Ayers Saint Gross at SEAHO 2018

March 6, 2018

If you’re attending SEAHO 2018 in Biloxi, Mississippi this week, I hope you’ll visit Ayers Saint Gross at booth 303, and join us for our education session on the importance of outside-the-unit spaces in student housing.

Customized Spaces Support Engaged Students
In the age of virtual communication and social media, student housing communities need spaces outside the unit more than ever to facilitate interaction and connection. Carving out the right amount of space is the first step in connecting students to their institutions; having the right mix of spaces is equally important. Finally, customizing these spaces to the culture, spirit, and academic pursuits of the residents is critical to the vibrancy of the community.

Vibrant communities lead to engaged students, and engaged students achieve more success. Our education session will review case studies at Ringling College of Art and Design and other institutions to illustrate how allocating and customizing outside-the-unit spaces in student housing fosters strong communities to drive student success.

Participants will gain an overview of outside-the-unit space benchmarks from the Ayers Saint Gross student housing database, including:

  • The application of these concepts at Ringling College of Art and Design, including increasing the vibrancy of a developing campus edge, using outdoor spaces to connect students to the broader campus, and incorporating student art into the design.
  • Cases studies from other campuses including Goucher College, Virginia Commonwealth University, and Colby College.
  • How accounting for de-densification of older residence halls in a housing master plan maximizes the student experience across housing inventory, not just in new construction.

Tammy Walsh, Vice President for Student Life and Dean of Students at Ringling College of Art and Design
Dennis Lynch, Principal, Ayers Saint Gross
Cooper Melton, Senior Associate, Ayers Saint Gross

SEAHO 2018
Thursday, March 8, 2018
1:15 PM – 2:15 PM
Session 4

Legacy and Leadership: Designing the National Churchill Library and Center

February 23, 2018
National Winston Churchill Library and Center entrance

“We shape our buildings, and afterwards our buildings shape us.” – Winston Churchill, 1943

Sir Winston Churchill was the most powerful statesman of his generation, and he remains an indelible symbol of British tenacity, wit, and honor.

His American connections were quite strong, though. Churchill’s mother, Jennie Jerome, was a New Yorker, and Churchill himself was granted honorary U.S. citizenship in 1963. That is partly why the International Churchill Society (ICS) wanted to create a strong Churchillian presence in Washington, DC. That ambition was realized in October 2016, when the National Churchill Library and Center (NCLC) at The George Washington University opened.

Because Churchill was a man of true historic importance, we designed the library to reflect his august legacy in a new and modern way.

The NCLC occupies 5,800 square feet within the university’s Estelle and Melvin Gelman Library. It is the first research facility in the United States dedicated to the study of Winston Churchill, and it currently houses 2,000 volumes.

In addition to study rooms and exhibition space, the NCLC includes staff offices and event space and offers a wide array of programming inspired by the center’s namesake. The many NCLC speakers  thus far include General David Petraeus, Irish Ambassador to the U.S. Daniel Mulhall, and former Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf.

“Having the Churchill Library in the center of Washington is symbolically very important, given the fact that Winston Churchill’s legacy remains so vital to many people in positions of leadership,” said Michael F. Bishop, director of the NCLC. “There’s something compelling about having this only five blocks from the Oval Office.”


The idea for the NCLC originated with the ICS (formerly known as the Churchill Centre), which was founded in 1968 and is the premier membership organization dedicated to preserving the legacy of Sir Winston Churchill. The ICS had long desired a permanent home for Churchill studies in Washington, and found an enthusiastic partner in The George Washington University, which had underutilized space in the Gelman Library.

Infusing a space with the personality of a historic figure was familiar territory for Ayers Saint Gross. Our firm designed both the Fred W. Smith National Library for the Study of George Washington at Mt. Vernon and the Visitor Center & Smith Education Center at Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello.

In the case of the NCLC, the challenge was to create a “building within a building” at the existing library. The project demanded a collaborative, interdisciplinary design team that included architects, interior designers, and graphic designers.

At the project’s outset, members of our design team traveled to England in search of inspiration. We visited Chartwell, Churchill’s country estate in Kent, which provided some key colors and tones that made their way into our final design.

During our research trip, we also explored the Churchill War Rooms, a WWII-era London bunker that now serves as a museum. The War Rooms are a key precedent for the NCLC. The space set aside within the Gelman Library for the project was below grade, not unlike the War Room’s subterranean location. To create new volume and add height to the NCLC’s long and narrow space, the ceiling was left exposed and painted a dark tone.

“The design of the space is attractive and striking, a sleek silvery space. The exposed ceiling is suggestive of the Cabinet War Rooms in London, which I like very much,” Bishop said. “The NCLC is very distinct from the rest of the building, and distinct from the area immediately outside it.”

The NCLC features  a fritted glass entryway that balances visibility and privacy. Our team also designed a wordmark for the NCLC and some interior signage. The result is a richly layered design that draws visitors into the space.

In addition to Chartwell and the War Rooms, our design had another distinctly Churchillian inspiration: his signature cigar. Churchill often smoked Romeo y Julietas, a brand with a distinctive red band that encircled a brown wrapper. Drawing on that color palette, we created high-gloss red thresh holds embedded within dark wood walls.

Churchill’s love of cigars also inspired another major NCLC design feature: the “cigar.” This three-dimensional element divides the center into a more publicly oriented event space near the entrance and smaller, more private spaces for staff and individual study in the back. The warm walnut panels also have an acoustical function, separating the public-facing space from the quiet work and gallery area.


Today the NCLC is open 24 hours a day to The George Washington University community, and to the public five days a week. In addition to the library’s primary collection, the library features a touch-screen exhibit that allows visitors to see photographs and documents from Churchill’s life. This interactive element drew inspiration from a similar exhibit in the Churchill War Rooms in London. The chance to engage with Churchill’s life and legacy so far from his homeland is a draw for scholars and tourists alike.

“We’re a very unusual resource in that we offer visitors a unique glimpse into the life and career of Winston Churchill right in the heart of Washington, DC. We do that with books, documents, artifacts, and other exhibits, as well as outstanding programming with very prominent speakers,” Bishop said.

The design, construction, and ribbon cutting of the NCLC happened on a tight schedule. The project’s kickoff meeting was in June 2014 and it had to be completed before the end of 2016..

The grand opening was held on October 29, 2016. Speaking at the event, Randolph Churchill, Winston Churchill’s great-grandson, remarked of the importance of the project: “The opening of Churchill’s permanent home in your nation’s capital is truly a thrilling moment. I am more confident than ever that Churchill’s legacy will now be secure in the land of the free and the home of the brave.”


Awards: 2017 Year in Review

January 3, 2018

Our goal is to engage people and places to create designs that enrich the world. One of the ways we know we’ve achieved that goal is when our peers are kind enough to honor our work. Here’s a round-up of selected accolades Ayers Saint Gross earned in 2017.

2017 Architect 50: Top 50 Firms in Design. We are so pleased to be included on this prestigious list, ranking at No. 42. Our design portfolio showed a wide range of mission-driven work, from an open, transparent learning center for 21st century medical education inspired by the desert landscape of Arizona to a 14-acre innovation district in the heart of Philadelphia.

The George Washington University Milken Institute School of Public Health. This groundbreaking building merited two national AIA awards. This LEED Platinum certified building was named to the COTE Top Ten list because it embeds important public health values into the design via daylighting and a feature stair to encourage walking. (This project is the second Ayers Saint Gross project named to the COTE Top Ten List; the first was the University of Baltimore Angelos Law Center in 2014.)

This project also won a national AIA Honor Award for Interior Architecture. Its pod-like classrooms are set on the perimeter of the building, allowing for views of nearby Washington Circle.

Payette served as design architect and Ayers Saint Gross served as associate architect on the Milken Institute School of Public Health.

Salisbury University Guerrieri Academic Commons. This new building brings all academic support programs under one roof. Organized around a central atrium, each of the building’s four floors is dedicated to a different type of learning: staff-supported research, learning and teaching skills, individualized study, and public dialogue.

With its combination of rich programming and beautifully executed design, the Salisbury University Academic Commons merited Excellence in Design Awards from AIA Maryland and AIA Potomac Valley, and an Honorable Mention from AIA Baltimore.

The LEED Gold certified Commons also earned a USGBC Maryland Wintergreen Award for Education, and a Brick in Architecture Bronze award from the Brick Industry Association. The latter award honored the Commons’ brickwork, which echoes Holloway Hall, the university’s original campus building. The vertical elements and façade details lend a more human scale to the 226,000 SF building.

Ayers Saint Gross is the prime architect of record in association with Sasaki as design architect on this project.

University of Arizona Biomedical Sciences Partnership Building (BSPB). This 10-story building is the tallest on the Phoenix Biomedical Campus, adding much-needed research space and supporting the interdisciplinary efforts of the medical school and its public and private sector partners. A public mixing bar, designed to promote interdisciplinary collaboration, connects to the existing Health Sciences Education Building, also completed by Ayers Saint Gross and CO Architects. The BSPB won two prestigious regional awards – the AIA Arizona Distinguished Building Award and the ENR Southwest Best Regional Project in Higher Education/Research.

The project’s iconic design draws inspiration from the Arizona landscape, highlighted by the horizontal, chiseled striations of its exterior. The 4,800 copper panels reflect light and cast shadows that recall canyon walls. This element earned the project a North American Copper in Architecture Award from the Copper Development Association, Inc.

The project delivery is a continued partnership between CO Architects and Ayers Saint Gross.

University of Pikeville Health Professions Education Building. This building is a symbol of a change in the heart of central Appalachian coal country, as the global energy needs shift away from fossil fuels and towards a more health- and technology-driven economy. Located on a steeply sloped site, the building’s envelope uses material and color palate to meld with the surrounding environment to “bring the mountains inside.” This beautiful, forward-looking project earned Merit Awards from both AIA Kentucky and AIA St. Louis.

Ayers Saint Gross designed the Health Professions Education Building in association with Trivers Associates.

AIA Associate Award. Last but certainly not least, Linsey Graff, Assoc. AIA, was a 2017 AIA Associate Award Recipient. This award is presented to associates who are outstanding leaders and creative thinkers for significant contributions to their communities and the architecture profession. Linsey, an architect and campus planner in our Tempe office, was appointed to a three-year term on the AIA National Diversity and Inclusion Council, and she was one of 22 architects and educators invited to join the Equity in Architecture Commission. She will also be a member of the 2018 AIA National Education Facilities Awards Jury, and a member of the K-12 task force. Currently she is working on a campus master plan for Cal Poly Pomona and the Texas A&M Sustainability master plan.

2017 was a wonderful year of creating designs that serve our clients and their communities. We look forward to many wonderful collaborations to come in 2018.

Green Week 2017: The Carrot Awards

April 17, 2017

Ayers Saint Gross strives to make every project as energy efficient as possible. We’re signatories of the AIA2030 Commitment, and each year we report on the predicted energy use intensity of our whole building projects and the lighting power density of our interiors projects. Reducing both advances us toward our goal of designing net-zero projects across our design portfolio by 2030.

To keep our eyes on the prize and recognize Green Week 2017, we’re celebrating two projects – one whole building and one interior – with the Carrot Awards. Too often designers think of sustainability goals as a “stick,” something they have to do that’s at odds with good design. But for us, sustainability is a carrot. It’s something we reach for, something that inspires great design. The projects recognized by this year’s Green Week are examples for design teams across our firm to emulate in pursuit of sustainable design excellence.

This year’s whole building Carrot Award goes to Washington University in St. Louis’s Bryan Hall.

Bryan Hall is the renovation of approximately 49,000 GSF of existing 1968 laboratories for Washington University’s chemistry department. The project reuses more than 60% of the existing structural components while bringing in new building systems, infrastructure, and a vibration-sensitive design to support instrument-based chemistry. Laboratories are an energy-intensive program, but modeling predicts this project will use 55% less energy than the baseline laboratory.

To achieve these energy savings, KJWW Engineering (now IMEG) designed HVAC systems to serve laboratory, public, and restroom spaces separately so systems could be tailored to each type of space’s unique needs. Most of the laboratories require six air changes per hour to maintain high indoor air quality, but heating or cooling that air for once-through use would be very expensive and energy-intensive. To minimize that demand, laboratory exhaust air is routed through a sensible-only heat recovery system which pre-conditions outdoor air before it enters air handling units. Public spaces have different HVAC demands and are provided supply air as required to meet heating and cooling needs.

The building’s two laser research areas require constant temperature and maximum relative humidity conditions. These spaces are served by separate constant-volume air handling units that can optimally meet those conditions. Electrical and IT rooms on each floor are served by a variable refrigerant flow (VRF) system for local space conditioning.

This year’s interiors Carrot Award goes to our tenant improvement work for Tishman Speyer at Park Place, floors six and nine. This commercial office space in Arlington, Virginia includes multiple office suites and decreases lighting power density by 57%, more than double the current AIA2030 reduction target, through LED lighting.

We announced these awards today to kick off Green Week 2017, our firm’s annual celebration of high-performance design and sustainability. The week’s activities include internal and external luncheon speakers, trivia questions on our internal knowledge-sharing platform, and the Carrot Awards to get us inspired to create ever-more energy efficient design solutions.

For more on how Ayers Saint Gross approaches sustainable design, see our firm’s sustainability strategy, Take Action.

Eating the Whale: Equity in Architecture

February 15, 2017

To illustrate the very serious task of fighting for equity, AIA San Francisco’s Equity by Design Committee uses the poem “Melinda Mae” by children’s author Shel Silverstein:

Have you heard of Melinda Mae,
Who ate a monstrous whale?
She thought she could,
She said she would,
So she started in right at the tail.

And everyone said, “You’re much too small,”
But that didn’t bother Melinda at all.

She took little bites and she chewed very slow,
Just like a good girl should…
…And in eighty-nine years she ate that whale
Because she said she would!

We in the architecture profession have slowly been “eating the whale” for more than 100 years, regarding the task of getting more women and minorities into the profession. There have been some great milestones along the way, including:

  • In 1881, Louise Bethune became the first professional female architect. (Like me, Bethune was from the great city of Buffalo, New York.)
  • In 1923, Paul Revere Williams became the first African American AIA member. He was also the first black architect elected into the College of Fellows and is this year’s AIA Gold Medal winner. He is the first black architect to be honored the AIA’s highest award.
  • Lou Weller said to be the first Native American architect* and was the first Native American awarded the AIA Whitney M. Young Jr. Award in 2000. Today, Native Americans represent less than 1% of licensed architects.

Despite these achievements, architecture still lacks diversity. As of 2014, 22% of licensed architects are female, 2% are African American, and 3% are Latino. That’s not great for a 136 year timespan. More than 50% of students enrolled in architecture schools are non-white, meaning that in five to 10 years, we should see this diversity reflected in our workplaces. But relying on diversity to happen over time only is not enough.

The Equity in Architecture Commission is the vehicle that creates a greater urgency within the profession (and AEC community at large). The percentages will continue to grow at a snail’s pace until the profession allows all of its members to flourish. We must create equitable and inclusive practices to encourage individuals from underrepresented groups to get licensed, remain in the profession, and ultimately thrive. Pushing for equitable practice will create the surge needed to make the diversity of our firms reflect the diversity of the clients and communities we serve. Hopefully, it will take less than another 136 years.

The Equity in Architecture Commission was approved in May 2015, as a result of the Resolution 15-1, approved in May 2015. The commission is a call to action for both women and men to realize the goal of equitable practice in order to retain talent, advance the architecture profession, and communicate the value of design to society. With increasingly greater numbers of women and minorities in architecture schools, it is vital that AIA addresses this opportunity to foster and support a more inclusive workforce across the profession.

The commission serves as the framework for developing a well-conceived and thoughtful action plan and set of recommendations. The initial charge of the 22-person commission, of which I was proud to be a member, was to:

  • Develop specific recommendations that will lead to equitable practices
  • Create measurable goals and develop mechanisms for assessing ongoing process
  • Present a plan of action based on the commission’s recommendations

Dr. Shirley Davis who specializes in organization transformation, diversity and inclusion, implicit bias, and strategic development, facilitated the commission. We started by asking, “When we achieve equity in architecture, what does it look it?”

The question prompted hundreds of responses, which were then categorized into five topic areas:

  1. Education and Career Development
  2. Leadership Excellence (within AIA and the profession)
  3. Firm/Workplace/Studio Culture
  4. Marketing, Branding, Public Awareness, and Outreach
  5. Better Architecture

We then focused on these five areas for the remainder of the year, creating actionable items that could create change in both the short and long terms.

All of the recommendations and initiatives are being compiled into a final report which will act as a road map for equitable practice. For the next three years, the commission has recommended the following eleven initiatives which were approved by the AIA National Board of Directors in December 2015:

  1. Equity, diversity and inclusion as a core value for the board of directors
  2. Measure and report how equity, diversity and inclusion permeates within the AIA
  3. Equity, diversity and inclusion training for AIA volunteers and components
  4. Guides for equitable, diverse and inclusionary practice
  5. Create a firm self-assessment tool
  6. Position paper on equity, diversity and inclusion and the profession
  7. Collect equity, diversity and inclusion data of project teams, firms and clients on work submitted for AIA Awards
  8. Advocate for equity in higher education
  9. Engage and expose kids to architecture through K-12 programs
  10. Tell our stories
  11. Ensure media reflects diverse range of architects

To download the entire Equity in Architecture report, click here.

My experience on the Equity Commission was one of the most fulfilling things I have done professionally. The Equity Commission was charged with taking action and making real change. As a Millennial, this was music to my ears. I’m encouraged that the eleven initiatives will make real, long-lasting change in the profession.

There are so many great resources out there to read (architecture and non-architecture related) and get involved in the conversation. Here are five to you get started:

I’d like to end this post with a challenge for everyone: imagine if Melinda Mae had help eating the whale. She could have accomplished her task faster, and had more fun doing it!

If everyone takes a bite out of the whale, we can achieve equitable practice much more rapidly. This is a conversation must be inclusive of everyone that everyone must join.

For anyone who is more interested in hearing more about the eleven initiatives, please do not hesitate to reach out! You can reach me at LGraff@asg-architects.com. Let’s eat that whale together.

* AIA did not begin collecting data on race and ethnicity until 2000.

Top 10 Blog Posts of 2016

December 16, 2016

It’s been an eventful year for Ayers Saint Gross. As we turn the calendar page, here’s a look at our most popular blog posts of 2016. We’re proud of what we accomplished with our clients, and are excited about what’s to come in 2017.

1. Luanne Greene is Ayers Saint Gross’ New President. Having distinguished herself as head of our Planning studio and as an acknowledged industry leader, Luanne rose to become the President of Ayers Saint Gross. She is the first woman to lead the firm in its 100-year history.

2. Anne Hicks Harney Elevated to AIA College of Fellows. Our Sustainability Director is now one of four FAIAs at Ayers Saint Gross, alongside Glenn Birx, Luanne Greene, and Adam Gross. Anne was also named a LEED Fellow this year.

3. Placemaking for People: How Stormwater Management Can Be a Design Asset. The unglamorous necessity of stormwater management can be a starting point for truly great design in landscape architecture.

4. Place Matters: Cortex Innovation Community Wins SCUP Award. Recognition from the Society of College and University Planning was a huge honor. Innovation Districts like Cortex provide a new paradigm for research, business, and job creation.

5. National Aquarium Waterfront Campus Plan Wins AIA Maryland Award. The National Aquarium is a world-renowned conservation organization, and we are excited to be a part of the revitalization of its campus.

6. 2016 Comparing Campuses Innovation Districts. We did a deep dive on Innovation Districts in our 18th annual Comparing Campuses poster. (We also have an online archive of all the Comparing Campuses posters.)

7. A Brief History of the Ayers Saint Gross ACUHO-I Housing Book. We’ve been creating these tiny but informative books since 2005 for the annual ACUHO-I conference. We’ll see you in Providence in June with the 2017 edition.

8. Telling a Story with Data. Lisa Keith, head of our Space Analytics studio, wowed the KA Connect Conference with her data visualization expertise.

9. Ayers Saint Gross Reaches $1B in LEED Construction. With the LEED Silver certification of Georgetown University’s Ryan and Isaac Halls, our firm crossed the billion-dollar mark in LEED certified construction. To celebrate, we created an infographic that illustrates exactly what $1,000,000,000 in LEED construction looks like.

10. Going Green, Staying Green: How to Create and Enduring, Sustainable Landscape. Align your sustainability goals with available resources, and consider the life cycle costs of your choices.

National Library for the Study of George Washington Wins AIA Design Awards

December 6, 2016

Ayers Saint Gross is pleased to announce that the Fred W. Smith National Library for the Study of George Washington at Mount Vernon recently received two awards: an Excellence in Design honor from AIA Baltimore and a Merit Award for Institutional Architecture from AIA Maryland.

The 45,000 square-foot library, located on 15 acres within walking distance of George Washington’s Mount Vernon home, serves as a national archive for his books and letters and as a center for education and scholarly retreat. The AIA Baltimore jury praised the design as “both traditional and crisp, pared down, and abstracted. It is grand, but also shows humility, appropriately reflecting George Washington.”

Additionally, the AIA Maryland jury called it “a well-conceived project that honors the Washington legacy with a timeless, well-scaled building.”

The design complements the Mount Vernon estate by incorporating qualities that are familiar and appropriate, but without literal form or material reference. It creates a timeless place that is elegant, ordered, and principled. These qualities allow the Library and grounds to be, in subtle ways, both reflective of Washington’s character and connected to the place.

Visitors approach the Library via a gently winding drive through the woodland site. The drive leads to an arrival court inspired by the geometry of the mansion’s gardens and defined by low stone walls. Native deciduous and evergreen plantings supplement the existing forest and drifts of George Washington’s favorite trees, including dogwoods and redbuds, adding spring and fall interest. Visual and physical connections to the land were key design priorities. Preserving open spaces and trees, and generally creating a sustainable site, reflects Washington’s legacy as a landowner and a farmer. The project achieved LEED Gold certification.

The U-shaped building fulfills the dual goals of scholarly study and educational outreach. A sunny, south-facing courtyard is defined on the east by an education wing that provides spaces for seminars, lectures, and training programs on George Washington’s life, times, and leadership. The west wing provides two floors of office space for visiting scholars and staff.

At its core, and the heart of the design, is the light-filled, two-story reading room with paneled walls of American Sycamore, a tree that grows at Mount Vernon.

The Washington family’s collection of books and papers are kept safe in the rare books and manuscripts room, a sequence of three increasingly secure spaces that culminate in an oval vault.

The project’s materials express permanence and dignity. The central portion of the building is clad in sandstone and limestone, and the wings are finished in stucco. Zinc-clad eaves, soffits, and porches accent slate roofs. Windows and doors are made of mahogany and the terraces and porches are paved with sandstone.

From a 1797 letter to his friend James McHenry, we know that George Washington hoped to build a library on his estate for his papers, but that dream was never realized until now. Ayers Saint Gross is proud that we were able to play a role in preserving the legacy of America’s first president, and are honored that AIA Baltimore and AIA Maryland both recognized our efforts.

Vertex Student Apartments Wins AIA Arizona and ENR Southwest Awards

October 19, 2016

Vertex Student Apartments, a mixed-use student housing development in Tempe, AZ adjacent to Arizona State University, recently won two awards, the 2016 AIA Arizona Distinguished Building Merit Award and Best Residential/Hospitality Project from ENR Southwest.

The goal for this project was to develop a vibrant community built within a tight budget that still provides iconic identity and exceptional efficiency. Our team was able to complete a really complex and tightly scheduled project on schedule, and the result gives the student residents both independence and community.


Vertex’s triangular parcel, bordered by a light rail on one side, inspired its striking design with a prominent prow that became central to the project’s identity and branding. The development features 16 different unit plans and generous shared amenities for residents, as well as 6,000 GSF of ground floor civic, retail, and restaurant space. The inclusion of the latter increases visibility and connection to the street and neighborhood.

Sun-shading also influenced the design, including a light-colored shell and roof to reflect the sun and large graphic brise-soleil. A statement band of native desert plants fronts the dark shaded understory, creating an inviting and cool zone in the desert. We created view corridors that allow access-controlled pedestrian ways into the courtyard from the two street frontages. The new design is a welcome change from the fortress-like building on the site before Vertex’s construction.

Vertex was a continuous collaboration among the design team, construction manager, and developer. The project delivers a high-impact design through a minimalist design strategy, thus reducing its environmental impact. We decided to use wood on top of a concrete podium to give the project flexibility, increased construction speed, and greater sustainability. The wood structure was prefabricated off site and brought in by truck and erected via crane, thus minimizing the area needed for a saw yard on site.

Vertex provides 323,000 GSF mixed-use space and 600 beds. The project’s sensitivity to scale and experience emphasizes the owner’s commitment to develop the premier student housing community in the marketplace that incorporates and integrates unique building design, extraordinary amenities, and exceptional unit plans. The project was developed by Peak Campus and Titan Investments and constructed by hardison/downey construction, inc.

For more on Ayers Saint Gross’ award-winning designs, visit our Awards page.





Ayers Saint Gross Reaches $1B in LEED Construction

October 19, 2016

Last month, Ayers Saint Gross reached an important and exciting milestone in our sustainable journey. With the LEED Silver certification of Georgetown University’s Ryan and Isaac Halls, our firm crossed the billion-dollar mark, having produced $1 billion in LEED certified construction.

To celebrate, we’ve created an infographic that illustrates exactly what $1,000,000,000 in LEED construction looks like. Congratulations to everyoneclients, designers, partners, and of course the USGBCwho made this tremendous achievement possible. I’m particularly grateful to Emory University, the University of Maryland system, and the University of Virginia, which collectively make up 14 of our 34 LEED projects. It’s wonderful to see clients build with sustainability in mind, and then come back for more when they see its many benefits. Great clients make for great buildings.

Here’s to the next billion. We’re already on our way with the pending certification of the Earl G. Graves School of Business and Management at Morgan State University.

LEEDv4 vs. LEED 2009: Design Implications

August 8, 2016

In 85 days, sustainable design will go through a big change.

On October 31, 2016, LEED 2009 will sunset. All projects registered thereafter will be required to meet the more stringent requirements of LEEDv4.

Ayers Saint Gross has long been a standard bearer for sustainable design. This year, that means investing significant resources in educating ourselves about how LEEDv4 will impact the way we build. Understanding the new standards in this depth allows us to be excited about how certifying projects under this system will advance the caliber of high-performance buildings.

At this point, most people in the AEC industry are familiar with the key differences between LEED 2009 and LEEDv4. Major changes in LEEDv4 include:

  • Energy modeling baseline updated from ASHRAE90.1-2007 to ASHRAE 90.1-2010;
  • Increased scope of fixtures addressed by water efficiency credits, including lab equipment among other process fixtures;
  • Restructured Materials and Resources credits that push for transparency in manufacturing;
  • New metrics in daylighting to more accurately account for daily and annual variations.

But the time for general understanding is winding down. Starting soon, designers will need to know specifics.

You have to get in the weeds about LEEDv4 to have confidence in certifying a building under the new standards and to deliver on a promise to certify a project to a certain level. Later this month, I will address the AIA Austin Summer Conference and dive into the nitty-gritty of what designing under this new rating system will mean, including:

  • Transportation Access. LEEDv4’s public transportation access credit counts the number of trips made by public transit infrastructure, whereas LEED 2009 counted the number of public transit lines. Projects that previously may not have qualified for any public transit points under LEED 2009 may be able to access a point under LEEDv4.
  • Covered Bicycle Parking. Under LEEDv4, both institutional and residential buildings require covered bicycle parking. Under the old system, only residential buildings had to meet this requirement.
  • Regional Materials. LEEDv4 does not offer points especially for sourcing materials from within 500 miles of a project as LEED 2009 did. Sourcing materials locally now allows project teams to double the value of local materials when performing building material optimization calculations.

LEED 2009 is the most widely adopted green building rating system on the planet, and it follows that LEEDv4 is likely to command a similar percentage of market share for green building certifications. However, since LEED 2009 debuted, a number of other rating systems, standards, and codes have been established, including the Living Building Challenge, IgCC, and ASHRAE189.1. LEEDv4 is walking into a much more crowded certification marketplace than LEED 2009 did.

Early and mid-range adopters to the sustainability movement are likely to stay with LEED because it carries significant brand recognition. However, LEEDv4 is progressive enough a standard that later adopters to sustainability may be intimidated to attempt it, especially with a whole suite of other rating systems and standards in the marketplace with lower barriers to entry. As professionals, we will be prepared to serve clients at all levels of sustainability, whether new to the party or well-versed and ready to be on the cutting edge.

We are excited to see how the specifics of LEEDv4 will influence design and sustainability, and believe this and other competitive green building rating systems, standards, and codes will push us all to create more efficient high-performance buildings that serve the community and the world.

See you in Austin!

A Brief History of the Ayers Saint Gross ACUHO-I Student Housing Book

July 8, 2016

The ACUHO-I Annual Conference and Exposition is an exceptional gathering, in large part due to how open residence life and design professionals are about sharing their experiences, and what they’ve learned about creating living environments for students.

We put together our annual ACUHO-I student housing book as a way to contribute to that spirit of sharing by providing current, relevant housing project data. We want to give you information you can use. We produced our first ACUHO-I student housing book in 2005, and strive to make it interesting and accessible every year. Last year’s pop-up edition even won a promotions and marketing design award from HOW magazine.


The 2016 edition, entitled “Mission Driven,” focuses on four current residential life themes: recalibrating unit mix, mixed-use, increasing students living on campus, and town gown. Stop by and see us at ACUHO-I at Booth 327 to get your copy.


Microhouses with Macro Impact: Volunteering with ACE in Austin

April 28, 2016

When I began investigating volunteer opportunities in my new hometown of Austin, Texas, I happily stumbled across the ACE (Architecture Construction Engineering) Mentor Program. I had heard of ACE before, as a number of my colleagues in Baltimore have volunteered with their local affiliate. But the Austin chapter was just starting up and I was interested in the opportunities the program provided for both students and mentors.

ACE provides a free 12-week program for high school students to explore careers with industry professionals. The program includes guest speakers, construction site tours, and visits to local schools of architecture. It culminates with a final design project that allows students to collaborate with their mentors and peers and put their design skills to use.

The final project selected by the ACE Austin affiliate was particularly exciting to me: a 200 square foot microhome to address the challenges faced by the chronically homeless in Austin. Inspired by a recent AIA Austin design competition that asked professionals to perform the same task, the designs would use Community First Village, a 27-acre parcel in east Austin as their site. Run by a local organization, Mobile Loaves & Fishes, Community First Village is building dozens of microhomes. Our work as student-led, mentor-supported design teams fits right into the current events of the city.

Microhomes seem far from the large-scale residence halls that constitute much of Ayers Saint Gross’ portfolio. But our skills as designers let us serve everyone in need of a place to live, work, and play. I was excited to share my interest in design and sustainability with the high schoolers in our group, and eager to see how they’d respond to their first design problem.

When teaching budding designers, the first teaching challenge is figuring out where to start. To get our students going, we worked together to describe a client. Envisioning someone their building was to serve helped guide our students’ decision-making. Through the process we challenged them to measure their decisions against a budget as well, helping them learn about the real-world constraints that go with working in architecture. It’s been an incredible process, from their first day figuring out where to start to their final presentation hosted at the University of Texas at Austin’s AT&T Conference Center. Our students have come so far, and like every volunteer and teaching experience I’ve had, it’s hard to say who got more out of it – the students or the mentors.

Beyond the educational program, ACE also provides scholarships to as many deserving students in the program as it can. At the conclusion of the final design presentation, two of my team’s students were recognized with scholarships and I’m immensely proud of the work they did to earn those funds to support their college educations. Mentors are also recognized, and I’m humbled to say I was named the 2016 Exemplary Mentor of the Year. I’ll definitely be back next year and I can only imagine it’ll be just as rewarding an experience.