At ESDB, we strive to simplify the complex design & construction process through project planning, resourceful design and implementation. We also strive to do it in a way that is friendly to the planet and its inhabitants.  Whether you are looking for a custom-designed Passive House or a deep energy retrofit of your commercial property, we have the tools and motivation to deliver.  We employ the latest in high-performance building science, while prioritizing craft and beauty in all our work.

The Philosophy

At East Spruce, great care and pride are taken to highlight the best qualities of existing buildings or difficult sites.  We view sustainability as a way to SAVE: time, money, resources, energy … not an added feature.  We believe the most sustainable building is one that’s already standing, one that can be reused in some capacity, one that is loved.  We challenge the throw-away mentality of popular culture by first asking ‘What can be saved, repurposed, or adapted to fit the changing needs of the user?’ With that mindset, we approach a design that responsibly fits within its context and is honest and authentic in its use of materials.  In the case of new construction, we strive to bring quality design to every project, to create a building that is useful and loved for the next 100 years.  We use salvaged and repurposed items where possible, and responsibly-made eco-friendly materials when second-hand is not an option.


East Spruce design / build is an architecture, design/build, and sustainability consulting studio located in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. Founded in 2018 by Elliot Nolter, ESDB practices what we preach.  Our studio is housed in a renovated 19th Century carriage house.  The building is now fossil-fuel free, and includes an EV charging station, indoor bicycle storage, and smart daylighting controls.  Many of the materials used in the renovation are salvaged or sustainably-sourced and embody the hand-crafted quality evident in our work.  We are currently in the process of installing a solar array on the roof, which will bring the building to near net-zero energy status!

The People

Elliot Nolter

Elliot Nolter,
owner / architect

As a child, I spent a lot of time drawing (a ridiculous amount!), and building things outdoors. Prior to obtaining my B. Arch from Penn State, I studied classical art and drafting at Barnstone Studios in Coplay, PA. I learned the importance of using proportion, scale, light and shadow in my artwork. All of which I now apply to my architectural work. While at Penn State, I was fortunate to be a part of the Solar Decathlon, a net-zero home design competition, where students from many disciplines came together to design and build a totally off-the-grid home.

After graduation, I worked for a traditional architecture firm for 9 years where I learned the ins and outs of the Architecture profession and received my license to practice. The growing desire to return to my childhood passions led me to start East Spruce, and those passions became the cornerstone of East Spruce’s ethos: Resourceful, Responsible, Design.

Resourcefulness, sustainability, and ingenuity are ingrained in my personal philosophy. As an Architect, this means being conscious of the design decisions I make – how they impact my client, the building occupants, the project budget, the site, or the neighborhood. As an outdoor-enthusiast and citizen of Earth, this means doing right by the planet – reduce, reuse, recycle. I believe our #1 responsibility is to be stewards of the planet on which we live and to be respectful of others living here with us.