Post-Pandemic Campus Design Insights

April 15, 2021
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As part of their reporting on the impact of COVID-19 on higher education campuses, The Chronicle of Higher Education reached out to Shannon Dowling, Luanne Greene, and Dennis Lynch for their expertise. In the recent article, “The Pandemic May Have Permanently Altered Campuses. Here’s How,” they share their insights on the ways the pandemic has accelerated trends, what changes may be long-term, and how institutions are rethinking academic, office, and student life spaces to better serve the student population in the future.

Read the article here.

Announcing 2021 Promotions

March 30, 2021
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As a resilient, employee-owned design firm, Ayers Saint Gross is always looking toward the future. We embrace change, overcome obstacles, and grow together.

Challenges inspire us to learn and innovate. Ayers Saint Gross thrived in 2020 because project teams found new ways to remain collaborative while working from home, and thought leaders guided our clients through complexity with confidence. These are accomplishments made possible by people — by individuals contributing and giving their all for one another. We saw the dynamism and strength of our employees as people were forced out of their comfort zones and as individuals rose to the occasion.

We are dedicated to being interdisciplinary and ensuring that diverse and unique skillsets are supported. This is how we get stronger and add value for our clients.

The following quotes are a sampling of words written in support of colleagues’ promotions, offered entirely to recognize and uplift others.


On Bold Vision:

“She demonstrates a high level of passion and commitment to shaping the future. She has gained the trust of teammates and clients and is deeply committed to excellence and pushing forward.”

“She is a super professional, unshakable, responsible leader who truly understands where we are and where are are going. She perseveres and always faces challenges head-on with a solution-oriented mind.”


On Client Service:
“They have demonstrated a sincere commitment to ensuring that each project results in an excellent outcome for the client, and consistently goes above and beyond to see the work to completion. They excel at connecting with clients, who represent a diverse mix of institutions.”

“Her engagement with clients is superb, and they look to her for advice and guidance. She has set a high bar for others to follow. Her dedication is a tremendous asset.”


On Leadership:
“He excels in design at every scale and serves as a mentor for others. His projects are award winning, and he always leaves an indelible mark. He continues to inspire us all and elevates every project he touches.”

“She has shown herself to be one of the strongest staff I have worked with. She shows a great work ethic, goes above and beyond regularly to take on additional tasks, and has an eagerness to grow and the ability to ever expand her knowledge.”


On the Interdisciplinary Spirit of the Firm:
“I have been extremely impressed with her work ethic, to work across all disciplines seamlessly (and effortlessly), and her own desire for growth and firm-wide knowledge-all in the spirit of making the firm better.”

“He has shown the ability to work at multiple levels, from planning to building. He has risen to be a true leader across all areas.”

“Their ability to manage multiple tasks and projects has shown her organization and drive. They jump into any task or project with enthusiasm and professionalism and has consistently receives praise. This attitude shows their one firm mentality and their constant desire to provide value.”


These promotions are not solely a reward for past work, but a vote of confidence for what they are going to do next. As we celebrate these individuals, we’re excited to discover what the future holds.

Principals
Alice Brooks
Tim Burkett
Sally Chinnis
Jon Eaton
Katy Hunchar
Jessica Leonard
Dan McKelvey
Glenn Neighbors
Kirsten Owings
Dana Perzynski
Amelle Schultz
Lindsay Story

Associate Principals
Jon Catania
Katarina Carlin
Amy Cuddy
Michelle Moseley
Greg Overkamp
Tarek Saleh
Jasmine Shah
Laura White
Eric Zahn

Senior Associates
Gintas Civinskas
Aaryne Elias
Scott Fundling
Kevin Jones
Nathan Korkki
Kirby Long
Daniel Lucenti
Jeff Phang
Sam Polinik
Corey Rothermel

Associates
Greta Arnold
J.J. Cao
Jeff Cheek
Sophie Habib
Chris Hazel
Amanda Hodgson
Angi Kwak
Paul Lancaster
Mike McGrain
Monica Retzke
Tim Shook
Tim Stapleton
Brittany Tasho
Evan Todtz
Greer Wendling

Mentorship Leaders

February 10, 2021
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In addition to being leaders on their design teams, many Ayers Saint Gross employees devote themselves to mentorship groups. We are happy to celebrate some of their leadership successes and the causes they support here.

At the beginning of the new year Beresford Pratt stepped into the role of Communications Director and Editor in Chief of “Connection,” the publication of the AIA National Young Architects Forum (YAF). This comes on the heels of a successful two-year term as a Young Architect Regional Director for the YAF.

The YAF is one of three membership groups in the AIA and focuses specifically on Architects and designers who have been licensed for fewer than ten years. With a mission-driven goal of promoting leadership, mentorship, and fellowship, the forum allows members to explore issues that emerging professionals are passionate about, and provides a valuable platform for them to help shape the industry in real-time.

One of Beresford’s greatest accomplishments as a Young Architect Regional Director was authoring and leading the effort for a toolkit on “how to start/grow an emerging professionals committee”.

“This toolkit examines how to start and grow an emerging professional program. We interviewed 8 chapters across the nation, getting a wide breadth of chapter sizes and locations. We were able to gain great insight into how chapters operate and what made them successful.  I was excited to hear we even had international interest from as far away as Singapore to help build their program.”

“Connection” is the YAF’s most outward facing communication tool, and it plays a crucial role in bridging the gap between local and national issues while creating discourse on the most demanding current topics.

“This past year has been a year like no other, and emerging professionals have been striving to tackle some big challenges within our profession, from climate action, practice innovation, and JEDI. One of the most dynamic tools we use to communicate is “Connection,” produced by emerging professionals with practical takeaways.”

While his new role may have a more national focus, we are proud to share Beresford’s recent article highlighting some of the local pipeline initiative work he and others at Ayers Saint Gross have championed. These initiatives exposed more students to the possibilities of a career in design at Beechfield Elementary School as well as mentorship in design with the Baltimore Design School.

Beresford currently sits on the board of the Baltimore chapter of the National Organization of Minority Architects and is a key force in continuing Ayers Saint Gross’s relationship with United Way–he sits on the Emerging Leaders United council. He has recently joined the board of the Baltimore Design School.


Allison Wilson is the 2020 – 2021 Chair for the ACE Mentor Program of America’s Austin affiliate Board of Directors.

ACE provides opportunities for high school students to get an inside look at the architecture, construction, and engineering professions and future careers of which they might not otherwise be aware. The program includes approximately sixteen weeks of mentoring, field trips, and team-based project development.

Within their project teams, students identify what aspects of the design process are of greatest interest and cultivate both industry-specific design skills, such as how to read and document floor plans and construction budgets as well as transferrable skills like collaboration, negotiation, and public speaking.

Allison served as a mentor from 2016 – 2017 and was recognized as Mentor of the Year by her students before joining the board to not just deliver the program but help design it.

“I got involved with ACE to help students better navigate their professional ambitions. As a high school senior, I was handed a list of every accredited school of architecture in the United States and my parents and I had to figure out the various program types and applications ourselves, which was overwhelming. Chairing the board allows me to empower future architects, engineers, and contractors with information that allows them to make better informed decisions about their futures.”

While the past year has certainly had challenges, under Allison’s leadership the program successfully continued.

“We pivoted our whole program to a fully remote experience in 10 days. We have continued to meet every Thursday, just like always. Sessions in Spring 2020 were recorded and we cut together the student videos with support from Lost Note Productions to one final presentation that we showed during our live streamed party. Now, moving forward, we know we can do this and how.” The program hosted a mini-series in Fall 2020 and began its Spring 2021 program on February 4.


Principal Stephen Wright, AIA, was elected President of the Washington Architectural Foundation (WAF). Founded by the American Institute of Architects DC, the WAF focuses on outward-facing initiatives. This includes mentorships, public outreach, and community-oriented programs to open the world of design to a broader number of people. As a mission, the Washington Architectural Foundation is dedicated to educating and engaging the greater DC community, focusing on students, teachers, professionals, and the public to demonstrate the transformative power of architecture.

“This is our chance to get people excited about design and the world around them. Especially in a city like Washington DC, there are so many buildings to wonder ‘what does this mean?’ and ‘how did it get there?’ But it is most rewarding to focus on the next generation. We bring architecture to schools, and show opportunities exist that students may not even be aware of. We encourage people to think bigger, and I love to help raise the discourse in design.”


Read more about Ayers Saint Gross employees work outside of the office:

Amber Wendland Joins the Neighborhood Design Center Board of Directors
Elevating Design and Research Outside of the Office

Awards: 2020 in Review

December 17, 2020
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2020 has been a challenging year for everyone. While these challenges are never far from our minds, as the year draws to a close, we look too for moments of celebration. This year, Ayers Saint Gross projects were honored with more than 27 design awards, including 11 from the AIA and 4 from the ASLA. As a multidisciplinary design firm, it is a tremendous honor to be recognized for work that thoughtfully integrates all our disciplines – architecture, landscape architecture, interiors, planning, space analytics, and graphic design – to create holistic and sustainable environments that provide long-term value for our clients. Additionally, a number projects were recognized for multiple awards, both in this year and as multi-year winners.

We extend these honors to our incredible clients and collaborators who are vital to the success of each project.

Selected Awards

Washington College Semans-Griswold Environmental Hall
AIA Baltimore Excellence in Design Grand Design Award
AIA Maryland Excellence in Design Merit Award for Institutional Architecture
AIA Chesapeake Bay Excellence in Design Honor Award for Non-Residential New Construction and Sustainability Award

Enoch Pratt Free Library
AIA Baltimore Excellence in Design Award and Michael F. Trostel, FAIA Award for Historic Preservation
AIA Maryland Excellence in Design Award – Citation for Institutional Architecture
Daily Record Excellence in Construction and Real Estate Award
Preservation Maryland Preservation Artisan Award
Baltimore Heritage Preservation Award

Arizona State University Hayden Library Reinvention
AIA Western Mountain Region Design Excellence – Citation Award for Historic Rehabilitation – Built
Architect’s Newspaper Best of Design Awards – Editor’s Pick in the Institutional Libraries Category

Colby College Bill & Joan Alfond Main Street Commons
AIA Maryland AIA Maryland Excellence in Design Award – Citation for Institutional Architecture
AIA Arizona Design Award for Interiors

Providence Innovation District Master Plan and Point225
AIA Maryland Excellence in Design Merit Award for Urban Design and Master Planning

Washington University in St. Louis Bryan Hall
AIA St. Louis Design Merit Award

Bancroft Elementary School
USGBC National Capital Region Innovative Project of the Year – New Construction, Schools

Clemson University Douthit Hills Student Community
AIA Columbia (SC) Design Award – Merit Award

University of North Texas Interdisciplinary Research & Education Building (IREB)
IIDA Southwest Pride Award Design Excellence in Higher Education

Staying Authentic in a Virtual World

December 4, 2020
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Engagement is at the core of Ayers Saint Gross’s practice. It is foundational to all our interactions, and built on listening, understanding, and sharing. Our engagement practices have long been a hybrid of face-to-face interactions and digital methods, but as our ways of working and living have adapted to the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic, our digital methods have expanded to include new technologies. This is a shift our team has made thoughtfully to ensure the client-focused nature of our engagement doesn’t change. We produced this video highlighting aspects of our virtual engagement process:

For much of my career, I’ve spent a great deal of time with people, engaging clients face-to-face and forging relationships. One thing the pandemic has reinforced is the importance of those relationships as an irreplaceable piece of how we work. So how do we nurture relationships when we can’t be together in person? Having a mastery of the tools mentioned in the video is a must, but equally important is maintaining the authenticity and energy that comes from face-to-face meetings. We often say that planning is a process as much as it is a product. Much of that process is creating a series of experiences across multiple forums to ensure all voices are heard and all ideas are shared.

Here are some of my lessons learned for more effective virtual engagement:

Shorter meetings work better. Traditionally, in-person workshops can be multi-day experiences. There is a great deal of value in being in the same room, spending time getting to the heart of problem-solving for a specific project.  With virtual engagement, it is often better to have multiple, shorter work sessions. These more frequent touchpoints still center around personal connections, but are more workable and realistic with the virtual format. Where longer meetings are a must, including different forms of engagement throughout keeps people focused and actively participating in the meeting.

Take a second to breathe. It is important with digital collaboration to create some space once you or someone else is done speaking. Though a virtual meeting can still be very exciting and invigorating, you can’t chime in directly after someone in quite the same way you can in face-to-face interaction.

Preparation is key. Think through the agenda and how people will engage with the tools. If the tool is something they haven’t used before, send a tutorial ahead of time. Spend time at the beginning of the meeting to orient people. The best virtual engagement sessions take the best from face-to-face interaction and elevate the experience with digital tools. Be sure to give people space to express themselves and if there is a large group consider using breakout sessions for portions of a meeting. This helps keep everyone involved authentically. I have also really come to value chat features to have more people participate and document their thoughts alongside verbal conversation. And of course, we all need to laugh at ourselves from time to time. Even with all the preparation in the world, glitches will occur, life will intervene, any number of things may happen. Remember: we’re all human and we’re all learning.

We are excited to continue experimenting with and elevating virtual engagement practices. Beyond the pandemic, we envision many long-term benefits including reducing our carbon footprint, reaching broader stakeholder groups, and adding workable, accessible touchpoints to our processes. We look forward to continuing to learn and collaborate with you.

Jessica Leonard is an associate principal in the planning and architecture groups. Contact Jessica.

Driving Building Performance With Data

October 14, 2020
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This post is a collaboration between Rishika Shrivastava and Chris Hazel.

Ayers Saint Gross has long embraced sustainability as a vital component of good design and we believe the more research we perform and the more data we collect, the greater our ability to achieve ambitious sustainability goals and design more beautiful and functional buildings for our clients. We have focused our thinking about building performance into two categories: embodied carbon and operational carbon.

Embodied Carbon

We utilize Whole Building Life Cycle Assessments (WBLCA) to investigate the impact and opportunities of construction materials and products to achieve our embodied carbon reduction goals. WBLCA looks at the environmental impacts of building materials (including global warming potential) over their entire life cycle—from extraction and manufacturing through the landfill or recycling plant. 

We are calculating the embodied carbon of completed projects to identify which components or life cycle stages are the largest contributors to environmental impact, and will leverage this information to inform even stronger design processes in the future.

One project we’ve completed a WBLCA on is the Hayden Library Reinvention. By renovating existing buildings in lieu of tearing them down and constructing with new materials, we avoid the embodied carbon of new construction altogether. WBLCA was conducted to quantify how much embodied carbon was preserved by maintaining 95% of the building’s existing opaque envelope and structural system and how much additional embodied carbon was invested to make the building useful for the next 50+ years. Our analysis revealed 9000 MT of CO2e was preserved in the renovation while only another 550 MT of CO2e were spent. This example illustrates how building renovation or reuse can greatly reduce construction’s embodied carbon impact.

Structural systems and building envelopes tend to be significant sources of embodied carbon. For Semans-Griswold Environmental Hall, we found that we could substantially reduce environmental impact by focusing on the materials chosen for curtainwall systems because of aluminum’s high embodied carbon. Similarly, focusing on thermal insulation also helped us reduce embodied carbon because some types of foam insulation, including expanded polystyrene (EPS), extruded polystyrene (XPS), and polyisocyanurate or spray foam insulation, have blowing agents with massive global warming potential. Specifying insulation materials with lesser embodied carbon can be helpful in reducing impact. 

Reducing embodied carbon in construction requires collaboration between designers, builders, structural engineers, and manufacturers across the building sector. WBLCA during the various design stages can be helpful in making choices between various building structural systems, assemblies, and products. We look forward to continued engagement with our partners to reach our embodied carbon reduction goals.

Operational Carbon 

While embodied carbon has more recently come to the forefront of sustainability discussions in the AEC industry, operational carbon (which occurs during the in-use phase of a building) has been the primary focus of sustainability thinking over the last several decades. Our thinking on operational carbon has continuously evolved and we are developing in-house digital tools and processes for measuring operational carbon throughout the design process so that we can produce buildings that function better, cost less to operate, are better for our planet, and are better aligned with our clients’ sustainability goals.

To reduce operational carbon in buildings, Ayers Saint Gross has been developing a process of iterative performance analysis throughout design. From early-stage climate analysis to understand site factors such as temperature, humidity, and solar access, to whole building energy models, we rely on thoroughly tested analysis tools and robust data to predict how buildings will perform prior to starting construction.

One of our most versatile methods for understanding building performance is known as “shoebox analysis.” By taking a simple, repeating element of the building (e.g., a single structural bay), we can run quick analyses on a small area but learn a lot about a large area of the building design.

We use this type of analysis to quickly learn about holistic effects of small design changes. For example, we can create a model with a small window and a large window in a repeated office module or student housing unit and compare how the variation in window size affects daylight access, outdoor view access, solar heat gain, thermal comfort, glare potential, and expected energy usage intensity (EUI). Since these models are small, we can run analyses in a fraction of the time of larger models and extrapolate the results to how a whole building is likely to perform.

The shoebox analysis is part of a larger toolkit developed by Ayers Saint Gross to evaluate expected building performance. These tools allow us to better study occupant comfort by visualizing more analytical and sensorial aspects of a building such as daylight access and thermal comfort. These tools provide a fast, reliable way for our design teams to optimize a building, saving owners money in both first costs and operational costs.

We’re excited to continue advancing strategies toward carbon neutrality. The tools we’re leveraging to optimize embodied carbon investments and reduce operational carbon will help us in aligning the people, programs, and places we serve to champion environmental stewardship, healthy living, and positive social and economic outcomes for all.

How Signage Optimizes High-Performance Buildings

October 13, 2020
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As more high performance design methods, materials, and systems are implemented in the built environment, it’s important not to forget that we as the human occupants of buildings still play a big role in their impact. Understanding occupant activities–the way people experience and use a structure over its lifespan–is key to maximizing the long-term value of any project and is a crucial part of creating effective designs.

Thoughtful signage can inform, inspire, and ultimately bolster a building’s long-term success, ensuring that high-performance elements remain front and center for users throughout a project’s lifecycle. Ayers Saint Gross encourages interdisciplinary collaboration between our architecture and graphic design studios to create building-specific interior illustrations. Here are two examples from our portfolio that illustrate how signage can reinforce sustainable design choices and create more successful buildings.

Trippe Hall at Penn State Behrend

Penn State University has a robust sustainability mission to “comprehensively integrate sustainability into the University’s core fabric of research, teaching, outreach, and operations that will transform students, faculty, and staff into competent sustainability leaders capable of carrying out our vision for the future.” However, overall efforts can sometimes be difficult to implement at individual campuses.

For a residence hall at Penn State Behrend, sustainability signage had two major benefits: it earned LEED points via an Integrated Education Innovation Credit, and it helped align the Behrend campus’ sustainable efforts to the university’s mission. With increased mission awareness, Penn State students hopefully feel individually empowered and connected to each other by their sustainable actions. 

To highlight Trippe Hall’s high-performance elements, we designed a system of 26 unique interior signs that call attention to sustainable features throughout the building.

Of course, simply putting stats on signs is usually not enough to engage users. A didactic approach isn’t fun or memorable. So our design team created slightly cheeky copy and graphics, and used a relatively scaled-down size for the interior sustainability signage. The small, strategically placed signs are a fun discovery when a user adjusts shades in the lounge or does laundry. The interdisciplinary collaboration among our interiors, sustainability, and graphic design studios, and our in-house writing staff, resulted in a custom system that is memorable and inspires action.  

We also created a 43.5’ x 9’ vinyl wall graphic in the bike storage area, which is an exterior space in the notch of the building. The large, bright graphic provides desired lightness to the otherwise dark space as well. Included on the graphic are “stickers” that list destinations around campus and their bikeable distances, encouraging the use of bikes over vehicular travel.

Bancroft Elementary School

District of Columbia Public Schools (DCPS) modernizations target LEED Gold certification and incorporate sustainability signage. The goal of including sustainability signage is to educate students on the benefits of sustainability and encourage environmental literacy and awareness.

As a part of the renovation and addition to Bancroft Elementary, sustainability signage was included as a part of a larger custom signage and wayfinding system. Originally proposed as a six-sign system installed throughout the school, our design evolved into one large graphic in a highly visible location at a scale appropriate for an elementary school audience. While small-scale signs with an element of surprise and discovery work well for college students, elementary-age students have short attention spans and multiple signs diluted the overall message. Additionally, since Bancroft students are usually confined to grade-level corridors, chances of all the students seeing all signs were limited.

Ultimately, we designed a 12’ x 10’ graphic for wall spaces on either side of the doors leading to a playground along a main corridor. Colorful graphics and statistics combined with kid-friendly messages in English and Spanish align with the school’s bilingual curriculum.

Both Trippe Hall and Bancroft Elementary demonstrate a heartening trend toward displaying sustainability information and inspiring a building’s users to take action.

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.

Sharing Research: The ASLA
Campus Resiliency Series

August 27, 2020
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Principal Kevin Petersen joined a panel of experts presenting as part of the American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA) Campus Resiliency Series. Discussing the ways in which colleges and universities could adapt campus outdoor spaces in response to COVID-19, this panel of experts included landscape architects and planners in both the private sector as well as those working for colleges and universities. These events are excellent opportunities to share our expertise and learn from our peers and clients. We are thankful to the ASLA for the opportunity to participate.

Outdoor spaces have always been a memorable part of the collegiate experience, helping to define the character of a campus and providing iconic places for students to gather. In unknown times, open spaces can be adaptable and offer solutions that are effective in the short term but can also be long-term improvements.

Kevin shared results from our recent survey and spoke to the ways that COVID-19 is accelerating shifts in campus outdoor spaces that are already underway, and the ways in which a campus can harness existing assets. There is a natural tension between the desire to have a vibrant campus environment, which so frequently depends on density, and the need to have the safest environment. Kevin looked closely at what could be operational changes and the ways a campus could leverage assets into long-term solutions based on thoughtful planning and design.

The campus experience, and the place of open spaces, can be thought of as a collection of three major components: wellness, learning, and student life.

Wellness

Over the past two months, many of us have found solace in nature while social distancing. We’re reminded of the power of the outdoors. Dating back centuries, the idea that outdoor spaces offer a remedy for students away from academic rigors can be seen in the original plan for the academical village of the University of Virginia.

Landscape enhancements can have a powerful impact with modest investment. Outdoor spaces provide a therapeutic and calming escape, and gathering outdoors with appropriate distancing practices may offer reduced risk.

Learning

Every institution has difficult decisions to make concerning reopening. Social distancing can inhibit experiential learning, community building, and research. Although there are many opportunities to expand learning outside, it is not viable in all cases, particularly when academic programs require specialized tools and equipment. Campuses need to think carefully about how to categorize and prioritize learning experiences and environments. There is no one-size-fits-all solution. In many cases, it’s unclear what will and will not work, as there are very few–if any–proven precedents. However, keeping in mind the trends that COVID-19 has accelerated, an institution can target investments toward near-term solutions that will still be viable long-term. For instance, prioritizing flexibility and adaptability in learning environments–both interior and exterior–to support different pedagogies and learners has been an ongoing trend; multiuse spaces will likely see more utilization for the foreseeable future. For programs that are not equipment-dependent, establishing an outdoor classroom or other landscape enhancement can serve the campus well now and become established as a flexible gathering space on campus experience years from now.

Student Life

Finally, when we think about a campus as providing a place-based experience, student life and recreation is important in rounding out that experience. Landscapes can offer safe outside recreational experiences. We are all witnessing how parks, cities, and institutions are using their outdoor spaces, waterfronts, and other natural resources to reimagine recreation in the COVID-era. Collegiate landscape can similarly rely on their recreational spaces to inject levity into an otherwise challenging experience.

Many campuses will have a rare opportunity during the transitional period: lower parking demand. This might be an opportunity to experiment with pilot projects, like closing a parking lot or road to vehicles and repurposing it for recreational uses like cycling, fitness classes, or outdoor seating for dining. As with learning environments, these do not all have to be temporary. These could be the start of new outdoor experiences that become intimately tied to the identity of the campus.

Amelle Schultz, PLA, LEED AP is an Associate Principal in the Landscape Architecture practice group and serves as Professional Practice Network Co-Chair of Campus Planning and Design for the ASLA.

The Impacts of COVID-19 on Campus

August 17, 2020
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Colleges and universities are making significant changes to the configuration and operations of their campuses in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Many are grappling with the same questions and assessing what it means for the future.

Ayers Saint Gross has always believed in sharing research with our college and university clients. In June 2020, we sent a survey to individuals in the academic, administrative, facilities, and student life departments of higher educational institutions across the United States. We wanted to gather insights about how back-to-campus strategy might impact forward-looking decisions about campus development. We asked questions about classrooms, workplace, student life facilities, the efficacy of remote operations, and the impacts of the pandemic on financial and strategic priorities.

All campuses can reflect on resiliency in light of the insights outlined in the report below. What is it that makes your institution distinctive? What aspects of this crisis threaten your ability to deliver on that offering? What creative opportunities exist to minimize those disruptions? How can you position yourself to be more resilient in the future? These are questions that may not be answerable immediately, but they are critical.

We hope this summary provides a window into the experience of planning for the future of college and university campuses during this uncertain time.


Comparing Campuses 2020: Carbon Emissions

July 20, 2020
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Since 1998, Ayers Saint Gross has annually published a poster featuring campuses from leading institutions around the world. We assemble this collection as a way to support these institutions in finding their common ground and celebrating their unique differences. We believe this understanding will lead to the creation of even better spaces in which to live, learn, and teach. We are pleased to present Comparing Campuses 2020.

Colleges and universities have grown more sophisticated in their approach to sustainability. Indeed, “sustainability” as a catch-all is increasingly becoming too imprecise. Institutions are concerned with resource efficiency, carbon neutrality, and embodied carbon. These are no longer niche concepts, and institutions understand the impacts of them both to themselves and our planet.

The Campuses

This poster compares eight institutions of varying size, geography, age, and classification, showing a figure ground of each campus that color codes buildings by their age and whether they have been recently renovated. We use age as a rough proxy for operational carbon–buildings constructed in the last 30 years are likely to emit less than those built in decades prior. We also explore the extent to which colleges and universities are reinventing their spaces in place. Renovations of older buildings can improve their operational carbon emissions while preserving the embodied carbon in their structure.

In the figure grounds we often see a core of the oldest buildings, with newer buildings both expanding outward and densifying the core. This expansion is not always radial and is focused by the constraints of campus setting and available land. Even when additional land is available, densification can be desirable to keep the campus sized to the pedestrian. The campus that encourages travel by foot and bike reduces the carbon emissions of its campus community. While the oldest structures on a campus are often those that have seen some renovation both for functional reasons as well as the contributions these buildings make to campus history, we also see significant numbers of mid-century buildings renovated since 2000. Renovations conducted prior to 2000 were not hatched as they were less likely to have included improvements in operational carbon.

The variation in campuses was intentional. We were pleased and intrigued to see similar resource efficiency issues were important across the different campuses, but the ways in which mitigation efforts took shape varied a great deal in their specificity. We grouped these similarities in four categories: reduce energy use by buildings, utilize renewable energy sources, manage water use and flow, and reduce waste.

Many schools use STARS (the Sustainability Tracking, Assessment & Rating System) reports to monitor energy use. STARS offers a standard that encourages cataloging a variety of data in a way that can be compared chronologically within an institution or used to compare themselves to others. Many of the facts shared on this year’s poster come from STARS reports.

One of the most interesting STARS data points was the energy usage of buildings per unit of floor area. This statistic accounts for the change over time in the total GSF of an institution, focusing on the energy efficiency of buildings rather than the overall size of the campus. Reductions in this figure can be achieved by adding buildings that are more energy efficient, as well as improving the energy efficiency of existing buildings. According to Architecture 2030: “nearly two-thirds of the building area that exist today will still exist in 2050. Therefore, any transition to a low-carbon/carbon neutral built environment must address both new construction and existing buildings.”

Sources of energy in general, and renewable energy specifically, varies widely by geography. This is evident in the use of renewable energy reported by these eight institutions. Some campuses have on-site renewable energy generation, often solar and/or wind. Others are purchasing renewable energy credits from off-site sources or have access to utility-generated renewable energy. While all the featured campuses still rely to some extent on fossil-fuel derived energy, the transition to renewable sources is one being applied across scale of institution and even beyond higher education.

Reducing waste often relies on human behavior. There needs to be buy-in from not only the people on campus to recycle and compost, but also the contractors and vendors with which an institution partners. Solutions here require collaboration, and different campuses go about this in different ways. While most of our poster talks about reducing carbon emissions, with waste there is the opportunity to go beyond reduction. Composting is sequestration of carbon and can be applied against the carbon footprint of an institution.

Campuses across the country have vastly different relationships to water. Arid campuses have concerns with supply, whereas other campuses have concerns with flooding and stormwater. It is important to note that potable water has a carbon footprint regardless of location, and conservation of potable water is always a means of reducing carbon emissions.

Advancing the Conversation

Recognizing this growing sophistication and complexity, we wanted to ensure that we outlined opportunities for institutions looking to increase their efforts toward carbon and resource efficiency. We grouped these opportunities into three categories: catalog, plan, and implement.

Cataloging one’s space is key to understanding it. Leveraging space analytics to increase utilization and reuse of space can sometimes alleviate or delay the need for new construction. If building new becomes necessary, the understanding of space needs allows one to build the right space for the right reasons for the right resiliency.

Developing a detailed plan for future investment allows for carbon performance to be integrated as a top priority. For instance, for a building that is being constructed in phases, an institution can not only adhere to changing guidelines but plan to keep upgrading systems to the highest performance. See the Duke University School of Nursing for how this works in action.

Renovations can breathe new life into existing assets while reducing both embodied and operational carbon emissions. Renovating can retain sense of place on campus as buildings become indelible parts of an institution’s identity. See the Hayden Library Reinvention as an example.


These comparisons build on a 20-year legacy of Comparing Campuses posters that support higher education in finding their common ground and celebrating their unique differences. See how this poster has evolved and compare our collection of campuses side-by-side.