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A quintessential historic New England small city, Montpelier required a new plan to become the first Net Zero state capital and an American role model of sustainable urban development. The non-profit corporation Net Zero Vermont announced a design competition to re-imagine their small city and White answered their open call for proposals with “In The Loop”.

The design builds on the premise that a truly sustainable future stretches beyond energy efficiency and renewal – and is essentially about human wellbeing. White’s vision for Montpelier is to create a model which rises beyond Net Zero towards a level Net Zero+ a term coined by the design team which means Net Zero for now + long-term planning for future changes.

White’s proposal defines a new urban form for Montpelier defined by increased density and tangible amenities with better integration. The idea is to reduce daily commute time and offer comfortable and healthy alternatives – including walking and biking. Denser land use encourages a net zero lifestyle; improvement in operations not only reduces energy usage but also gives shape to public space. An active and populated public space brings people together and supports social interaction that will contribute to building a strong community and Net Zero future.

Our interdisciplinary and Scandinavian approach has the ability to empower people. The proposal offers the tools to guide a series of small-scale, doable, innovative solutions that cover a lot of ground and that also can be adaptable to future changes. – Sander Schuur, Lead Architect for In The Loop

In The Loop covers a lot of ground (both literally and metaphorically) with a series of so-called “loops” working effectively to integrate and bind together existing and new developments where cyclist, pedestrians and public transportation take precedence and where nature and water are embraced. A generous and multifunctional public greensward reacquaints the city with the river and storm water is transformed into a public river basin – the process of water mitigation becoming transparent in the form of visible, functional design is playful through the eyes of children and beautiful for residents in general.

By offering the community a tool-kit of ideas and doable, small-scale, innovative design solutions, White’s proposal provides economic, social and creative opportunities for all members of the community. For example, housing units in the form of new alternative living typologies for younger and older generations support the diversity of the community of Montpelier. Concepts include makerspace living (workplace and housing combo) and a programme comprising elderly housing, day care and an indoor farmers market.

Buildings are designed to be high performing by meeting or surpassing Passive House standards and constructed with quality locally sourced sustainable materials.

Mixed-use functionality is another hallmark of the new plan, where future change is accommodated through structures that can meet programme change and repurpose – such as a temporary parking structure that over time will transform into a mobility hub and community centre and eventually housing.

Transforming Montpelier into the vibrant, authentic, liveable and sustainable city it has the potential to become is the success of White’s proposal through the activation of community engagement, a collaborative design process and long-term planning in place.

In The Loop

  • Client: Net Zero Vermont
  • Project Start/End: 2016-2017
  • Completed: 2017
  • City: Montpelier
  • Photographer/Illustrator: Tegmark


  • Sander Schuur - Lead Architect
  • Margaret Steiner - Communication Strategist
  • Jack Johnson - Lead Landscape Architect
  • Martin Johnson - Architect
  • Henrik Almquist - Intern Architect
  • Sam Keshavarz - Landscape Architect
  • Ulrika Stenkula - Architect
  • Tianle Yu - Architect

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