Elevating Design and Research
Outside of the Office

October 9, 2020
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As an employee-owned firm, our people are our greatest strength. Even in the most challenging times, they exhibit expertise and leadership in their fields. October is Employee Stock Ownership Plan (ESOP) month, and a great time to celebrate the incredible work that employees are doing to elevate design and research in addition to providing great client service.


Architect Shannon Dowling was awarded a Society for College and University Planning (SCUP) fellowship. The SCUP Fellows program “supports members of the SCUP community seeking to carry out research that will benefit the integrated planning community and establish an accelerated path to an exceptional future.” Recipients are supported in their research by the organization and present at the national conference.

Over the next year, Shannon will study how colleges and universities can plan and design diverse, equitable, and inclusive learning environments that embody those values in physical space and provide campus planners and facility designers with a set of metrics with which to assess physical space. The results of this study will help inform how to manifest these values on campus.

“Through the research, I hope to create a roadmap for architects and campus planners to address these issues in a way that is meaningful, authentic and creates a more inclusive and student-centered campus environment through thoughtful, informed, and provocative integrated planning.”

The project will use a case-study methodology, and Shannon will be analyzing the mission, vision, values, and most recent strategic and master plans for three different universities, looking for measurable physical goals relative to diversity, equity, and inclusion. Through interviews with the University Architects and Campus Planners at each institution and comparisons of their plans and progress to peer institutions, she will look for patterns of successful ideas, designs, and campus interventions.

In the spring of 2021, Shannon will lead a workshop with interior design students, giving them a voice in the project and another avenue to share what’s been learned.

See the SCUP page for more details.


Melonee Quintanilla, a student intern working in the architecture practice group, won the 2020 AIA Maryland Excellence in Design Award for Graduate Student, Beginning Design. Her design “Lightbox,” was a vision for the renovation of the University of Maryland School of Architecture, Planning, and Preservation Building.

“I chose to do a renovation instead of demolishing and starting over for sustainability reasons, but I also wanted to preserve the existing sense of place in the building. The school has a lot of built-in memories, but there was room for improvement. The design goal was to uplift and share the architecture program with others and get more people exposed and involved in the practice. I also wanted to ensure that the landscape improved existing issues and presented a learning opportunity.”

The jury commented:

A thoughtful and well executed project. It received high marks in design excellence for literally elevating the architectural program on campus and incorporating a bioswale to deal with flooding issues. It was a very smart design move to put a light, glass-filled addition above the existing brick building, signaling the department’s activity to the university community and increasing the transparency of the architectural field.


Abby Thomas, with assistance from Connor Price and Mike McGrain, all from the landscape architecture practice group, had a concept selected for the Design for Distancing competition. This initiative by the City of Baltimore, the Baltimore Development Corporation, the Neighborhood Design Center, and the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public health set about looking for designs to reconfigure public space to safely patronize small business during the COVID-19 Pandemic. There were 162 total submissions, 10 of which were chosen for the design guidelines book. These designs will be implemented in some small business districts in and around Baltimore, and offer solutions that could be taken up nationwide.

The chosen design, “ParKIT” is a mobile kiosk designed to hold the key items for creating a pop-up park (the kiosk itself can then be used for any number of vending or service functions).

ParKIT and the other winners design briefs are here.

See page 48 for ParKIT from Ayers Saint Gross.

Amber Wendland Joins the Neighborhood Design Center Board of Directors

September 21, 2020
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Amber Wendland recently joined the board of directors of the Neighborhood Design Center.

Founded in Baltimore during the civil rights movement, the Neighborhood Design Center (NDC) has for decades been committed to engaged and participatory urban design to advance equity and strengthen communities. This has proven, wide-ranging positive impacts with over 3,500 projects across Maryland.

Amber has worked tirelessly over the years focused on improving Baltimore and its communities, including the East Baltimore Revitalization Plan. We spoke with Amber about her role with NDC.

What does being on the board entail?

The board has a number of subcommittees, but the general purpose is to help support NDC’s mission and grow their reach. NDC has a close relationship with their board, and they look to it for expertise and support. The organization is formed with a deliberate dedication to diversity in all its forms, including gender diversity, racial and ethnic diversity, diversity of experience, and diversity of talent. There are a lot of different backgrounds and knowledge people bring to the table and part of my responsibility as a board member is to uphold this heterogeneity moving forward.

How does this connect with the work you’ve done?

The Neighborhood Design Center is dedicated to the growth of healthy, equitable neighborhoods, and this appointment allows me to further advance my passion for designing with and advocating for under-invested communities while also advancing the mission of Ayers Saint Gross. NDC prioritizes engagement and this is a great opportunity to continue connecting resources and getting people involved in designing a more equitable, beautiful, and just Baltimore.

NDC does so many incredible projects for the City of Baltimore. Their dedication to promoting equity and ensuring an inclusive and collaborative design process resonates deeply with me.

So much of the East Baltimore Revitalization Plan was about ensuring the community had agency in the process and set the direction and vision of the plan. You could design a beautiful master plan, but it is meaningless without community voices and the passionate support from local leaders. Historically, urban planning and policy has often marginalized Black and Brown communities through a top-down planning approach, resulting in many of the challenges we see across Baltimore today.  Reversing that approach by fostering a community-led planning and visioning process must start with listening and building relationships with the community. This relationship needs to be prioritized and fostered, and among the best ways to do that is to listen intently, celebrate the voices of the community, and empower leaders.

At its heart, planning is about providing a roadmap—a series of options to fulfill the needs and desires of the community and a path to move forward. A plan brings cohesiveness and a shared vision, which in turn allows for clear messaging of the community’s needs, and allows funding, investment, and philanthropy to be sought, procured, and effectively allocated. Ensuring that community voices are the foundation of that cohesive vision and that they are intimately entwined with the process and thus represented in the product—a true sharing of knowledge—are critical elements to the success of a neighborhood plan, and I’m eager to bring the lessons learned, and continue learning, with the work of NDC.

So, what’s next?

The work that NDC does to improve neighborhoods, amplify the voices of community members, and fight for racial justice is incredibly important and continuing that mission is paramount. This work is especially salient as we as a city and country continue to push for equity and civil rights.

Over the past six months, we have had to adapt how we engage with communities, expanding virtual engagement and taking social distancing precautions for in-person meetings as the pandemic continues.

Another goal moving forward is to build a closer relationship between NDC and Ayers Saint Gross. The relationship between our organizations goes back decades, ebbing and flowing throughout the years. Now is a great time to reconnect and continue to build strong connections as we move into the future. Several of our staff have volunteered with NDC in the past, and this will increase volunteering opportunities. Much like a successful planning effort, this association will provide ways to engage and volunteer in a more cohesive way.

Amber Wendland is a senior associate in the Planning and Architecture practice groups, working in Baltimore.

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.

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 Greenbuild Recap

December 1, 2015
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Greenbuild, USGBC’s annual green building conference, was held November 16 – November 21 in Washington, DC. Because Ayers Saint Gross is committed to a sustainable future and keeping our professional knowledge as up-to-date as possible, three of our team attended the conference in full in addition to many who stopped in for a day on the expo hall floor. The conference featured building tours, an expo floor filled with the latest products and technologies, and education sessions – including one presented by our own Anne Hicks Harney.

Anne’s session titled “Product Rules,” was presented with Kristen Ritchie, Principal / Director of Sustainable Design at Gensler, Paula Melton, Senior Editor at BuildingGreen, Inc., and Jennifer Atlee, Technical Liaison at Health Product Declaration (HPD) and covered the increasingly important topic of material transparency. As LEEDv4 replaces LEED 2009 in November 2016, credits will be available for project teams that specify and build with products that disclose their material ingredients and human health impacts. The session used Michael Pollan’s book Food Rules for inspiration to lay our 12 basic LEEDv4 Materials and Resources and Environmental Quality rules concerning various environmental concepts and product elements.

Allison Wilson also spoke on the Greenbuild expo floor as part of a panel discussion held at Sefaira’s booth. The discussion focused on how early design can benefit from energy modeling and the various successes and lessons learned from using Sefaira in practice. Allison spoke with Kate Bubriski, Senior Associate at Arrowstreet, Jeff Evans, Associate at HKIT Architects, and Rachel Bannon-Godfrey, Director of Sustainability at RNL Design, to highlight how the different firms have benefited from using Sefaira and intend to continue using the software in future. At Ayers Saint Gross, we’ve found particular value using energy modeling at the conclusion of the schematic design phase to evaluate the efficacy of various shading strategies on overall building performance.

While many sessions caught our interest, the information presented in “Impact of Green Building on Cognitive Function and Health,” on Friday morning is the session we think we’ll all be talking about until the next Greenbuild. The session presented research performed by Harvard University about the relationship between indoor environmental quality and cognitive function. The researchers performed an experiment in which subjects completed a number of cognitive tests in an indoor environment that meets the air quality requirements set forth by LEED and compared the results of subjects’ tests scores to the test scores of subjects who were asked to perform the same cognitive tests in a more normative environment with high levels of CO2. The results of the research correlate increased CO2 levels with poorer cognitive function and provide quantitative support for the long-standing argument that green buildings help occupants function better.

The conference inspired us to continue striving for higher levels of performance in our buildings and reminded us that green buildings are closely related to improved human health. Have a subject you’d like to learn more about at the next Greenbuild? Let us know, and we’ll research it, find appropriate collaborators, and submit a proposal to speak at Greenbuild 2016 in Los Angeles!

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.

UDel’s ISE Lab is racking up awards and getting published!

August 1, 2015
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Ayers Saint Gross is pleased to announce the University of Delaware Interdisciplinary Science and Engineering (ISE) Laboratory Courtyard was published in World Landscape Architecture Magazine! It is one of 24 projects recognized among some very high caliber landscape architecture projects and leaders in the design field.

Download the magazine (scroll to page 81)

This publication comes on the heels of the ISE Lab project racking in many design awards, including a PA/DE ASLA Award of Excellence, a Maryland ASLA Honor Award, an AIA TAP Innovation Award, and an AIA Baltimore Design Excellence Award.

Teaching, learning and research come together in this nearly 200,000 square-foot building at the University of Delaware. In newly structured science classes, students apply principles of biology, chemistry, and physics to solve problems in such areas as renewable energy and stewardship of the natural environment. Classrooms, laboratories and other facilities within the L-shaped structure support this learning while accommodating teams of researchers from energy and environmental institutes.

The ISE Lab Courtyard is a high-performance outdoor space that exemplifies a growing trend on campuses toward multivalent landscapes. Serving as both social hub and outdoor learning space, the courtyard demonstrates the blurred line between classroom and commons, with outdoor terraces and seating used by students for group work and social gathering. With a unique collection of plant communities and progressive stormwater management treatment practices, students can perform experiments in their own backyard.

Congrats to the entire architecture and landscape architecture team!

I-95 Travel Plazas Win USGBC Maryland Award!

April 1, 2015
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Ayers Saint Gross is pleased to announce its Interstate 95 Maryland House and Chesapeake House Travel Plazas won USGBC Maryland’s 2015 Small Commercial Project award!

This award was presented by USGBC Maryland Wintergreen, the organization’s annual recognition of high performance, healthy building design by USGBC Maryland region projects, businesses, and chapter members. The event was hosted at the Horseshoe Casino Baltimore in mid-February and was attended by two hundred green building professionals and leaders.

See full list of winners

The Maryland House and Chesapeake House Travel Plazas project scope included the redevelopment of both existing rest stops on I-95 in Maryland. The rest stop typology is inherently automobile-driven and emerged as a result of traveler dependence on the conveniences of fuel, food, and facilities. Ease of access is key and both projects are sited in gap spaces between the northbound and southbound lanes of the highway. The projects serve more than 5 million annual visitors and the project was challenged to both maintain the programmatic necessities (surface parking, large fixture counts, etc.) and promote sustainability.

The design promotes sustainability through the integration of outdoor patios and paths softened by indigenous plantings and infused with interpretative site signage to engage and educate visitors about the significance and beauty of the natural landscape. The site redesign also provided opportunities for the design team to improve the surrounding habitats and watershed through a remediation and rebuilding of existing subgrade storage tanks at service stations, the introduction of engineered site design facilities, and strategically located native plantings. The team also minimized site disturbance by building on the footprint of the existing facilities. To optimize building performance for the 24 hour-a-day operations, the projects work to incorporate daylight and provide a high performance building envelope.

Notable features and statistics of the design strategy include:

  • 25% reduction in impervious surfaces from the existing conditions, minimizing storm water runoff.
  • On-site storm water management that removes 80% of Total Suspended Solids (TSS).
  • High albedo materials cover 80% of the building roof area to minimize heat island effect.
  • Preserved open space is a combination of protected existing habitat and restored native plantings.
  • The building systems and envelope design account for a building energy performance that is 26% more efficient than the baseline case.
  • A 40% reduction in water usage in the building is accomplished through low-flow fixtures.
  • The materials used in the projects include 30% recycled content, 30% regional sourcing, and FSC certified woods.
  • Interior spaces welcome daylight from window walls at two ends and ceilings sloping to a continuous light monitor (Maryland House) and a hovering clerestory pop-up (Chesapeake House).

The Travel Plaza Operations and Maintenance Team is committed to maintaining an environmentally friendly building and site through programs and policies requiring sustainability focused staff training and guided supervision, as well as a Green Housekeeping Policy. Building signage guides visitors through the components of the building design that contribute to a healthier environment and we encourage you to check out these two award winning projects on your next road trip on I-95!

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.