Transforming Sustainability at Texas A&M

March 24, 2017
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When Texas A&M decided to update its 2004 campus master plan with a team of Ayers Saint Gross planners, six integrated focus elements guided the work:

  • Campus Development
  • Mobility and Safety
  • Sustainability and Wellness
  • Campus Guidelines
  • Heritage Conservation
  • Wayfinding and Signage

My role on the team was most closely aligned with Sustainability and Wellness, and our firm’s work in this area is the subject of a session I’ll be co-presenting with Texas A&M’s University Architect, Lilia Gonzales, and Director of Sustainability, Kelly Wellman at the Smart and Sustainable Campuses Conference on March 27. I’m excited about digging into the integrated approach that Texas A&M has taken in planning its campus.

A selection of Texas A&M’s planning work between 2004 and the 2017 Campus Master Plan includes:

  • Sustainability Master Plan
  • Bicycle District Strategic Plan
  • Energy Action Plan
  • Utility and Energy Master Plan
  • Stormwater Management Program
  • District Plans to Direct Physical Development
  • Biennial Sustainability Progress Reports
  • AASHE STARS Report

Each of these elements informed the vision for a sustainable campus that is integrated throughout the 2017 Campus Master Plan to facilitate transformation across the campus community. Coordinating these efforts under a single master plan will clarify Texas A&M’s visions of a sustainable campus and support the transformative ideas the institution has for its campus.

Among other subjects, the Sustainability and Wellness portion of the 2017 Campus Mater Plan includes initiatives about:

  • Building on the success of the recent upgrades to the campus central heat and power plant to continue reductions in energy demand and GHG emissions
  • Managing stormwater with green infrastructure
  • Improving pedestrian mobility across the university’s large campus footprint
  • Developing greater connectivity for the bicycle network both on and off campus
  • Continuing the transition from interior surface lots to perimeter parking garages
  • Advancing the institution’s stated objective of designing LEED Silver equivalent buildings to a more A&M-specific set of high-performance design requirements
  • Progressing the deployment of universal recycling containers on campus
  • Celebrating Texas A&M’s historic legacy while furthering diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts
  • Increasing opportunities for education, outreach, and engagement

Hope to see you at Smart and Sustainable!

Top 10 Blog Posts of 2016

December 16, 2016
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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.

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.
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The Endless Park: PARK(ing) Day 2016

September 21, 2016
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PARK(ing) Day got its start in 2005, and has since become a global celebration of public space in urban contexts. As a firm, Ayers Saint Gross celebrates sustainability and the importance of green spaces as a necessary part of good urban design. This year the DC office was thrilled to tackle a parking space in NoMa and turn it into an “endless park.”

The goal was to get passersby from the NoMa community to disrupt their daily routines and immerse themselves in an unexpected retreat while learning about urban sustainability practices.

We created our pop-up park out of salvaged wooden pallets from a local construction site, fresh layers of sod, and (most importantly) a series of mirrors. Mirrors have long been a go-to move for making interior spaces seem larger; we figured they could do the same thing for an outdoor space. Thus our mirrors faced each other, creating the illusion of an infinite, endless park.

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We also had a series of posters informing park-goers about urban sustainability. All together it made for a relaxing and informative spot.

Of course, the best urban design is not delivered from on high; it is a collaboration between the designers and the community. With that in mind, we wanted to include an interactive element in our park. We asked pedestrians to contribute by writing thoughts, activities, and feelings about parks and sustainability on tags. The tags became petals on flower-like stakes that were laid out on the park’s grass, creating a “endless” field of wildflowers in the mirrored reflection. As we grew our field of flowers throughout the day, it became a beautiful metaphor for the endless benefits of sustainability.

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Photo courtesy of Laetitia Brock

To support sustainability once more at the conclusion of the day, our team returned the wood pallets to the construction site and planted the sod nearby in NoMa.

The mission of PARK(ing) Day is to call attention to the need for more urban open space, to generate debate around how public space is created and allocated, and to improve the quality of urban human habitat. While our “endless park” lasted only a day, creativity and a thoughtful approach to urban space are ever-present parts of our firm’s philosophy.

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Going Green, Staying Green: How to Create an Enduring Sustainable Landscape

August 23, 2016
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Sustainable landscapes address a number of environmental concerns: habitat loss, natural resource depletion, air pollution, and waste generation. For those reasons and more, sustainability is an increasingly central part of campus planning.

However, as the methods used to create an ecologically sound site grow, so can the number of maintenance needs and costs.

Creating – and perhaps even more crucially, maintaining – sustainable landscapes is a multi-phase process. Here are a few points of advice that can guide discussions about how to create a sustainable design that will continue to function as originally envisioned.

  • Align your sustainability goals with available resources. Understanding your desired project goals and maintenance routine is paramount to a project’s success. Ask yourself a few questions in the early design process: What are your project’s sustainability goals? What are your long-term maintenance capabilities? What changes could be made to align your practices with your goals? Once both client and landscape architect understand the parameters, you can work together to produce a design that meets the needs of your institution.
  • Consider the life cycle costs of your choices. Evaluate the necessary steps that ensure you can meet your sustainability goals. For example, if you wish to diminish a site’s long-term energy and potable water use, your standard planting palette, hardscape materials, and irrigation technique may need adjustment. Depending on the project’s goals, the design may have unique maintenance needs, such as permeable pavers or a rainwater collection system. If you are unfamiliar with these elements, ask how to maintain them to ensure the design will receive proper care. There’s good news, though: Not every sustainable strategy has a high maintenance cost. In fact, many diminish total costs because more expensive materials provide benefits that offset their initial price. For example, a cistern will reduce your irrigation bill, and selecting native or low-irrigation plants reduces irrigation and labor maintenance costs.
  • Concentrate high-maintenance areas for maximum effect. An elaborate design with ambitious net-zero goals may be beyond your scope. Instead, consider small interventions that make a large impact. Prioritize your goals, and centralize the high-maintenance areas in high-visibility areas to make the biggest impression.
  • Monitor performance. Whether the goal is to achieve a net-zero energy site, reduce stormwater runoff, or provide wildlife habitat, monitoring how the site performs is necessary to ensure the goal is met. Track the site closely, adapting maintenance activities as needed. Recording the effectiveness of various methods will provide a guide for future management actions. With proper care, the benefits of the landscape can continue to function at optimum potential.

LEEDv4 vs. LEED 2009: Design Implications

August 8, 2016
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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!

Drinking Water in Mangundze

May 16, 2016
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Drinking water in rural Mozambique is a luxury.

Most of the 30,000 people who live in the Manjacaze district of Gaza Province travel long distances every day to collect drinking water, carrying it on their heads.

This system causes major health problems in women and children who are responsible for collecting enough water for their families. Children often skip school to do this important task. When temperatures climb higher, the task of getting water becomes both more difficult and more vital.

As a Mozambican national, I always search for ways to help my country to thrive. So, a year ago, my wife and I and the Carlos Morgado Foundation created a crowdfunding campaign to fund, transport, and distribute 30 Hippo Rollers around Mangundze, in the district of Manjacaze, to give the community better access to drinking water. We wanted a tool that would have an immediate impact in the community, and the Hippo Roller was a perfect choice.

Hippo Rollers are plastic drums with 90 liters of capacity designed and developed in neighboring South Africa that allow people to collect drinking water and roll it back to their homes with ease.

Hippo Rollers are faster and less physically taxing than traditional methods, opening up women and children’s time for education and other activities.

We originally planned for five families to share each drum. Beyond meeting basic humanitarian needs, the communal property can instill a sense of engagement, empowerment, responsibility, and accountability among the community members.

A year ago, several of my Ayers Saint Gross colleagues contributed to the fund, for which I’m so grateful. Our firm knows the power of community building and ecological sustainability, so the Hippo Rollers were the kind of project I knew my colleagues would support.

With assistance from Juan Gabriel Arias of the Mission of Mangundze, a community committee mapped the geographic areas that each drum would serve and its schedule among the five beneficiary families. They also identified community leaders to support the process. Those leaders became responsible for the management of each drum, distributing them on schedule, and providing regular maintenance. In six months, the community committee successfully distributed all 30 Hippo Rollers and provided oversight for usage and schedules.

After a short period of skepticism with regard to transporting water in a rolling plastic drum, the acceptance and demand was incredibly high.

A few months after the final distribution we did a survey to identify the total impact of the Hippo Rollers on the community. Using an average of 5 individuals per family, the summary of beneficiaries is as follows:

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This year, we propose to expand the distribution and affect more lives with 60 more Hippo Rollers around Mangundze. Aside from the crowdfunding campaign, we will also purchase 10 Hippo Rollers to test a rent-to-own solution. We were approached by some families who were interested in buying their own drums, which is a testament to how useful a tool the Hippo Rollers really are.

Hippo Rollers do not replace the need for new drinking water sources, but they have made a significant impact in Mangundze. With a lifespan of five to seven years, the drums will continue to benefit the community in the immediate future while alternative sustainable solutions are assessed.

If you can, we hope you will contribute to the campaign. All donations, large or small, make a difference. Every contribution helps, and all the money goes directly to a Hippo Roller that will help a Mozambican family.

At Ayers Saint Gross, we engage people and place to create designs that enrich our world. Mostly that mission takes the form of design work for our clients, but it also includes support for projects like this one.

You can find the campaign here: Drinking Water in Mangundze 2016.

Microhouses with Macro Impact: Volunteering with ACE in Austin

April 28, 2016
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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.

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.

12 Rules for Better, Healthier, Greener Building Products

March 30, 2016
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As Sustainability Director and Specification Writer at Ayers Saint Gross, one of my main focus areas is assuring that we select building products carefully, to meet the requirements of our clients and the building users.

I recently presented a session entitled “Product Rules” at Greenbuild, USGBC’s annual conference. Drawing inspiration from Michael Pollan’s book “Food Rules,” these Product Rules provide 12 basic guidelines for selecting better, healthier, more environmentally responsible products and materials. I developed them in close collaboration with Paula Melton, Senior Editor at BuildingGreen; Jennifer Atlee, Sustainable Material Consultant at PROSOCO; and Kirsten Ritchie, Director of Sustainable Design at Gensler.

The session received such great feedback that BuildingGreen is re-running the session as a webinar (available soon). BuildingGreen also developed an easy-to-read and educational infographic, available here for download.

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Americans tend to believe that if a product is on the market, someone makes sure that it is safe. We increasingly understand that this is not necessarily true.

We are on a mission to encourage all product manufacturers to disclose information about the environmental life-cycle impacts, sourcing information, and clear direction on exactly what material ingredients are incorporated into their products. These rules reflect these concerns.

By merging a deep knowledge of building materials with a passion for critical environmental issues, we can drastically improve our buildings, providing better environments for all.

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.

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.