Hack the Block: Notes from the Equity by Design Hackathon 4

July 24, 2018
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I recently had the opportunity to attend the Association of Community Design Conference, an event hosted by the Neighborhood Design Center, a Baltimore nonprofit that facilitates the development of healthy, equitable neighborhoods. The conference was two days filled with discussions about the roots and relevance of community design. Over and over again, conversations referred back to Whitney M. Young Jr.’s famous keynote address at the 1968 AIA Convention, in which he called out the architecture profession’s “thunderous silence” in the face of civil rights movements.

I revisited the full speech and was struck by how relevant it still is. In 2018, even though architects have the skills to be strong stewards of equitable communities, we sometimes fall short of our own tremendous potential to have a positive impact on the built environment and on people’s lives.

While the task at hand can seem tremendous, I am interested in how we can change that. This is why I attended the Equity by Design Hackathon 4: ArchitectuREvolution, a terrific event that took place at the Syracuse University Fisher Center in New York City on June 20.  This occasion brought together designers to tackle the ideas of improving justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion in the architectural practice as well as the communities we serve.

Here are my major takeaways from the event:

  1. We have a lot in common. There were around 40 people at the event, of various ages and backgrounds, but when we broke into small groups for an icebreaker two common threads emerged: bilingualism and urbanism. Almost all of us spoke at least two languages and we either grew up in or currently lived in large cities. Finding emphasized our shared experiences over our differences.That said, another experience we all seemed to share was the sense that architecture is a tough profession for women and people of color. We need to push harder to make ourselves heard in order to avoid being sidelined in our careers. It was both good and bad to hear that other people were struggling with similar issues.
  1. Working fast is fun and useful. I really enjoyed the hackathon experience. It was invigorating to brainstorm and present a transformative idea in a single day. Having to think up and communicate concepts quickly is essential for designers and architects in all stages of their careers.
  1. Data is an essential component of 21st century design. Thanks to our shared experiences of living in urban areas, the members of my hackathon team were familiar with one of the downsides of city life: abandoned and neglected properties. How could architects address this problem systemically as a profession? My experience working with the East Baltimore Revitalization Project made it clear how essential it is for architects and planners to engage with a community. We need to make the design process transparent, teach non-designers important terminology to make discussions understandable, and really listen to what residents want and need. The social benefits extend well beyond any individual project. A community that understands the process of how its physical environment changes, from concept to design to construction, is well-equipped for future challenges or opportunities that arise in its neighborhood.

So, for the hackathon, our team decided we wanted to create a resource that would allow architects to work with people to repurpose or redesign spaces to align with local needs. Our proposed program, dubbed Hack the Block, was a nonprofit that would map both vacancies and needs in underutilized areas with community members.

The data collected would eventually inform community-led construction efforts and be shared with government organizations to build upon what we’d started.

To be truly successful, Hack the Block’s community engagement would be key. Telling people what they want or need is usually far less effective than asking them.

In the end, Hack the Block didn’t win – that honor went to Team Value Menu, which envisioned a Zillow/Yelp-type reviewing system for architecture firms that would allow job applicants to evaluate firms on a variety of metrics like community engagement, office culture, and mentorship opportunities. Often, young architects have only one hard number – salary – to go on when making crucial early career decisions, and a more complex and informative way of comparing employers would be useful.

I did, however, notice that Hack the Block and Team Value Menu shared a common thread. Both teams saw that people want to make well-informed, empowering decisions about their own lives. Top-down thinking from existing power structures doesn’t produce good design or good work environments. I love that Equity by Design is working hard to create a profession that reflects and serves a diverse world.

My hope is that the future of architecture looks more like another passage from Young’s speech: “It took a great deal of skill and creativity and imagination to build the kind of situation we have, and it is going to take skill and imagination and creativity to change it. We are going to have to have people as committed to doing the right thing, to inclusiveness, as we have in the past to exclusiveness.”

WELL 101: Creating Healthy Places

July 23, 2018
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For many people in the AEC industry, sustainability is synonymous with LEED, the world’s most widely used green building rating system.

At Ayers Saint Gross, however, we define sustainability as balancing the unique needs of people and ecological systems with the economic realities inherent in each project. That definition recognizes that there are multiple ways to measure success in sustainability. It also supports the triple bottom line of people, planet, and payback, and acknowledges that LEED may not always be the most appropriate yardstick with which to measure sustainability on every project.

One of the latest green building rating systems to take the AEC industry by storm is the WELL Building Standard. WELL poses a people-centric, rather than planet-centric, question: How can a building support better health, happiness, and well-being for its occupants?

I was inspired to become the first WELL AP at Ayers Saint Gross, earning my certification in June 2018, because we often design buildings for the education of health care professionals, such as our recently completed Howard Community College Science, Engineering, and Technology Building and the University of Pikeville Health Professions Education Building. It’s important to me that these projects more directly support occupants’ well-being and put the environmental factors that influence health outcomes on display. The WELL system was developed over a six-year period and formally launched in October 2014. Now administered by GBCI, WELL provides a pathway for measuring, certifying, and monitoring how buildings support human health and well-being.

Every WELL Precondition or Optimization is substantiated by medical, scientific, or industry research to ensure a data-driven system. WELL also requires ongoing monitoring, annual reporting for some features, and re-certification every three years.

This level of rigor ensures that a building doesn’t just operate as intended on day one, but that it continues to do so on day 1,001 and beyond. It’s an exciting prospect to move beyond how buildings are predicted or intended to function, and to talk about how they do function on an ongoing basis.

The WELL Building Standard v1 sorts its 105 Preconditions and Optimizations into seven concepts: air, water, nourishment, light, fitness, comfort, and mind. Below are more details on these concepts, and some suggestions for how designers and clients can thoughtfully approach the WELL certification process.

  • Air. This concept aims to optimize indoor air quality through the minimization of introduced contaminants, as well as filtration and testing to ensure air quality is conserved throughout occupancy. High indoor air quality has been linked to improved cognitive function, so it makes sense that this concept is the most heavily weighted subject within WELL.
  • Water. The water concept aims to ensure easy access to potable water and to maintain stringent standards regarding inorganic, organic, and agricultural contaminants in water for human consumption. To meet Preconditions and Optimizations, WELL projects incorporate a variety of filtration systems to ensure the purity of water for human consumption.
  • Nourishment. This is my favorite WELL concept because even without owning a commercial or institutional building, there are requirements in here that can change how I go grocery shopping and help me improve my health. Among other standards for projects that provide food service each day (including vending machines), processed foods are held to sugar restrictions and dinnerware must be within prescribed size limits to support portion control.
  • Light. The light concept addresses access to daylight and views, as well as the impact electric lighting can have on circadian rhythms. While energy conservation is not a stated part of the WELL Building Standard, many of the features within this concept help minimize energy use. Designers can develop appropriate building masses that allow for greater levels of daylight penetration to support success in this concept.
  • This concept encourages active transportation both for commuting and within a building. Project owners have multiple policy requirements within this section including activity incentive programs (like those offered at Ayers Saint Gross).
  • Comfort. The comfort concept addresses ergonomics, acoustical comfort, olfactory comfort, and thermal comfort. WELL recognizes that different kinds of work require different kinds of spaces, and create different acoustical and thermal conditions. Building a variety of comfort conditions into a building ensures that everyone can maximize their learning and productivity.
  • Mind. The mind concept addresses biophilic design, adaptability, sleep, business travel, and other subjects that impact mental health. Opportunities for innovation are also recognized within the mind concept.

While LEED is an important tool for talking about sustainability in the built environment, I am excited to engage with newer rating systems that allow us to have more human-centered discussions about sustainable design.

Just as LEED and other codes, standards, and rating systems are updated on a regular basis, WELL has been updated this summer. WELL v2 is a pilot program and it’s unclear how long the pilot period will last. As of this posting, projects can choose to register under either WELL v1 or WELL v2 and IWBI assures project teams that when WELL v2 becomes the dominant WELL Building Standard advance notice will be provided.

Check WELL’s FAQ for more on the transition between WELL v1 and WELL v2. You can also reach out to me to learn more about how WELL might be applicable to a project you’re considering at awilson@asg-architects.com.

Ayers Saint Gross at ACUHO-I 2018

June 27, 2018
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If you’re attending ACUHO-I 2018 in Denver, I hope you’ll visit Ayers Saint Gross at booth 120, and join us for our educational session on the importance of outside-the-unit spaces in student housing.

Customized Spaces Support Engaged Students
In the age of digital 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 residents’ culture, spirit, and academic pursuits is critical to the community’s vibrancy.

Vibrant communities lead to engaged students, and engaged students achieve more success. Our educational 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.

Presenters
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

Details
ACUHO-I 2018
Sunday July 8, 2018
1:30 PM – 2:20 PM
Room MT704
Session 2

In Conversation: Ann Powell and Dan Henderer

May 21, 2018
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Ayers Saint Gross currently counts two AIA chapter presidents in its ranks. Ann Powell serves as the president of AIA Baltimore, leading one of the nation’s largest and oldest AIA chapters in our firm’s hometown. Dan Henderer recently became president of AIA Middle East, a relatively young AIA chapter, as he enters his eighth year of living in Saudi Arabia as the leader of one of the firm’s most ambitious international projects. In this conversation, they discuss current projects, do some trend forecasting, and explain how to get more involved in AIA.

Q: How did you first get involved with your local AIA chapter?

DH: There was a conference in Riyadh in 2012 called Riyadh Design Days organized by the AIA which I attended. Previously I wasn’t aware there was a Middle East chapter, as I was still a member of the AIA DC chapter. I learned more and attended the first AIA ME Year End Conference in Dubai in 2013 which was great. I was encouraged to participate and became the AIA ME Country Representative for Saudi Arabia, and then served as the chapter secretary for two separate terms before becoming the chapter president in January.

AP: I moved from New York to Baltimore in 2004, and wanted to expand my professional network. I joined the Historic Resources Committee and became co-chair of the committee in 2010. I moved onto the Board of Directors in 2013.

Q: What are your goals as chapter president?

AP: Our goal is to help us find a new location where we can establish a Center for Architecture and Design. We have 1,000 members which makes us one of the 20 largest chapters in the country. That puts us in this AIA group called “Big Sibs.” Many of the Big Sibs have been able to elevate their position in their communities with Centers for Architecture and we want to bring this to our community. Most people are familiar with the Washington Design Center and the Center for Architecture in New York City. Right now, AIA Baltimore is in a townhouse in Mt. Vernon, and it’s very introverted. By moving to something that’s more like a storefront, we will have an external presence and hopefully be able to bring partners into a united co-working space for allied organizations like the Urban Land Institute and Baltimore Heritage. I want to be there when we sign that lease. That’s my goal.

DH: To maintain services and engaging activities for the members in our region, and continue the momentum of the chapter in creating awareness of the AIA. The AIA Middle East Year End Conference is our main event, bringing together members of the chapter, and we will focus a lot of energy on holding a successful event. We’ll announce the location soon, either in Lebanon or Bahrain. We are also working toward finalizing a partnership with Masdar City in Abu Dhabi, which will give us a physical address there and enable us to hire staff for the first time. 

Q: What’s unique about your region and chapter

DH: The Middle East chapter is unique first because of its area. We represent all of the Middle East and North Africa, which is a large area to maintain an active presence in all places. We have small membership in some countries, while others, like the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, have many members.

Secondly, it’s unique in that it can be a transient place for architects who, like myself, move to the region for a specific project or for a limited time.

Parts of the region have been booming for some time, with Saudi Arabia perhaps leading the way from the 1970s and 1980s, and the Gulf States since the 1990s.  When you visit a place like Dubai, it is truly astonishing to realize the amount of development in the past 20 years. There was a significant impact from the last global financial crisis, followed by a successful rebound, which has slowed again in some areas with lower oil and gas prices. It is an interesting place to be an architect because of the scale and ambition of many of the projects. Many projects are built to be landmarks and the clients are keen for signature architecture. Thankfully some of the large projects have been government-led educational and cultural institutions, not solely commercial. 

AP: Baltimore is still a unique city. When you look at the way retail has evolved, you walk into a Gap anywhere in the country and it’s the same merchandise. There’s so much homogenization that’s happened in our culture. But what I like about Baltimore is it’s a little bit understated on the East Coast, overlooked between DC and Philadelphia, and within that is a real opportunity to maintain a sense of place. We embrace that individualistic culture that we have, and you can see that in the projects in the area. We’re a major metropolitan area, and we have great big projects, but we also have lots of quirky little stuff going on and that’s what makes it exciting.

Q: What projects are you working on right now?

AP: I am working on an admissions and financial aid center for Grinnell College in Grinnell, Iowa, which is in construction. Everything else I’m working on is for the Smithsonian. The addition at Udvar Hazy Center is in construction, Pod 6 at Museum Support Center is in design, and we’re doing some planning work at National Museum of American History.

DH: I have been working on the redevelopment of a historic site for over 10 years. The site is called Atturaif, which was the ruling center of the first Saudi era beginning in the 18th century. When we started it was a 58-acre site of ruined mud brick palaces and defensive walls which had been excavated and surveyed, but was largely untouched since the siege of the city in 1818. Atturaif achieved UNESCO World Heritage Status in 2010, and conservation and construction began in late 2010. The plan has been to conserve the archeological finds and remaining architectural heritage, as well as to redevelop the site to promote visitation and education. New, modern museums have been inserted into vacant areas, or integrated with buildings on the site. Ayers Saint Gross has led many of the designs for the visitors’ infrastructure, landscape, lighting, signage, modern museums buildings, and exhibition design.

Q: What’s the biggest change you’ve noticed in architecture as a profession in the last 10 years?

DH: The use of BIM and the predominance of sustainability are obvious movements which have become fairly standard in the profession in the past 10 years. There are more material choices and systems than ever.

There are also so many platforms and ways which architects can publish and share their work now. I think it has elevated the level of design everywhere. 

AP: Technology makes start-up costs more expensive, so it’s harder for small firms to get started and to stay afloat. It’s a barrier on many levels, because you need technical expertise in the software in order to do drawings. I think it’s important to keep it real and balanced among the technological piece, communicating with clients, and what we need to do to build a project. Those are the three skills that need to be balanced. Technology gains so much emphasis that you worry that it obliterates those two other components. Using software is an introverted act, but we still need to make sure we can communicate to clients. It’s a tool. It doesn’t replace these other things.

On the upside, there are great things that are coming out of tech improvements that are really awesome. Using the cloud to host software to have multiple offices working on BIM models that are linked together, that is hugely helpful. We do mark-up sessions on Bluebeam Studio, which is cloud-based so all the consultants are using one unified set of drawings. So the advancement in technology is huge, but you can’t lose focus on what it is to be an architect.

Q: What does it mean to you to be an architect?

DH: I think it means many things to many people, and it takes many kinds of architects to make places and buildings. To me, fundamentally, the role of the architect is to design the physical environment to achieve the functionality the users need, while bringing creativity to the process of planning and design. 

AP: We’re problem solvers through a lot of different avenues, and design is just one aspect of it. Contract negotiation is problem solving. Going through construction is all problem solving. It’s balancing your technical understanding and your design knowledge with your communication skills, and using them all together.

Q: What will the biggest change to the architecture profession be in the next 10 years?

DH: The trends I see are the increase in use of the digital modeling assets which architects create to enable a more direct relationship with the fabrication and construction of buildings.

Also, the areas of biophilic design and biomimicry are very interesting to me from material use to larger systems as they become more used and proven.  Sustainability and occupant well-being will continue to increase in profile and value. 

AP: I heard this statistic that really blew my mind. I’m Generation X, and we’ve always been behind the Baby Boomers, who were so much larger than us. And the Millennials are so much bigger than the Gen Xers, coupled with the fact that a whole bunch of people left the profession during the recessions of late 1980s and the late aughts. But effectively within the workplace, because the Boomers are retiring and the Millennials are entering, the Millennials will be larger in number than the Boomers and the Gen Xers really soon. So that’s a huge shift. Culturally, the generations are different and we’re always working to reconcile that in both directions. But the sheer volume of the Millennials is really going to change the culture of the workplace. I don’t know what that’s going to look like. I just know that it’s coming.

Q: What drew you to architecture?

AP: I majored in Economics and English in college, and that was a lot of talking about stuff. Interesting stuff, but I really liked this idea that you started with nothing and end up with a completed project. It’s why I like to cook. I go to the grocery store, I fill up my cart with things that don’t even look like they go together, and we have a delicious meal. And architecture is the same way. And that’s what’s most gratifying to me about it.

As I worked in the profession and figured out what kind of architecture I really liked, because I’ve done a little bit of everything, what I gravitated to at Ayers Saint Gross was two things. One, we’re going to be doing projects that are going to be around for a long time. The decisions being made aren’t for the next five years. We’re building buildings that we expect to be around in 50 years and that is in line with my value system. Secondly, I like that we’re working with professional clients. I like the professionalism of the relationships, and the fact that they are long-term. I like the buildings. I like the long view.

DH: There have been a number of architects in my family so it sort of seemed like a normal profession, but in the end I liked creating things. Architecture combines problem solving with technical and creative aspects in a satisfying way. 

Q: What do you enjoy most about design?

DH: The most enjoyable aspect to me is seeing designs come to fruition as buildings and places. Something that you helped to create at your desk or in your office becomes a massive living, breathing thing that will impact people for many years. 

AP: Agreed. I like sitting back when it’s all over and looking at it. A good design solution, seeing it all come together, is the best.

Q: What’s your favorite building in your current city?

AP: In a previous job, I worked on the American Brewery renovation for the nonprofit Humanim. One, it’s a great building, a crazy Victorian mishmash folly building. It was all designed to wrap the brewing process. The form is really driven out of the original brewing process. But you wouldn’t guess that by looking at it. And it’s in a super-blighted neighborhood, and Humanim moved there to be closer to the people that they served. The idea was that this project, which had been such a blight on the neighborhood, could help it come back and be a catalyst to redevelopment. That’s a perfect story, right? Taking something great and bringing it back and making it relevant in such a powerful way. The best part of a project is taking something that was ignored and making it relevant again. It is no longer an underutilized building – it’s home to a nonprofit in the community that it’s trying to help.

DH: In Riyadh, my favorite building is Tuwaiq Palace. It was executed in the 1980s as a clubhouse for the diplomatic quarter. It is made of sloped Riyadh limestone walls which curve to create courtyards and has lightweight cable suspended tents for function areas. The building is very sculptural and fits into the landscape beautifully. 

Q: What would be your suggestion to somebody who’s thinking about getting involved in their local AIA chapter and doesn’t know where to start?

DH: I would suggest attending events to start, and getting in contact with some of the local leaders. There are always ways to participate or contribute and you will get more out of the AIA if you participate.

AP: That was me in 2004, the person who wanted to get involved. I had no idea but instead of feeling like I had to go find out all the answers I said, “Well, I’m going to look through this list of committees and join one and see what it’s about.” And that’s what I did.

Within that, even if you get to a committee and it’s not working exactly how you want it to be, that’s fine too. The whole idea is that we are a composite of our membership and the important part is to find a way to get engaged. And if you aren’t satisfied with what that picture looks like, change it.

Green Week 2018: The Carrot Awards

April 18, 2018
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Ayers Saint Gross hosts an annual Green Week to advance sustainability literacy within our staff so we can provide better high-performance designs to our clients. We use this time to:

  • Evaluate our performance in the AIA 2030 Commitment, a voluntary program of the AIA in which we report the predicted energy use intensity of our whole building projects and the lighting power density of our interiors projects.
  • Recognize the most energy efficient whole building project and interiors project under design with the annual Carrot Awards to inspire other projects to strive for greater energy efficiency.
  • Share information colleagues have learned through project experiences, professional certifications, and attendance at conferences.

Since Green Week’s inception in 2013, every year’s programming gets more robust and more engaging. Last year’s Green Week included five sessions and awarded 99 continuing education units to our staff. This year hopes to top those numbers by offering seven sessions across all three of our offices.

So what exactly is a Carrot Award and who are this year’s winners? Sustainable design is sometimes oversimplified to as “carrots and sticks” process, in which carrots are enticing incentives that inspire great design and sticks are cumbersome requirements design teams have to meet. We believe sustainable design is great design, so high-performance projects are a carrot to us. Our highest performing projects under design in 2017 are aspirations for every project in our firm to reach for.

This year’s whole building Carrot Award goes to Washington College’s Semans-Griswold Environmental Hall in Chestertown, Md. It is a new construction project of approximately 11,000 GSF that will support academic and lab spaces for environmental programs and the Center for Environment & Society at Washington College. The project is working toward a Petal Certification under the Living Building Challenge and is predicted to have an energy demand 71% less than baseline. The remaining energy consumption of the building will be offset by on-site solar power which will allow the building to achieve net-zero energy operations annually. To achieve this extraordinary level of energy savings, the project prioritized appropriate building orientation to maximize passive heating and cooling strategies. It will also optimize on-site solar production. A highly efficient geothermal heating system supports the project’s capacity to meet all of its HVAC demands without any on-site combustion.

The project is designed to use daylight whenever possible and supplement as needed with efficient LED lighting. End users have also strategized with designers about how to minimize plug loads, as these become a higher percentage of the total end use of energy in net-zero buildings than in other buildings.

This work would not be possible without the collaboration of an engaged client and our teams at Gipe Associates and CMTA.

This year’s interiors Carrot Award goes to our renovation of George Washington University’s Marvin Center. This student collaboration space in Washington, DC acts as a campus living room and decreases lighting power density by 73%, nearly three times the current AIA2030 reduction target, through daylighting and LED lighting.

Congratulations to this year’s winners, and be on the lookout for more sustainability-focused projects from our firm. For more on how Ayers Saint Gross approaches sustainable design, see our firm’s sustainability strategy, Take Action.

Ayers Saint Gross at AIA DC’s Building Enclosure Council

March 26, 2018
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If you’re in the greater Washington DC area this week, I hope you’ll join me on Tuesday March 27 for a lecture sponsored by AIA DC on an in-depth case study of a unique approach to a high-performance renovation.

Over-Cladding for Thermal Performance and Building Resiliency

The Nelson Harvey Building patient tower occupies a dense urban site in the heart of the Johns Hopkins Hospital campus in Baltimore, Maryland. Ayers Saint Gross teamed with Wilmot Sanz to renovate the exterior and interior of the nine-story, 33-year-old, 118,500-SF building. The innovative and sustainable approach in developing a new hybrid building envelope combines high-performance over-cladding with the existing envelope. The result is a modern design aesthetic that is energy efficient, environmentally sustainable, and highly resilient. In addition to new exterior over-cladding systems, the renovation includes new pat ient rooms, the first-floor lobby, main entrance, and plazas.

After attending this course, participants will be able to:

  • Identify the code implications related to exterior enclosure on existing infrastructure that inform design decisions in a repurposing project;
  • Describe the role that technology plays in assessing, coordinating, and implementing design strategies for new enclosure design on existing infrastructure;
  • Examine the impact of design decisions related to cladding materials, fenestration, roofing, and insulation on the constructability of a new enclosure design; and
  • Discuss the various strategies to future-proof buildings through innovative design systems that address short-term and long-term building enclosure performance and sustainability objectives.

Presenter
Dan McKelvey, Associate Principal, Ayers Saint Gross

Details
Tuesday, March 27, 2018
6:00 PM – 8:00 PM
District Architecture Center
421 7th St NW, Washington, DC 20004

Credits
2.0 HSW | LUs

Ayers Saint Gross at SEAHO 2018

March 6, 2018
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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.

Presenters
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

Details
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
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“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
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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
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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
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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
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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.