Vertex Student Apartments Wins AIA Arizona and ENR Southwest Awards

October 19, 2016
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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. aia-arizona-vertex-award 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. Save Save Save Save

Ayers Saint Gross Reaches $1B in LEED Construction

October 19, 2016
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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. leed_infographic_v6

Green Week 2016: Planning for the Future

April 18, 2016
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In a sense, every week is Green Week at Ayers Saint Gross. Building thoughtfully and responsibly is part of every project we undertake, and all of our studios incorporate sustainability into their work. 72% of our technical staff is LEED accredited, we’ve helped develop guidelines so partners in the industry can make smart decisions about building materials, and we’ve won awards for our projects. It’s just what we do as a part of our mission of engaging people and places to create designs that enrich the world. But we really lean into it during our annual Green Week, which kicks off today. We’ve planned educational and collaborative events that bring sustainability to the forefront of firm-wide discussions, right where they belong. We’re bringing together a broad cross-section of the firm to discuss the role of high-performance design in our work, and to brainstorm ways our internal sustainability team can better support everyone's projects. Allison Wilson, AIA, LEED AP BD+C will present on LEED 2009 vs. LEED v4 in both our Washington, DC and Baltimore offices. “Preparing ourselves to guide clients through LEED v4 is an important priority,” Wilson said. “It’s exciting to bring this Green Week event to multiple offices and share this expertise broadly.” There’s sometimes a perception that environmentalism is a back-to-nature Luddite endeavor; I strongly disagree. In fact, creative thinking and cutting edge technology are essential to sustainable design. I’m presenting to my colleagues on the path to net-zero buildings. Achieving net-zero energy performance on an annual basis is important in our building work. Even if a project is ultimately unable to hit this metric, getting close is still a remarkable amount of energy savings. Additionally, Kristina Abrams, AIA, LEED AP BD+C organized a 3D fabrication presentation. This will be a panel presentation which will address more sustainable manufacturing, while providing a pathway to incorporate this process into our work. On Earth Day itself, Friday April 22, we’ll wrap up with a peer group discussion about how we currently incorporate sustainability into our practice and what more we can do to go above and beyond client expectations. We’re always finding and sharing ideas about sustainable design. To learn more about sustainability at Ayers Saint Gross, please download the firm’s sustainability action plan. As I said, every week is Green Week around here.

Teaching and giving at a West Baltimore school for 17 years

March 15, 2016
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As we move into 2016, the Beechfield team is taking some time to reflect on the past year. In 2015, we taught a class of 4th and 5th graders at Beechfield Elementary/Middle School in West Baltimore about all aspects of design—from architecture, to interior design, to planning, to landscape architecture, to graphic design. We also collected two carloads worth of food and numerous grocery store gift cards to donate to Beechfield students and their families during the holidays. To make sure our good friends stayed warm and well-read during the winter, our colleagues at Ayers Saint Gross rallied to give hats, gloves, scarves, books, and more this past December. All this giving motivates the Beechfield team to do even more! Our 17-year long relationship with the school continues to grow and we are excited at the possibilities for 2016. The team is brainstorming new ways to teach the students, other giving possibilities, and opportunities to expand our influence. We hope to make 2016 an impactful year and start talented young students on a path to a career in design.

Anne Hicks Harney elevated to AIA College of Fellows

February 12, 2016
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“Great architecture requires superior design ideas supported by technically proficient and sustainably minded detailing and execution. We need to create a culture of sustainability to assure consistently high performing design is all that we are presenting to the world.” - Anne Hicks Harney, FAIA, LEED AP BD+C Ayers Saint Gross is proud to announce Anne Hicks Harney, Director of Sustainability, has been elevated to the College of Fellows by the American Institute of Architects (AIA). This is one of the highest honors the AIA can bestow, and it recognizes the achievements of the architect as an individual who has made significant contributions to architecture and society. Only approximately 3% of architects ever achieve this honor. By merging a deep knowledge of building materials with a passion for critical environmental issues, Anne Hicks Harney leads the sustainable material transparency movement both within the architectural profession and the industry at large. Anne tirelessly pursues the highest level of integrated sustainable design. Through her practice, she has become one of the nation’s leading experts on high performance design. Through her research and activism, she has become an influential nationwide advocate for greater understanding of the environmental and health effects of building materials. She educates firm employees as well as the architectural community on material transparency, sustainable architecture, and high performance design, with a focus on re-shaping the profession’s environmental impact. As the firm’s first Director of Sustainability, she works with all teams on sustainability issues, pushing the firm to achieve higher performance across their portfolio of projects. Under her leadership, Ayers Saint Gross became one of the nation’s leaders in sustainable architecture, planning, and design. In 2015, ARCHITECT Magazine ranked Ayers Saint Gross at 19 in sustainability among the nation’s architecture firms. Seventy percent of the firm’s professionals are LEED-accredited and all projects meet the minimum equivalency of a LEED Silver rating through resource-efficient design strategies. Anne's knowledge of building materials and environmental issues is evident in her role as Ayers Saint Gross’ lead technical writer where she executes the firm’s entire portfolio of projects. Anne uses her extensive knowledge of building products to work with project teams to improve selections. Her main focus is on material selection and deployment, supporting teams in articulating design ideas, turning them into durable, efficient, and environmentally sound structures. Additionally, Anne is co-chair of the National AIA Materials Knowledge Working Group. This group creates tools to assist architects with material selection, and oversees the corresponding education. She is a member of the USGBC Materials and Resources Technical Advisory Group (MR TAG), and is the co-founder of the Building Enclosure Council - Baltimore. Many organizations have recognized her excellence in sustainability, including USGBC Maryland which awarded her its 2013 Green Building Leader Award. Anne’s leadership in sustainability and technical initiatives within the firm elevate the caliber of our design dialogue about high performance buildings. Her efforts also ensure that energy efficiency, water efficiency, and material health are integral to every Ayers Saint Gross project. Anne was the sustainability lead for the John and Frances Angelos Law Center at the University of Baltimore. This project, a 2014 AIA COTE top ten winner, exemplifies the firm’s integrated approach to sustainable design. Glenn Birx, principal at Ayers Saint Gross said, “For our clients and peers, Anne's elevation makes a statement that Ayers Saint Gross is at the forefront of the profession for sustainability issues. We care deeply about real sustainability from conception through years of building management, and are leading the nationwide effort to encourage the material transparency movement.” Anne Hicks Harney, FAIA, LEED AP BD+C shares her expertise nationwide with speaking engagements at notable conferences including AIA National Convention, USGBC’s Greenbuild, and the Living Future Institute’s unConference. Her work at Ayers Saint Gross includes work on 33 LEED Certified projects, totaling over $1 billion in environmentally improved construction across the nation. Anne joins other Fellows in the firm including Luanne Greene, Adam Gross, Glenn Birx, and Ed Kohls.

United Way Campaign Wrap-Up

February 9, 2016
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It was another record-breaking year for our 2015 United Way annual giving campaign! The United Way team of Adam Ravestein, Meghann Boosinger, and me (Dana Perzynski), with support from Jim Wheeler, worked hard to raise a total of $41,916 to help change the odds for families who need it most. The team organized several campaigns to raise money. The chili cook-off is always an office favorite. The competition is always fierce – each year there is a lot of smack-talking among the chefs, and this year was no exception. We had 13 chili-makers, and each chili was different and delicious! In the end Cormac Phelan, a new employee at Ayers Saint Gross, won with his chiliMAC recipe. Daniel Greenspan’s Sweet Fennel Chili and Samantha Polinik’s Moussaka Chili tied for second place. The winner received Ravens tickets, and the second place winners were awarded $100 Visa gift cards, all donated by Ayers Saint Gross. We also continued our tradition of bringing in breakfasts every Friday in the months of November and December, where all proceeds go directly to the United Way. We added a special “Omelet Day” this year, conveniently held the day after our Holiday Party, which was a huge success. We made almost 50 omelets, specially prepared by aspiring chefs Chi Yan and Daniel Greenspan. There were several raffles that brought in extra money – our IT department charged $50 for old computers, and we raffled off a Kindle Fire (donated by Ayers Saint Gross) at our annual Family Barbeque. The biggest fundraiser every year is the Payroll Deduction, where money is taken directly out of employee’s payroll. The events are fun and help raise awareness, but this is where the bulk of the money comes from. We are proud that we were able to achieve 50% Baltimore office participation, and 40% total participation across the firm. The team offers incentives for employees to donate and even raise their donation from the previous year. Even though the campaign has come to a close, we know the work is not over. There are still people in need. As a result, we have decided to continue the spirit of giving though the winter/spring by collecting toiletries for homeless veterans. We are asking employees to bring back unused hotel toiletries from their travels, and we will put together bags to donate to The Baltimore Station. We are also planning a Day of Action at Helping Up Mission in the spring.

It’s CSA time again!

February 4, 2016
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Did you know the average American meal travels approximately 1500 miles from where it’s grown to where it’s eaten? There’s a lot of energy tied up in food production and transportation and supporting local agriculture can decrease food’s carbon footprint as well as create more resilient, diverse economies. Ayers Saint Gross believes in supporting our local economy and making sustainable lifestyles easier for our employees, so we’ve supported local community supported agriculture (CSA) by hosting weekly on-site CSA delivery for employees of our Baltimore office since 2013. Dana Perzynski of the planning group coordinates office participation with One Straw Farm in the late winter months each year and food begins coming into the office in June. Perzynski says, “I make time to coordinate the CSA because I believe in supporting local farms and healthy eating. I've also found that it builds office camaraderie through the sharing of recipes and colleagues gawking together over sweet potatoes the size of a human head! I also like organizing things in general and I get a complimentary share for myself for coordinating the CSA...a major bonus!” There are lots of reasons to participate in the CSA says Jonathan Ceci of the landscape studio, “I really enjoy the diversity of the produce. The share includes many kinds of vegetables that I would not normally pick up at the grocery store. Before participating in the CSA, I had never been exposed to so many species of Brassica! The quantities are often quite generous which allows for sharing with friends and family.” Having the CSA delivery in the office has also supported lots of new recipes. Says Amber Wendland of the planning studio, “I enjoy cooking some of the more obscure veggies for family and friends and then making them guess what they just ate.” Andrew Bernish, also of the planning studio, echoed similar sentiments, “I participated my first year at Ayers Saint Gross because it gave me the opportunity to incorporate new veggies into my meals at home. Actually 'gave me is a bit soft - it 'forced my hand' to incorporate new items like kohlrabi and celtuce; alien-looking veggies I likely would not have purchased yet happily devoured." Sign-ups for this year’s CSA are happening between now and March 1, 2016. Food delivery is slated to begin the week of June 8 and runs for 24 weeks.

Ayers Saint Gross Maker Fair 2015

January 15, 2016
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During the summer of 2015, Ayers Saint Gross completed the addition of a wood shop including a 3D printer and laser cutter. Employees were invited to take training and safety courses in order to use the newly available equipment. I jumped at the chance and did the training. I was very excited and inspired about the prospect of building models of our projects in the shop, but I also realized that not a lot of Ayers Saint Gross employees would get the chance to use it, since the task of model-building is typically relegated to interns or junior architects. I approached a few of the senior architects at the firm about the idea of creating an in-house design competition. This would encourage the use of the shop and especially encourage the growth of our employees through learning how to use both traditional tools and newer ‘maker’ tools, like the laser cutter and 3D printer. The growth of maker culture has been exponential over the past couple of decades, nationally and globally, and architects stand to gain much by exploring its possibilities. We know this, so it wasn’t hard to convince the Executive Committee to approve this endeavor. Without the support of forward-thinking leaders, proposals like this wouldn’t come to fruition. I formed a committee and moved forward with the development of the Ayers Saint Gross Maker Fair 2015, with the intention of it becoming an annual event. The aim of the Maker Fair is to present would-be competitors with a small, self-contained, hands-on design challenge. The committee met and discussed a few options, finally landing on the challenge of designing a light fixture using a simple bulb and chord provided upon entry. This was in part influenced by the upcoming Light City Baltimore festival, set to take place in the spring of 2016. The Maker Fair was announced to the Baltimore and DC offices, with a kick-off charrette open to competitors for the last couple of hours of the following day. Competitors were given two months to design and fabricate their lights. They were encouraged, but not limited to, the tools available in each office. When all of the submissions were received, the lights were displayed in the entrance corridor of the Baltimore office. During the week of January 4th 2016, the lights were turned on in the late afternoon so that voters can see them in action. Voters are asked to consider the use of materials, design process and production, and of course, the Vitruvian ideals of structural integrity, utility, and beauty. The ballot required voters to rank their top five favorite designs, with points awarded in ascending order according to standing. Winners were announced at the January Office Meeting. Thanks to my supportive committee that made it all possible - Scott Vieth, Kevin Johnson, Alvin Rudolph, Joe Kim, Logan Mahaffey, and Brandon Moore.

Luanne Greene is Ayers Saint Gross’ new president.

January 1, 2016
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"Luanne leads without having to say 'I’m the leader,' but rather by action and understanding." - Hank Webber, Executive Vice Chancellor for Administration, Washington University in St. Louis Having distinguished herself as head of our Planning Studio, building our respected higher education practice, and as an acknowledged industry leader, Luanne has risen to become the next President of Ayers Saint Gross. She is the first woman to lead the firm in its 100-year history. Luanne will guide the management team with a focus on implementing the firm's strategic vision. She will continue to work with clients on projects that connect the art and science of planning on campuses across the country. Firm leaders Adam Gross, Jim Wheeler, and Glenn Birx will continue to play integral roles, while identifying Luanne as the next generation leader. Luanne has long been instrumental in our exceptional higher education practice. With more than 25 years of design and planning experience, Greene has worked on behalf of colleges and universities across the country including Johns Hopkins University; the University of Maryland, Baltimore; the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill; Carnegie Mellon University; and Washington University in St. Louis. Throughout her career, Greene has established new benchmarks in campus planning that have influenced institutions, architects, and planners nationwide by integrating strategic planning, culture, and context into campus design, changing the way American universities and cultural institutions understand the power of their “place” to support a culture of excellence. Her work on more than 14,000 acres of campus open space and development affects the daily experience of more than 260,000 students and 32,000 faculty and staff. Greene’s work also includes mission-driven cultural institutions and the renewal of several high profile, iconic American treasures. She has completed master plans for the Wildlife Conservation Society (including the Bronx Zoo) and interconnected plans for the Smithsonian’s National Zoo, National Air and Space Museum, National Museum of American History and a Pan-Institutional Collections Space. This work reaches more than 21.5 million visitors annually. Greene was recently named to the American Institute of Architects (AIA) College of Fellows, which honors architects who have made significant contributions to architecture and society and who have achieved a standard of excellence in the profession.

2015 Baltimore Holiday Party

December 17, 2015
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Over 170 Ayers Saint Gross employees and their “plus one” turned out for the 2015 Baltimore Office Holiday Party at Barcocina in Fells Point. Continuing the trend of “work hard and play hard” on the Harbor, this year’s holiday party location was right along the Inner Harbor promenade, just steps from the water. In fact, many employees took the Water Taxi from the office over to the party after work. Partygoers dined on house made guacamole, crispy yucca tots, and a wide assortment of creative tacos all washed down with jalapeno foam margaritas and Mexican beer. Monumental Photobooth provided documentation of the evening…and pure entertainment. Please enjoy a few of the most amusing photo booth shots from the evening!

Top Rankings at Ayers Saint Gross

November 24, 2015
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Ayers Saint Gross had a fantastic year in terms of winning awards and receiving high rankings on prestigious lists. Ayers Saint Gross is ranked a very impressive #29 of the Top 50 Architecture Firms in the country by ARCHITECT Magazine. This extremely competitive list is based on sustainability (where we ranked #19!); good business practices including benefits, turnover rates, diversity, pro-bono work, and revenue (we ranked #17!); and design. We have made the Top 50 list before, but we have never ranked this high. The fact that business practices, rather than just purely revenue, weighed heavily in this year’s ranking contributed to our rise in the ranks. Since management has worked really hard to become a great place to work, we are especially pleased to be recognized in such a meaningful way. Our sustainability ranking is indicative of our fantastic sustainability team, who are working to meet or exceed the goals set in the AIA 2030 Commitment. According to Engineering News-Record, Ayers Saint Gross is ranked #34 overall in Top 100 Green Buildings Design Firms. Ranked #50 last year, this ranking is based on the number of our projects that are actively pursuing certification via a third party system – for Ayers Saint Gross that translates into projects that fit into the LEED, BCGBS (Baltimore City’s rating system), and Green Garages programs. These rating systems are mainly about revenue, so the large A/E firms tend to get the highest marks. But because 68% of our work is using third party rating systems, we ranked very high for a firm of our size. Comparatively, based solely on revenue alone, Ayers Saint Gross is ranked #279 in Engineering News Record. This high sustainability ranking continues to raise our profile, but more importantly, it results in better, higher performing buildings. Ayers Saint Gross is #1 of the Largest Baltimore Architecture firms, based on local billings in 2014. Ayers Saint Gross was ranked #2 in 2013.

Luanne Greene Elevated to AIA College of Fellows

February 23, 2015
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Over the past 25 years, Luanne Greene’s work as an architect and planner has transformed campus planning. As head of the Ayers Saint Gross Planning Studio, Luanne has integrated strategic planning, culture, and context into campus design to change the way American universities and cultural institutions understand the power of their “place” to support a culture of excellence. Luanne’s work spans the country and includes significant planning work for the following institutions: University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Carnegie Mellon University, Johns Hopkins University, Smithsonian Institution, Washington University in St Louis, Virginia Commonwealth University, Ringling College of Art and Design, University of Maryland, Baltimore, University of Richmond, Wildlife Conservation Society, Wake Forest University, University of Wisconsin - Madison, University of Chicago, University of Notre Dame, and University of Virginia. The AIA Fellowship program honors architects who have made a significant contribution to architecture and society and who have achieved a standard of excellence in the profession.