification under IgCC abound; IgCC certification includes measures that result in better indoor environments, lower impact on natural resources, better neighborhood connections and improved walkability, increased resilience to natural disasters and climate change, resource consumption/management and service interruptions.


IgCC vertical landscaping at Optima Sonoran Village
Vertical landscaping at Optima Sonoran Village

IgCC and Optima

IgCC operates as a code that can be easily adapted by public or private entities, allowing government jurisdictions to adopt it and save themselves the labor of creating their own code. Arizona took advantage of this opportunity, adopting the IgCC, which then took effect in January of 2017. 

It was at that time that Optima Sonoran Village became a pilot project for IgCC in Arizona.

Optima Sonoran Village IGCC attributes include major building elements consisting of 95 perfect local and recycled content materials; energy efficiency as a result of the high-performing glazing, overhangs, building configurations and exterior shading devices; water resource conservation from plumbing fixtures and excellent indoor environmental quality and reduced material emissions from the materials used in the development. Because of its environmentally-friendly construction, Optima Sonoran Village passed muster and was one of the first buildings in the world to earn certification.

Optima will continue to push the boundaries of building in pursuit of new and sustainable ways to contribute to our built environment. ICC is an association that will continue to do the same—we look forward to a world in which green building is commonplace. 


A Deep-Dive Into the World of Prefabrication

At Optima, we’re in constant pursuit of better and smarter ways of creating, which is why we often employ prefabrication, from our multifamily properties to our desert dwellings. Prefabrication describes the process of building elements off-site in a factory or workshop, and then later fitting those elements together on-site. This carefully calculated process has revolutionized the industry, allowing builders to cut down on time, cost and labor needed to create a structure. To understand just how vastly the industry and the way that we build has transformed, we’re taking a deep-dive into the world and history of prefabrication.

Whale Bay House, Optima DCHGlobal.
Whale Bay House, Optima DCHGlobal.

Early Origins

Naturally, the idea of building pieces separately before putting them all together in place is centuries old. Prefabrication is inspired by building techniques that date as far back as Mesopotamian civilization and Roman fort-building. In fact, the earliest known example of prefabrication comes from around 3800 BC, when the oldest engineered roadway, the Sweet Track in England, was built using timber sections that were constructed off-site.

Prefabrication techniques were used to erect giant structures in Sri Lanka, to rebuild the Portuegese capital after the great Lisbon earthquake of 1755 and even in 19th century Australia, when a large number of prefabricated houses were imported from the U.K. No matter the circumstances, from building large to building wide, the streamlined technique allowed for increased control, lowered cost and expedited process. 

Relic Rock, Optima DCHGlobal.
Relic Rock, Optima DCHGlobal.

Industrialization and Modernism on the Rise

Prefabricated farm buildings and bungalows were the first readily available structures on the market, around since the early 19th century. Most notable during that time was London carpenter Henry Manning’s prefabricated Portable Cottage, which was transported to Australia. Affordable housing was created using the technique, too, supplying homes for 49ers during the 1848 California Gold Rush and to refugees of war during World War II. 

Prefabrication was also an integral tool in rising Modernist architecture. The first ever Modernist structure, The Crystal Palace designed by Joseph Paxton, was built in 1851 using this method. Like The Crystal Palace, Modernist design was rooted in materials such as exposed steel and glass, which were perfectly suited for prefabricated builds as they were most often used in the simple and functional Modernist structural patterns. 

Construction on Whale Bay House, Optima DCHGlobal.
Construction on Whale Bay House, Optima DCHGlobal.

Prefab Concrete and Steel

As the prefabrication practice continued to grow, technical developments such as the development of sheet steel, the improvement in alloys, the use of lightweight aggregates and the promotion of precast reinforced concrete pushed the field even further. Concrete and steel in particular proved to be highly efficient materials in the prefabrication process, with pre-poured concrete allowing for more flexibility, and prefabricated steel sections reducing in-field risk during cutting and welding. These components have proven especially crucial to simplifying the construction process in buildings where a particular part or form is repeated numerous times. 

Created by Optima President David Hovey Jr., Optima DCHGlobal has created The Optima DCHGlobal Building System, a patented prefabricated architectural system that is flexible in both horizontal and vertical directions, sustainable up to the net-zero level, multi-generational, and able to be built quickly and efficiently in any location, climate or terrain. 

His invention of this system has created award-winning residences, such as Relic Rock and Whale Bay House. We continue to utilize the latest in steel technology, and often employ elements of concrete, to create our simple yet stunning Modernist structures. 

As we continue to look forward to a future of innovating and finding new ways of creating, we are humbled to look back at the history of prefabrication and how the technique has grown, allowing us to grow, too. 

Our Beliefs: Growth Mindset

As part of our culture at Optima, we hold a set of beliefs that helps us align our work with our goals. Internally, these beliefs are reflected in our culture, and externally, they shine through in the way we conduct ourselves with partners, customers, investors, colleagues and members of the community where we build. They embed meaning into our every project, and into our every day.

The first of our beliefs: we operate with a growth mindset.

Since the company’s inception, we have defined growth on our own terms. This confidence to establish our own definition of success has set us on a continuing and collaborative journey, encouraging each member of our team to constantly expand the base of our knowledge in service to our purpose.

Optima was founded by David Hovey Sr. and Eileen Hovey with a mission at its helm. We wanted to create a real estate firm where design leads the process, enabled by our vertically integrated business model. As the owner, architect, general contractor and developer, the degree of freedom that came with allowed us to challenge ourselves, to learn as we went and to improve each time we started something new.

From humble beginnings, we continue to demonstrate our commitment to growth by investing in our team members’ success. This takes the shape of a robust onboarding process for new team members, ensuring a seamless entry into Optima, and by providing continuing, thoughtful mentorship throughout their careers, by redefining our managers as “coaches” that help guide their team to be their most successful selves. We take pride in investing our time and energy into creating unique approaches that ensure our team, and each individual team member, thrives in the future.

And naturally, having a team set up for success allows our projects to be fueled by minds at their best. Therefore, we can tackle the work that we do with an unwavering vigor that allows us to continually learn, adapt and grow. That will always be how Optima operates.

Inside Our Team: Construction

To fuel our vertically-integrated business model, Optima is composed of strong, multi-faceted teams that ensure an effective and efficient workflow throughout our projects. Ever since our inception, we have recognized the benefits of harnessing collaborative teams, and we’re not alone. According to Forbes, productive team environments are the new vision for successful and satisfying employment. Adaptability, trustworthiness and openness are key components in coordinating team actions and solving challenging problems. 

Now more than ever, teamwork is recognized as a critical part of successful work culture. Our construction team at Optima is no exception; the team is currently working on two buildings in Arizona, just wrapped up another project ahead of schedule and is growing in Illinois as we prepare for upcoming projects in the Chicago market.  

Construction at Whale Bay House, New Zealand
Construction at Whale Bay House, New Zealand

When asked about what makes their team amazing, here are some of the things our construction team members had to say:

“We understand what the needs of the job are and strive towards a common goal to get things done. If someone makes a mistake, they own the mistake and fix it themselves so they learn and grow from the experience.”

“We all pitch in and help one another. If one of us has a problem, we all have a problem and will work together to find an answer.”

“I love the team we have gathered; they are knowledgeable and willing to learn.”

“I absolutely have learned leaps and bounds! I found my passion. Similar to a child in a sugar shop, my brain is soaking up everything like a sponge! I smile just talking about decking, and vetting subs for new partnerships!”

With our holistic business model that encompasses architecture, development, general contracting, sales/brokerage, asset/property management, and shared services, each of our talented teams are part of what makes Optima great. Think you would be a good fit on the Optima team? Check out our current open positions to inquire about joining our team. 


person name goes here

Maintenance Supervisor

Glencoe, IL

    Acceptable file types: *.pdf | *.txt | *.doc, max-size: 2Mb