How Do Built Environments Help Build Brain Capital?

How Do Built Environments Help Build Brain Capital?

For the past two years, HKS researchers, designers and innovators have been working diligently on expanding our thinking about health and well-being to encompass brain health.

The World Health Organization defines brain health as “the state of brain functioning across cognitive, sensory, social-emotional, behavioral and motor domains, allowing a person to realize their full potential over the life course, irrespective of the presence or absence of disorders.” Another compelling definition in the British Medical Journal holds that brain health is “the preservation of optimal brain integrity and mental and cognitive function and the absence of overt neurological disorders.”

Brain health allows us to hyperfocus on the fundamental building block of human cognition and functioning — the human brain — and design environments that support and enhance it.

There is a strong economic imperative to focus on brain health. Our current global economy is often described as a “brain economy” where many new jobs demand cognitive, emotional, and social skills. Innovation is now considered a tangible outcome related to employee productivity. As automation increases, a premium is being placed on cerebral, brain-based skills that make us human such as self-control, emotional intelligence, creativity, compassion, altruism, systems thinking, collective intelligence, and cognitive flexibility.

Enter “brain capital,” an emerging imperative that pulls together brain health, brain skills, and concepts of the brain economy to enable people to realize their potential as productive members of society. It is being advanced by the Brain Capital Alliance, a public-private-people partnership to optimize the brain, brain health and brain skills in our modern economy.

The shift to brain capital in our thinking makes us pose this critical question: What if we could optimize our brains — not only to improve mental and physical health — but also to contribute to positive social and economic benefits that would increase individual and community well-being and advance our societal goals?

The 17 United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are broad-reaching and holistic outcomes that require integrated, system-based solutions. Brain health and brain capital are clearly related to SDG3 (Good Health and Well-being), but it also intrinsically tied to SDG4 (Quality Education), SDG8 (Decent Work and Economic Growth), SDG9 (Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure), SDG10 (Sustainable Cities and Communities), SDG13 (Climate Action), SDG16 (Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions) and SDG17 (Partnerships for the Goals).

Through the innovation and creativity unlocked by a workforce and youth population empowered with brain healthy habits, we will make significant progress on all 17 SDGs. A new brain capital economy will require bridging previously siloed disciplines and expertise to understand, test and draft policy to assess and incentivize the outcomes we desire.

At the upcoming Science Summit at the United Nations General Assembly, we will convene a full day event focused on youth mental health, workforce development, economic security and resilience, sustainable futures, brain + building, neuro-science law, and food systems. Advocates, neuroscientists, medical doctors, psychologists and designers will lead conversations along-side academics, business leaders, elected officials, policy experts and real estate financers, owners and operators. The brain capital economy will help us amplify and institutionalize innovation to date, while also creating a platform to accelerate creative approaches for the next frontier.

As researchers and designers of the built environment, we know that places and spaces have a big impact on how we can build brain capital and realize the SDGs. Here are five things we encourage our teams, clients, and partners to do as we kick-start the journey to design for brain capital:

1. Explore the intersection between neuroscience and architecture to unlock new ideas for design.

In the emerging field of neuro-aesthetics (a movement started by the Academy of Neuroscience and Architecture), a growing evidence base links environmental factors directly to brain behavior. Air quality impacts cognitive health, access to nature reduces stress and anxiety, novelty in environments can improve memory, exposure to arts can activate dormant synapses in the brain — the list linking design to brain health outcomes is long — and growing every day. Designers can catapult pieces of evidence into channels for transformational change through the enriched environments they design and build

2. Invest in your own brain capital through brain-healthy workplaces.

A disproportionately large portion of our life is spent at work. Work, especially in the brain economy, relies on brain health. Invest in design and operational best practices that make your workplaces healthy for your brain.

3. Build your and your team’s cognitive fitness with the same passion as you build physical fitness.

We often think about our diet and exercise for physical fitness, but we need to be intentional about our mental, social and cognitive fitness, too. Connect with people, spend time doing creative tasks that push your thinking, learn new things, and consider brain health training programs such as SMART from the Center for BrainHealth to build your capacity.

4. Think of every capital investment as a project for brain capital.

Think about a design project you might be working on — a school, an office, a hospital, a hotel, a housing development or a new neighborhood — and then place a brain capital lens on it. Are brain health and brain skills important to the project’s outcomes? Could investment in people’s well-being lead to economic benefits? How can you create an environment that gets to the core of how someone learns, heals, relaxes, lives and flourishes? These questions will help you unlock design potential for exponential impact.

5. Dissolve disciplinary silos to work with scientists, economists, environmentalists, artists and policy makers.

The fundamental premise of brain capital is bringing professionals from a wide range of expertise together to make bold, systemic change. And that starts with creative convenings beyond disciplines.

Imagine a future where everyone has opportunities to fulfil their potential — at home, at work, in any place at any time. If we work together to invest in building brain capital, we can create a regenerative world where creativity and innovation thrive and life flourishes.

References:
• A Brain Capital Grand Strategy: toward economic reimagination. By Smith, Erin; Ali, Diab;
Wilkerson, Bill; Dawson, Walter D; Sobowale, Kunmi; Reynolds, Charles; Berk, Michael; Lavretsky, Helen; Jeste, Dilip; Ng, Chee H; Soares, Jair C; Aragam, Gowri; Wainer, Zoe; Manji, Husseini K; Licinio, Julio; Lo, Andrew W; Storch, Eric; Fu, Ernestine; et al.
• World Health Organization Health Topics: Brain Health
What is brain health and why is it important? By Wang, Yongjun; et. al

HKS Research Accelerator Program Explores How Advancing ESG in Design Adds Client Value

HKS Research Accelerator Program Explores How Advancing ESG in Design Adds Client Value

We’re no longer interested in the simple exercise of acknowledging problems. We’re taking action. We’re moving beyond mere awareness by driving progress, alongside our clients, by enriching interactions and promoting environmental, social, and governance (ESG) measures. We’ve joined the United Nations Global Compact, embracing Sustainable Development Goals under the world’s shared plan to end extreme poverty, reduce inequality, and protect the planet by 2030. But we also have ongoing research to support the bleeding-edge innovation on how to get there.

“The greatest challenges of the 21st century are Design problems. They are not thrust upon us; they are of our making. Fortunately, the solution is also Design. What we are faced with is not a technical challenge, it is a people challenge. HKS’ holistic, integrated, research based ESG is one of our empowerment tools.”

Rand Ekman,
Chief Sustainability Office

HKS supports multiple paths to innovation through research. We offer our talent opportunities to learn and grow by instilling research and providing opportunities to explore, investigate, and evaluate. The Incubator track emphasizes the development of research capabilities, expanding our firm’s knowledge and exploring novel concepts, ultimately enhancing our innovation potential. Building upon incubated work, the Accelerator track aims to generate applicable research and insights, transforming this innovation potential into practical integration and impact for our projects and practices.

Each year we encourage diverse, inquisitive teams to think, synthesize and translate insights into impact, with a focus on new design ideas. Over the past three years, the Incubator/Accelerator research program has supported 29 projects, including 150 HKS employees from various regions. Our firm is differentiated by the scope and breadth of our evidence-based practice areas. And while we aren’t the only AED firm to support research grants, the projects we support are designed to create tools and methods that make an actionable difference in design.

“Better Design, Better Outcomes. Better Research, Better Design. It is that simple. Our research incubator and accelerator programs are designed to democratize research and make room for the limitless thinking that is vital at a time when so much is changing all at once”

Upali Nanda, PhD,
Global Practice Director, Research

Here we’ll focus on our 2022 accelerator projects which are exemplary in showing how ESG is foundational in design. The research questions and methodologies of each project varied greatly, including how to engage with diverse stakeholders and cultivate a sense of belonging, how to improve energy savings and align carbon impacts with client goals, and what to consider in mitigating climate risks and developing a framework for materials transparency. Over the last year of research, here are three key pathways that transcend each effort.

Key Pathways #1: Sustainable practices find cost savings through best practices.

From a bird-eye perspective, the construction and design industry contributes 30% of total global waste and 38% of global carbon dioxide. However, by adopting sustainable construction practices, building operations , and optimizing material selection and transportation, the industry can not only reduce waste and carbon dioxide emissions but also achieve substantial cost savings.

Construction methods vary based on location, affecting both the materials used and their transportation distances. The architecture and engineering (A/E) industry must adapt to the global shift towards carbon neutrality by designing and maintaining carbon-neutral buildings that align with client goals. To achieve this, Miguel Lopez and his team provided design teams with low-embodied-carbon material recommendations and engaged in project-specific building systems and assemblies during the early stages of design. Their assessment tool allows teams to work proactively during the design process to identify and implement carbon reduction strategies and effectively reduce embodied carbon footprints with cost savings in mind.

Adaptive reuse stands out as the most cost-effective approach to sustainable building construction, primarily because it allows for the repurposing of existing structures. This method minimizes the requirement for new materials and reduces construction expenses. By adopting principles of the circular economy, Lisa Adams suggests solutions that are not only sustainable but cost effective. Her team collected data on material usage and sustainable upgrades, utilizing Life Cycle Analysis (LCA) and Environmental Product Declarations (EPDs), which when applied to design, informs decision-making and more efficient resource allocation.

By creatively transforming and retrofitting buildings, adaptive reuse preserves the embodied energy within the existing structure, minimizes waste, and conserves resources. Compared to constructing entirely new buildings, this sustainable practice not only benefits the environment but also generates substantial cost savings for project developers and owners.

Adams’ team developed five key strategies to adopt in the design process—prioritizing adaptive reuse, specifying carbon sinks, designing for reuse, eliminating waste, and carefully selecting materials —to not only reduce embodied carbon but also create cost-saving opportunities and long-term value for clients.—to not only reduce embodied carbon but also create cost-saving opportunities and long-term value for clients.

Amber Wirth led a team that met with experts on MEP systems, collaborating closely to assess data related to various façade strategies employed to optimize greenhouse gas emissions reductions for all-electric buildings. The team delivered strategies that focused on financial benefits by optimizing window-to-wall ratios, improving insulation, using high-performance glazing, designing with solar panels, and combining these elements in an all-electric approach. Leveraging software that assesses the triple bottom line of these design strategies, the team quantified and attributed dollar values to their projects’ social and environmental impacts, a crucial step for clients in their decision-making process.

The research team explored solutions driven by data, such as window-to-wall ratio, to understand potential cost and energy savings. By reimagining prescriptive envelope requirements, more efficient and impactful decisions can be made.

Key Pathways #2: Client engagements are enriched by research that address equity and sustainability.

Sammy Shams and his team applied the Resilience Design Toolkit that was developed in partnership with the AIA during the Incubator program for designing more resilient buildings that reduce risk from climate change. The team studied the project work data of a large hospitality client in Marco Island, Florida, involving a renovation and expansion. Despite the area’s risk of 30-foot storm surges, site visits and design workshops helped the team comprehend and implement resilient design solutions to reduce risks and further refine the toolkit.

Building on our expertise in health design, Hannah Schultz and team created a design validation tool that combines evidence-based design and Safety Risk Assessments (SRA) to enhance existing processes. The tool aligns with client goals and selects suitable design options. When applied to mental and behavioral health projects, it will establish benchmarks, enable data-driven improvements, and leverage an evidence-based approach.

In pursuit of a more inclusive approach to design, Renae Mantooth’s team developed a guide focusing on equity in design, inspiring HKS collaborations for more equitable industry standards. The guide contains activities for project teams, stakeholder engagement, and analysis protocols, all contributing to HKS’ commitment to inclusive and equitable design.

The research team was sponsored by HKS’ education practice. Passionate about providing inclusive and supportive environments for primary, secondary and higher education, they were inspired by HKS projects like Whitefriars Community School in England (pictured above).

Key Pathways #3: across all industries, incorporating ESG throughout the design process is crucial for achieving the greatest impact.

ESG goals transcend the design process, and by embracing them, design solutions strengthen partnerships with clients, ensuring their needs are considered within the context of industry trends and conversations.

“ESG research through the J.E.D.I. lens encouraged us to consider the system with a growth mindset that impacts the choices we make in service of our communities. Research empowered our people to re-evaluate their thought process to affect the making of the built environment.”

Yiselle Santos Rivera,
Director of Justice, Equity, Diversity, & Inclusion

Over $40 trillion in global assets under management (AUM) followed ESG (Environmental, Social, and Governance) criteria, demonstrating a substantial rise in sustainable investment approaches in recent years. This figure underscores the increasing significance of ESG factors in business and investment choices. The topics we’ve addressed through last years’ Accelerators projects—from energy savings, carbon impact alignment, climate risk mitigation, and material transparency to inclusive design for health and well-being—seek to strengthen client partnerships and emphasizes equitable, client-centric projects. These projects contribute to greater social goals by promoting sustainable practices, reducing environmental impact, and fostering healthier spaces.

Team credits:

HKS Guide for Centering Equity in the Design Process​
Mantooth, Renae
Krause, Courtney
Rudd, Zac
Tang, Diana
O’Donnell, Kathleen
Jankowski, Jarod

Design + Safety Risk Assessment Tool Interface Development
Hudson, Roly
Shultz, Hannah
Howell, Nathan
Farrell, Rachael
Brugger, Cory

Resilience Design Feedback Loop Implementation
Fox, Adam
Barton, Amanda
Sorge, Caroline
Shams, Sammy

Designing Interiors for a Circular Economy
Adams, Lisa
Smith, Allison
Gilkey, Amy
Hartman, Dave

Embodied Carbon Case Study
Smith, Allison
Shams, Sammy
Funderburg, Chandler
Pina, Briana
McCann, Michael
Lopez, Miguel Angel

Building Decarbonization through Electrification & Envelope Thermal Performance
Wirth, Amber
Sorge, Caroline
Padmanabha, Shefalika
Brown, Mike
Dailey, Apryl

How Design can Support Social and Emotional Learning

How Design can Support Social and Emotional Learning

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Over the past year and half, we’ve investigated how to improve the well-being of schoolchildren through the intersection of social and emotional learning and the built environment. The timing of our effort couldn’t be more crucial. From existential concerns triggered by climate anxiety to the trauma experienced by gun violence in schools, many school children are understandably experiencing a mental health crisis. This is the context of our research exploring the intersection of social and emotional learning and design.

Social and emotional learning (SEL) is an approach to education that helps children gain skills outside of typical school subjects such as math, reading, and comprehension. It matters because the approach helps children and adolescents understand and regulate their feelings, communicate with and relate to others, build strong relationships, and make empathetic decisions.

The culmination of our research project is a visual design guide — a library of evidence-based design (EBD) strategies formatted as a tool for designers of learning environments to quickly reference during the design process. Whether the intention is to create an enriched environment, understand the impact design strategies have on students and teachers, or both – the EBD strategy cards are a tool to help create enriched environments that support social and emotional learning.

Our Methods & What We Found

Before creating our visual design guide, we conducted a comprehensive literature review and ­in-depth interviews with primary, middle, and high school teachers. We initially sourced 143 articles, white papers and books, that resulted in 18 evidence-based strategies supported by 102 empirical research studies that have demonstrated outcomes associated with teachers and learners. We then interviewed school teachers who participated in one-hour semi-structured virtual interviews where they elaborated on how they define social and emotional learning, their ideal working environment, and their perceptions of the current school environment in regard to SEL. Here are a few findings from those conversations:

What the Findings Mean

The visual design guide provides a research-informed framework to create spaces that augment and support social and emotional learning. Our guide is intended for stakeholders as they move throughout the design process, and when they are documenting design intent. Those who use our guide are instructed to print out cards, fold them in half, while referencing the comprehensive evidence to provide rationale for design decisions.

The design of physical space can be used as a tool to support or augment existing pedagogical practices in classrooms – advancing the agenda to provide students with competencies in SEL by stimulating diverse affordances (sensory, cognitive, motor, and social) within their learning environments. Being intentional through design can help attain social and emotional learning goals for the environment . A good school building has spaces for both learning and working and should include a multitude of spaces. A few of the recommendations we suggest in our design guide are to institute:

Why Is This Important?

This work underscores the critical role of social and emotional learning (SEL) in education, especially given the current mental health crisis facing children and adolescents. Our visual design guide emphasizes the need to integrate SEL considerations into the design of learning environments to foster emotional regulation, empathy, and communication skills. By doing so, this visual design guide serves as a valuable tool for designers, offering evidence-based strategies derived from a comprehensive literature review and teacher interviews to positively impact students and teachers in their learning and working spaces.

This report emphasizes that intentional design cues can have a significant impact on the social and emotional well-being of students and educators. It highlights the importance of incorporating a range of design elements, including variety, privacy, sensory control, and support for the whole person, in school buildings. By stimulating diverse affordances within learning environments, educators and designers can help students develop competencies in SEL.

What’s Next

Our next step is implementation. In designing educational facilities to improve K-12 students’ outcomes, researchers and designers will leverage our design guide—a library of evidence-based design strategies formatted as a tool for designers of learning environments—to create and implement better learning and working spaces.

Teachers engage in a variety of work modes and utilize multiple tools to effectively do their job, and the guide can help designers provide a variety of psychological needs met within their working spaces and their students’ learning spaces. The design of physical space can be used as a tool to support or augment existing pedagogical practices in classrooms by stimulating diverse affordances (sensory, cognitive, motor, and social) within their learning environments.

This work is a product of coalition-based research bringing together the Center for Advanced Design Research and Evaluation (CADRE), Uplift Education, HKS – funded by the ASID Foundation. Next steps for the coalition include an impact study, investigating how the move of a Pre-K-12 school from a dense urban setting devoid of green, open space to a new location with an open quad green setting and enriched interior affordances transform well-being, academic outcomes, and college-readiness for at-risk and first-gen students. Learn more about the coalition.

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The Whole College Athlete: Designing for Success On and Off the Field

The Whole College Athlete: Designing for Success On and Off the Field

The career of a storied professional athlete begins early—with a passion and preternatural skill, neighborhood pickup games and youth sports, and finally, collegiate-level competition. University or college coaches and administrators understand this trajectory, and they’re preparing incoming student athletes for long careers, whether on or off the field. Because, on average, colleges support 20 sports programs—of which only 2% are expected to turn professional after college. It’s just the statistical reality that few athletes will become the next Tom Brady, despite the stories abounding of elite athletes playing longer into their career. This is where the concept of the “whole athlete” comes into play.

The “whole athlete” means supporting innovations for peak performance and the means to support an athlete as a well-rounded student. Today’s student-athletes represent the pinnacle of not only physical, but also mental fitness. At HKS, we’ve leveraged this concept to create guiding design principles for collegiate sports facilities, integrating health facilities and the latest science in sports medicine, brain health, and related fields.

HKS embarked on a research project in 2021 to learn more about leveraging the built environment to enhance athletic performance, recovery, and well-being. An interdisciplinary team including experts from HKS’ Sports & Entertainment and Health practices, and the firm’s Advisory Services group, identified five characteristics of facilities design that support the whole athlete. Such facilities are:

To apply this framework, we reviewed the literature to build on our acute understanding of athletes as an accumulation of experiences, from youth sports up until they step foot on campus. And we’re applying study findings to explore how these experiences intersect with the latest trends in research that bridge healthcare and medicine with facility design.

Facilities at the academic core can bind student athletes from diverse backgrounds to reap the true benefits of youth sports participation—socially, physically, and cognitively. Most origin stories begin with the true benefits of youth sports participation. Before their Hall of Fame careers—and before they stepped foot on a college campus—Tom Brady, Sue Bird, Bo Jackson, and Jim Brown came of age as multi-sport athletes. While there are risks, youth participation in organized sports is generally a net boon to mental health, as summarized by a large systematic review of the literature. Leveraging brain-health-informed environments will continue to help student-athletes in their athletic careers and beyond.

That’s our aspiration, but how do we get there? And how do we first embrace the sheer diversity of student-athletes?

Before Jimmy Butler played for Marquette and then garnered the name “Jimmy Buckets,” he slept on friends’ couches all through high school. In 2014, as the debate around pay and sponsorships first took off, former University of Connecticut basketball star, Shabazz Napier, famously stated that he often went to bed, “starving.” To add context to these anecdotes: many student athletes come from lower socio-economic backgrounds, meaning that inclusive design is a critical complement to supportive policies and practices. Once on campus, student athletes undergo athletic, academic, psychological, and psychosocial transitions—and the uniqueness of these experiences, intersecting with all that’s come in the past, means many require greater resources and coping strategies.

Taking a step back, today’s collegiate athletes differ significantly from those of previous generations: there’s increased professionalism—through sports science resources, academic resources, coaching and training opportunities. This fall, the entering class of Freshman was born in 2005, making these student-athletes digital natives. In all that’s to be considered for how today’s collegiate athletes are different than those in the past, it’s symbolic that an athlete like Paige Bueckers, UConn’s star guard, has 1 million followers on Instagram, a technology didn’t exist as Sue Bird, also a UConn alum, entered the WNBA draft in 2002.

The diversity of student-athlete backgrounds impacts planning decisions for collegiate sports facilities, too. Researchers have found that of 125 Division 1 campuses, only 13% had “athletic academic support programs located in or adjacent to the academic core of the campus.” Athletic support services removed from campuses’ academic core create a greater degree of student-athlete segregation—a clear problem that symbolically and physically removes student-athletes from the broader collegiate community.

Advancing sports medicine means better recovery, better performance, and better long-term health. Consider the following stories. In 2013, the Florida State Seminoles saw an 88% year-over-year drop in injuries because the team adopted wearable technologies from Catapult GPS. And one randomized clinical trial found that patients who received a few weeks of pain reprocessing therapy saw a significant drop in reported chronic back pain. These are advances that have significant implications for today’s student athletes. Designated recovery spaces, such as cold/hot tubs, compression therapy rooms, and foam rolling/stretching areas, can help athletes address muscle soreness, reduce inflammation, and promote relaxation after training sessions or competitions.

The average collegiate athlete spends 40 hours per week in athletic-related activities—and moderate and vigorous exercise makes up a significant portion of this time. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) recommends that Americans get at least 150 minutes of moderate exercise or 75 minutes of vigorous exercise each week—but only  1 in 4 Americans meets these goals, according to the CDC. There’s a healthy balance to be had—and while the average American is more likely to be overcome by a sedentary lifestyle, athletes are more concerned with burnout.

As competitive athletes push the body and mind, they also push research to show the outer bounds of what the body and mind can achieve. On this front, a research question would be: what is the body’s limit with intense exertion? NIRS is a technology that measures hemodynamic activity, or changes in blood flow, throughout the brain which shows that athletes may reach physical and cognitive exhaustion after too much exercise. Consider the extreme exertion of a marathon or a long-distance competitive swim. Researchers found that over the course of the race, participants saw 6 percent in grey matter atrophy. For student-athletes, this fact carries implications for design.

Over the past year, we’ve explored brain health in connection to office workers, but the concept has far broader implications, from college to the workforce and beyond. Cognitive fitness for athletes is a key concern that needs attention to avenues for not just mental health services, but proactive social health strategies, opportunities for creative expression, rest and recovery, and socialization.

Athletes need access to healthy choices, and design strategies to make the healthy choice the easy choice. To determine where this happens, Point-of-decision design, a “person-centric” construct provides personas and journey mapping to determine key areas. Through this lens, on-site dining and nutrition counseling provides pre-training nutrition and post-training replenishment of glycogen stores, hydration, anti-inflammation and recovery nutrition.

Recovery is pursued in tandem with better performance. Beyond medicine and nutrition, you may have read about virtual reality capabilities and bio-mechanic analyses in sports: transitioning a batter’s swing, a swimmer’s stroke, and a defenseman’s slapshot into data for next-level athletic performance. Efficiency translates into a faster time or higher shooting percentage, because altogether, each new advance means a more holistic and tailored approach for each athlete.

We’ve discussed a holistic approach to today’s athletes, and recent advents in sports medicine, and we apply these insights into the built environment.

Importantly, we’re looking to integrate principles of enriched environments to athletic facilities. Space must be integrated at multiple levels. Versatile facilities provide for multiple student-athlete needs, but without planning considerations, students may become isolated from the broader academic community. Facility design should go hand-in-hand with planning. Several colleges and universities are integrating sustainability and academic goals into the design of sports facilities. Arizona State University joined the Green Sports Alliance, pursuing zero-waste status. The Sun Devil Fitness Complex nudges athletes and visitors alike toward green behaviors, while leveraging sustainable design features.

But taking a step back for context, less than 2% of student athletes go pro, but most student-athletes either want to continue their academic studies after graduation or leverage transferable skills gained from athletic participation for a career. At the University of Florida, Trinity Thomas recently tied the record for the most perfect 10s in NCAA gymnastics history. Watch an interview here where she discusses how she got into gymnastics, and how she looks to apply a major in physiology and kinesiology to a career in sports medicine.

Consider the NCAA GOALS study, with the most-recent iteration produced in 2020. Two-thirds of student athletes wanted to pursue graduate studies, and a vast majority reported that collegiate-sports participation provided transferrable skills to future careers.

And thinking about the long term, we must focus on brain health. Design principles related to brain health brings together student and athletic needs—quiet zones, study spaces, and technology integration.

Thinking about mental well-being and brain health, the placement of facilities and academic support systems should serve to integrate student-athletes, not isolate them. In 2020, the NCAA GOALS study revealed that feeling a sense of belonging is on the rise among student athletes—although there is room for improvement. Today’s student athletes are treated uniquely but distinctly from the rest of the student body. Student athletes have unique needs, but they also want better integration with their campus peers.

Thinking about mental well-being and brain health, the placement of facilities and academic support systems should serve to integrate student-athletes, not isolate them.

All dimensions of athletic facilities begins with planning—and student athletes are a population integral to this vision. HKS’ UC San Diego North Torrey Pines Living and Learning Neighborhood creates truly mixed-use experiences by first understanding how students live and learn. The campus is the largest living and learning community in the University of California system and promotes well-being and sustainability through the integration of living space, retail space, dining experiences, and outdoor and public spaces.

In all, collegiate sports facilities are advancing by incorporating innovative designs and features that support the holistic needs of student athletes, including their academic, physical, and mental well-being. These modern facilities prioritize accessibility, inclusivity, and sustainability while integrating advanced technology and resources to optimize athletic performance and recovery. By creating comprehensive and adaptable environments, collegiate sports facilities are elevating the student athlete experience and fostering success both on and off the field.

Building Resilient Futures: 2023 HKS Detroit Design Fellowship Applications Open

Building Resilient Futures: 2023 HKS Detroit Design Fellowship Applications Open

The HKS Detroit Design Fellowship (DDF) is a student design charrette that seeks to cultivate emerging design talent, excite and stimulate new design approaches and provide service to benefit the communities in which we live.

Since it began in 2009, the DDF has focused on the learning opportunities presented by pairing professionals with selected university students from some of the region’s top design programs.

In partnership with community organizations, DDF Fellows leverage design to solve challenges faced by Metro Detroit communities. In previous years, the DDF has worked with organizations such as Cass Community Social Services, Plymouth Coffee Bean Company and the City of Northville, Michigan.

The city of Detroit holds great significance as an historic hub of the American automotive industry and a cultural center known for its contributions to popular music. The city has endured and continues to navigate economic, social and educational challenges.

Due to population decline, suburban immigration and the emergence of charter schools, Detroit’s traditional public schools have experienced a decrease in student enrollment. This decline in enrollment has strained the finances of the Detroit Public Schools Community District, impacting available resources and educational opportunities. Additionally, the school district has struggled with low academic achievement, as evidenced by consistently below-average standardized test scores and graduation rates. Various factors, including high poverty, inadequate funding and a lack of resources, have contributed to the school district’s challenges. Detroit continues to harness the strength of its communities, embracing resilience as a fundamental value to create a better future. The heart of this year’s DDF design challenge is resilience – within, through and beyond the built environment.

Our partner this year

This year the DDF is partnering with Brilliant Detroit. This non-profit organization was founded in 2015 with the goal to provide a radically new approach to kindergarten readiness in Detroit neighborhoods. The idea was to create a unique delivery model in early childhood development by using underutilized housing stock to create early child and family centers in city neighborhoods.

Brilliant Detroit homes provide holistic services for children aged 0-8, predicated on evidence-based programs concerning health, family support and education. Brilliant Detroit was born to create kid success neighborhoods. In each of the organization’s locations, neighbors come together for activities and learning to assure school readiness and provide needed support for families. The DDF Fellows will work on a challenge that expands on this approach, exploring the power of design to build a more resilient future.

Location and Schedule

During three days of collaboration, DDF participants will investigate, iterate, and propose solutions, based on a design prompt. The workshop will begin on Friday, September 8 and culminate on Sunday, September 10.

A final review and public exhibition will be held Friday, September 15 as part of Detroit Month of Design, a citywide celebration of creativity. The exhibition will provide the community with the opportunity to learn more about the design process and actively participate in it. Registration for the final review and public exhibition will be available through the Detroit Month of Design website at www.detroitmonthofdesign.com.

Specific 2023 DDF design challenge information will be presented to students selected to participate in the fellowship one week before the in-person collaboration.

HKS Detroit Address: Main St, #102C Northville, MI 48167

This year we are part of Detroit Month of Design

If you are in Detroit, we invite you to this year’s Detroit Design Fellowship student work exhibition in the MarxModa Detroit office on September 15. This event is part of the Detroit Month of Design, which is a citywide celebration of creativity that gathers designers and the greater community to celebrate Detroit’s role as a national and global design capital. Detroit is the first city in the U.S. to be named a UNESCO City of Design.

The exhibition is free to the public and provides an opportunity to learn about the Fellow’s work and the design process behind it. You can register on the MoD website.

Address: 751 Griswold St, Detroit, MI 48226
Time: 6 pm – 9 pm

Selection

Sixteen Fellows will be chosen by the design fellowship committee. All applicants will be notified of the status of their application via email within a week following the application deadline. Those selected for the Fellowship must submit a headshot photo and brief bio (up to 200 words) upon notification for inclusion in the welcome packet and website announcement.

Application

DDF is open to college or university undergraduates, graduate students and recent graduates (up to 1 year post graduation) of architecture, interior design, industrial design and other design programs.

The 2023 application period opens July 10 and closes on August 21.

To apply, please email the following information to [email protected]

Meals will be provided to participants during the four days of the DDF. Hotel and travel arrangements will not be provided, however, and are the responsibility of the Fellows.

The decisions of the design fellowship committee are final. For any inquiries, please email: [email protected]

To Create Inclusive Spaces, LGBTQIA+ Designers Advocate for Themselves and Others

To Create Inclusive Spaces, LGBTQIA+ Designers Advocate for Themselves and Others

There isn’t a universal approach to designing for inclusion, no one size-fits-all definition for what an inclusive space looks like. Architects and interior designers often engage with individuals who will use the spaces they design — seeking to understand who they are and what they need — with the goal of creating supportive environments for people with diverse identities.

Many designers also rely on their own experiences to inform the work they do.

Reflecting on their lives and identities, LGBTQIA+ designers bring perspective that can lead to more welcoming, comfortable spaces for people with similar backgrounds and lived experiences as them, as well as a broader range of people who encounter the places they design.

A design professional and job captain working in HKS’ health practice in Washington, DC, My-Anh Nguyen (they/them), identifies as non-binary and transmasculine. They said that their queer identity, as well as their Asian American identity, helps them overcome barriers to inclusion during the design process and in the outcomes of the projects they work on.

“In design, we talk a lot about integration and how we can avoid silos. The idea of avoiding silos comes pretty naturally to me,” Nguyen said. “Being non-binary allows me to have mindset that is expansive and inclusive as a professional. I see my experience as a practice of nuance and consideration in how I incorporate different perspectives.”

Nguyen and several other LGBTQIA+ designers at HKS said their personal experiences shape how they collaborate with project team members including fellow designers, contractors and clients. Some said they have developed abilities to communicate across differences and empathize with others — often stemming from instances where they felt excluded while growing up or early in their careers — that they bring to their work.

“I go out of my way to try to not make people uncomfortable and that is related to my being out. I try to be in tune with people’s comfort levels and sensitivities and adapt. It’s ingrained in me,” said Scott Martin, a senior health project architect in the HKS Detroit office who identifies as a cisgender gay man. Martin also said that he downplays hierarchies as much as possible; he feels most comfortable on a project team where everyone is treated as equals.

Fostering Comfort and Safety Through Design

Whether or not people will feel welcome and comfortable in a space is a crucial consideration for architects and designers. But physical and psychological safety are not guaranteed for anyone in the built environment, no matter how well the spaces are designed. Marginalization or othering — including discrimination based on race, ethnicity, physical abilities, sexual orientation or gender expression — can occur in any space.

“When I think providing safe spaces, I think about providing them across all challenges,” said HKS’ Mary Hart, a Dallas-based principal who identifies as a cisgender woman and a lesbian. “Am I thinking about all the different people who can be in a space? Will they be okay, will they be safe? It’s a big thing to tackle. It’s a big responsibility.”

“When I think providing safe spaces, I think about providing them across all challenges…It’s a big responsibility.”

Although design alone can’t ensure physical and psychological safety, there are plenty of opportunities to advocate for people who will use a space and design to support them, according to multiple LGBTQIA+ designers at HKS.

“Design can give people — no matter how they self-identify — the ability to be comfortable showing up as they are,” said HKS’ Zac Rudd, who identifies as a cisgender gay man.

Rudd is a designer with the firm’s education practice, where he creates interior designs for schools and universities. While growing up, Rudd didn’t always feel like he could be his true self at school. Today, he draws on those memories to approach design challenges “with kindness and a sense of curiosity and care.”

Rudd said that because children are required to go to school, they don’t necessarily have autonomy to choose what spaces they can be in during elementary or high school. In higher education settings, challenges associated with access to transportation can limit students’ options to get around or leave campus. He strives to design places that provide students with some elements of autonomy and choice for where they can socialize, study, or retreat.  

“One of the important things to do as a designer is to normalize all the elements of being a human that change from day to day,” Rudd said. “There is power in choice. Design can provide people with the ability to know that one choice is just as okay as another and if your choice changes the next day, you’re not more or less of a person.”

Just like educational environments, hospitals and clinics contain ample opportunities to design for the different needs of a diverse range of people, according to Martin, who primarily works on interior renovations in health care settings.

“If I am space planning, I think about my own experience. I don’t like spaces that are too restricted. I like there to be space where I can get out of the mix of things and be on the periphery,” he said. Martin said that his personal preferences, in addition to his perspective as a cancer survivor, have helped him to understand what patients and staff need from health care environments.

“In waiting areas, you may not want your back to the door or passageway and be able to see people coming and going,” Martin said, noting that it’s important for designers to think about how they can provide opportunities to reduce stress, especially in hospitals.

Hart, who is a mission critical practice leader, also said that good design can make a difference in peoples’ comfort and tension levels. The data centers she designs tend to be high-stress environments for the people that work in them, so she makes room for plenty of amenity spaces, access to nature, and other design elements that support mental health.

 “If you’ve failed to think about designing for a particular slice of the community, then you haven’t really done your job to relieve their potential stress. It’s important to understand who someone is as a person, how they come to work, and how they are able to be their authentic self at work and design for all those variables,” Hart said.

Showing Up and Paying Forward

Being able to be authentic at work can be affirming for members of the LGBTQIA+ community and aids their ability to design inclusive spaces. Several LGBTQIA+ designers at HKS said that although they have experienced some challenges in their careers, they find the design field to be supportive of their identities and points of view.

“I think architecture and design, in general, is fairly accepting of the queer community,” said Charles Gatins, a Dallas-based HKS project coordinator who identities as a cisgender gay man.

Gatins said that being out at work and being open with colleagues about his life is central to who he is and how he has built his career. In addition to his role with the firm’s commercial mixed-use practice, he’s been involved with mentorship, outreach, recruitment and onboarding initiatives. He’s taken those steps to amplify the value of LGBTQIA+ inclusion in the field for younger designers.

“By being myself in front of future generations and saying that I am an openly gay man who can be successful, I am communicating that the opportunity for them to be successful is there as well,” Gatins said. “I want to make sure they feel included, that they can go forward and do anything they want to do regardless of their identity.”

Nguyen also prioritizes showing up for students and younger professionals, serving as an active member of several collectives and organizations that seek to lift a diverse array of voices in the design fields. They said that they have greatly benefitted from having mentors and advocates with different identities, and that they hope to pay it forward as they take on more responsibilities in their career.

“Seeing representation in your career is important. While we are still growing our diversity as an industry, encouraging a culture of belonging will allow even more creativity and innovation to flourish throughout the design process. When someone invests in your success, regardless of shared identity or not, it can make a big difference in how you see yourself in the field,” Nguyen said.

“While we are still growing our diversity as an industry, encouraging a culture of belonging will allow even more creativity and innovation to flourish throughout the design process.”

Creating and Sharing Space

As the AEC industry continues to diversify and conversations about how the built environment can contribute to social equity and justice become more prevalent, HKS has launched Justice, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (J.E.D.I.) initiatives to uplift employees with different identities and backgrounds so they can be themselves and do their best work. HKS’s PRIDE Affinity and Inclusion Group, for example, seeks to create space for members of the LGBTQIA+ community and allies and influence supportive company practices and policies. Nguyen, Gatins, Martin, and Hart are all part of the group, and Rudd is co-founder and chair.  

For each of these LGBTQIA+ designers and advocates, creating space that truly includes members of their community and those representing other minority groups — whether it’s space for conversation or a building like a hospital, elementary school or commercial office — has more to do with people than elaborate plans or drawings.

“Personally, I think inclusion is about people that are in spaces more so than the spaces themselves,” Gatins said. “I can use HKS as an example. I feel included in this community because I have been included in this community.”

Join HKS at the 2023 European Healthcare Design Conference

Join HKS at the 2023 European Healthcare Design Conference

Please join HKS at the European Healthcare Design Conference in London and virtually, June 12–14. The theme of this year’s event is “Fault lines and front lines: Strengthening health system resilience.” The highly anticipated conference seeks to spark conversation in Europe and around the world about how to plan and design health systems and infrastructure to achieve fiscal balance, equality of access, greater efficiency, net-zero, pandemic preparedness, quality improvement and better health outcomes in design.

HKS’ Jess Karsten, Deborah Wingler, Angela Lee, Sarah Holton and Joshi Rutali are all scheduled to speak at the conference, in addition to video and poster galleries from Sammy Shams, Sumandeep Singh and Jennie Evans that delegates can peruse between sessions.

Sessions

Video + Poster Gallery

The cultured surroundings of the Dorchester Library will play host to the Video + Poster Gallery

Attendees

We hope you’ll join our illustrious team for rewarding discussions on health care design resilience.

HKS Receives AIA Michigan 2023 Unbuilt Award for Community-BLOC

A Winning Design for Championship Venues

A Winning Design for Championship Venues

For decades, Wheaties cereal has carried the tagline, “The Breakfast of Champions.” But HKS has had its own high-level championship run over the years. 

Since 2010, HKS-designed buildings have hosted Super Bowls, the World Series, NCAA Final Fours and the College Football Playoffs National Championships. The streak continued in 2021 when Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis hosted the NCAA Men’s Final Four basketball tournament for the third time. That was followed in June by the U. S. Gymnastics Championships, highlighted by Olympic Gold Medalist Simone Biles, which were held at Fort Worth’s Dickies Arena, yet another world-class venue that involved HKS designers. 

In February 2022, Super Bowl LVI was held at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood, California. In August of that year, the Chengdu Phoenix Mountain Sports Center in China — which has one of the world’s largest curved, open cable domes — was the site of the World University Games. The Games were postponed from 2021 because of COVID-19 concerns. 

The pace hasn’t slowed down, either. The American Airlines Center in Dallas hosted the 2023 NCAA Women’s Final Four this spring, and the College Football Playoffs National Championship was held at SoFi Stadium in January. The stadium will be in the spotlight again when it hosts the Opening and Closing Ceremonies of the 2028 Olympic Games. In 2026, it will be a host site for the World Cup, along with HKS-designed AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas. 

Also upcoming are the 2026 NCAA Men’s and 2028 Women’s Final Fours at Lucas Oil Stadium, and in July of this year, SoFi Stadium will hold the CONCACAF Gold Cup Final. Arlington’s Globe Life Field will host the MLB All-Star Game in 2024.  

While the participants in championship contests are unknown at the start of their respective seasons — with the final determinations all decided on the field or court — the buildings that host them are years in the making, with the opportunity to hold championship events a major focal point of the planning and design. 

Championship Design Means Creating ‘a Wow Factor’

Although AT&T Stadium (Dallas Cowboys), U.S. Bank Stadium (Minnesota Vikings), Lucas Oil Stadium (Indianapolis Colts) and SoFi Stadium (Los Angeles Rams and Chargers) were all designed to meet the specific desires of the home teams that play in them, the team owners also had bolder ideas for their facilities. They wanted their new sports homes to be big enough and grand enough to host Super Bowls and other high-profile events. 

As Cowboys owner, Jerry Jones put it in a 2009 Wall Street Journal article about his team’s then-new home, “we wanted this stadium to have a wow factor.”

The owners of the Texas Rangers also anticipated big things for its new HKS-designed Globe Life Field before the COVID-19 pandemic abruptly shut down those plans on the eve of Opening Day in 2020. At the time, there was no way to know it would welcome the World Series later that year, but the retractable roof stadium, with its ample concourses, swanky clubhouses and climate-controlled seating area became the perfect home after the pandemic prompted Major League Baseball to use a single site for its Fall Classic.

Those who attended Super Bowl LVI were exposed to a variety of digital upgrades. Like his Colts, Cowboys and Vikings contemporaries, Los Angeles Rams Owner and Chairman, E. Stanley Kroenke, asked HKS designers to develop plans for SoFi that would allow it to host global entertainment events and turn them into ultimate experiences for a live and television audience.

The scoreboard displays a Congratulations message to the Los Angeles Dodgers after defeating the Tampa Bay Rays 3-1 in Game Six to win the 2020 MLB World Series at Globe Life Field on October 27, 2020 in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Maxx Wolfson/Getty Images)

Staying Local and Flexible

To deliver on those requests, HKS designers approach stadium designing with some clear thoughts in mind. One design element that is a hallmark of HKS-designed stadiums are clarity of structural expression and transparency, which heightens the fan experience. So fans who walk into AT&T Stadium, Globe Life Field or SoFi Stadium will immediately recognize the ability to sort of “see through” the structures to the outside even though the stadiums themselves are enclosed or covered.

There are other important factors as well. Even though the stadiums will be showcased to the world, designers look at them as a vital and visible part of the local community. The owners of the Colts, for example, wanted the look of Lucas Oil Stadium to pay homage to the fieldhouses found throughout Indiana, while the shape of U.S. Bank Stadium reminds of Northern European design.

In addition to leaning into those roots, U.S. Bank Stadium also had to satisfy another requirement to reach championship status; designers had to figure out a way to make it withstand Minnesota’s harsh climate. They designed the first ETFE roof in an American stadium, which allows lots of natural light while blocking the brutal cold. This design element was put to the test in February 2018 during Super Bowl LII, the coldest Super Bowl on record with temperatures in Minneapolis reaching a high of 9°F on game day. 

And at SoFi Stadium, architects had to embed it 100 feet into the ground so that it wouldn’t interfere with flights in and out of Los Angeles International Airport, which sits just three miles away. But the deep dig and the stadium’s proximity to LAX also provided designers with a unique opportunity to use the stadium’s roof — which contains LED lights — as a sort of real-time projection screen for passengers flying overhead.

In the case of Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, he wanted AT&T Stadium to maintain a tangible link back to the team’s iconic former home, Texas Stadium. So, the design for the new stadium’s signature retractable roof includes a “hole” in it when the roof is open that exactly matches the shape of the hole at the old stadium, including its rounded corners.

In addition, the stadiums all are designed to have a high degree of flexibility. Designers created AT&T Stadium with not only the ability to host championship football contests from high school to pros, but ones for college basketball or even professional Motocross. 

And the ability to quickly and seamlessly provide multiple uses isn’t limited to the world of traditional sporting events. With Major League Baseball shut down at the time, the first events at Globe Life Field in 2020 were local high school graduations. The inaugural event at SoFi Stadium was scheduled to be a two-day Taylor Swift concert before COVID-19 disrupted those plans.

An Enhanced Fan Experience

To offer those various events, though, requires that designers and their clients team up to create a greatly enhanced fan experience. For the past decade or so, team owners have realized that simply making a trip to a stadium to see their favorite player is not enough for most fans. Their guests want to know what they are going to see — and do — once they get there. If it’s not glitzy enough, many patrons will opt to stay home and watch games from the less-expensive comfort of their own TV rooms.

For most stadiums designed recently, that enhanced fan experience begins with upgraded technology features, particularly a large, high-tech videoboard.  When AT&T Stadium opened in 2009, it held what was then the largest LED videoboard in the world, stretching from one 20-yard line to the other. The high-definition Mitsubishi picture gave fans seated at the highest points of the stadium, the ability to watch a game as if they were watching at home on their own big-screen televisions. And that was the point.

But SoFi Stadium, which opened without fans in 2020, is the newest king of championship stadium design. It’s 2.2-million-pound, dual-sided, center-hung, circular scoreboard is largest ever built and will provide practically every fan who visits, no matter where inside SoFi they sit or stand, with a simultaneous view of the information on the screen.

The videoboard is the only 4K end-to-end production in sports and features the largest LED content playback system in history. The board also provides fans with unique programming including live content, statistics and animated content — important data for aficionados of the increasingly popular fantasy sports leagues.

“For us, it was how would we go about thinking about reconnecting fans with media in a different way,” said Lance Evans, AIA, a principal at HKS and one of the primary SoFi architects. “If I was going to watch a game at home, I’d have my iPad, I’d have my phone. How could we do that at an NFL game, at the same size, across the entire field?”

So, what will the design of the next Super Bowl or World Series stadium look like? HKS designers already have some ideas that Evans describes as both “exciting and endless.” Among them, pushing the concept of the “stadium” beyond its limited physical footprint into the limitless virtual realm.

“The integration of technology in physical environments extends venue access exponentially,” said Mark A. Williams, FAIA, HKS Principal in Charge of the SoFi Stadium project. “Imagine a venue that sells 70,000 physical tickets to an event and leveraging technology to reach previously untapped audiences and markets around the globe.”

And that means that perhaps one day soon, a championship venue will exist at anytime and anywhere.

Steven Stroman

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Turning Design Excellence into Effective Leadership: A Conversation with HKS CEO Dan Noble

Turning Design Excellence into Effective Leadership: A Conversation with HKS CEO Dan Noble

At HKS, we believe design can change people’s lives for the better. We strive to create beautiful buildings and communities that bring people together and solve real problems.

In his 39-year career at the firm, HKS President & CEO Dan Noble has observed the parallels between extraordinary design and impactful leadership. He’s noticed that the same character, purpose and relationships that contribute to excellent design lead to successful governance.

Reflecting on HKS’ legacy – and looking towards the future – Noble recently shared his thoughts on the firm’s rich history, his personal journey as a designer and leader and how lessons he’s learned from the design process translate into effective leadership.

What key aspects of HKS’ heritage are important to you as a leader?

HKS was founded in 1939 by Harwood K. Smith and his wife, Kate Robertson Smith. Harwood was an amazing entrepreneur, architect and artist. Born in Evanston, Illinois, he studied at the Art Institute of Chicago before moving to Dallas to pursue his passion for, and hone his skills in, architecture.

Harwood set the tone for informality and mentorship at HKS. He was known for walking through the office and engaging even the newest architects in discussions about what they were working on. That informality and humility, and the spirit that we are all in this together, set HKS apart today and contribute to our familial culture.  We are a large firm with a small firm culture.

For an 83-year-old enterprise, our line of succession is not very long. I am only the fifth President & CEO, building on Harwood’s legacy.

How has your journey at HKS progressed from design leader to President & CEO?

My tenure at HKS began in the fall of 1983 after I graduated from North Dakota State University and worked briefly with smaller firms in Houston. Today, HKS employs over 1,500 people across 26 offices worldwide. When I started at the firm, we were about 200 people strong, with one office in Dallas.

I was fortunate to work under the direction of past HKS presidents, Joe Buskuhl and Ralph Hawkins. With Joe’s leadership, the firm became known for our management and technical expertise. Ralph was equally interested in design excellence and geographic expansion.

I became Global Design Director of HKS in 2002. I had always worked collaboratively on projects but now I had a more active role in elevating our design firmwide and helping project teams find creative design solutions. The design problem, for me, shifted from developing solutions for individual buildings to creating more successful and creative design teams. I was still hands-on with design, participating in pinups and charrettes, but I had to transition from doing to directing.

What does Design Excellence mean to you?

Design Excellence of course encompasses aesthetic considerations, such as scale, rhythm, proportion, repetition, proper editing, delight, beauty and harmony. But it also entails building performance, enhancing the human experience and understanding the behavioral science of improving the environment.

The process of creating and executing an excellent design is more alchemic than paint-by-number.

What lessons have you learned from design that translated to your role as President & CEO of HKS?

Over the course of my career, I’ve learned that Design Excellence correlates closely with leadership excellence. Qualities that are essential to the design process – collaboration, incubation, iteration, failure, empathy, connection, innovation and humor – are just as important to effective leadership.

Collaboration – Bringing diverse teams together to discover the most creative solutions is something HKS believes in highly. Best practices in Health design may inspire solutions in Education, Hospitality ideas may make Workplaces more user-friendly and understanding crowd movement for Urban Planning can inform design solutions for our Sports group. And of course, Research can be a huge differentiator for all our practices. HKS works across practices and geographies to bring our clients the best talent available worldwide.

Incubation – Part of finding great solutions is listening to multiple stakeholders – including clients, consultants, users and community leaders – and letting ideas settle in. Let the game come to you a bit. Slow down to go fast. Taking time to engage with diverse partners can help you arrive at effective design solutions quicker. Being open to new ideas is essential.

Iteration – Once you collect that feedback, you can begin exploring ways to create solutions. Here is where you must exhibit some humility. Ego needs to take a back seat. It doesn’t matter where the best ideas come from, we build off each other’s ideas. I like it when a project team leaves the room and nobody knows exactly where an idea originated, but everyone feels like it was kind of their own.

Failure – As HKS’ Design Director, I tried to create a safe space for people to experiment. Being vulnerable and open to others is essential to innovation. As a leader, you have to avoid jumping in and trying to solve other people’s challenges. Sometimes design ideas fail, but failure is an important teaching moment. I routinely engage in 360-degree reviews to receive feedback on my own performance and try to continually learn how to be a more effective leader.

Empathy – I love being an architect. I love being hands-on and in the thick of things. But as HKS’ Design Director and later as the firm’s President & CEO, I had to learn to step back and let others find solutions. Sometimes people don’t do things the way you would. But having the patience and empathy to let people find their own paths is important to developing the next generation of leaders.

Connection – Finding that synergy between place, purpose and design is what great architecture is all about. Finding essential connections between people is important to designing a successful project and to running a successful business. After all, people create the synergy that results in great design solutions.

Innovation – True innovation is hard to come by. At HKS, we strive to hire people who are constantly challenging the status quo. And then we let them experiment, fail and learn. We’ve developed an entire Innovation sector to bring focus to this type of thinking and working. Developing this sector may have been HKS’ most transformational move. Do you want to be a commoditized vendor or a trusted advisor and partner? In the end, our brains and our thoughts are the most valuable assets we can offer the world. What can be automated and commoditized will be. Let’s not compete in a race to the bottom.

Humor – As a leader, you can’t take yourself too seriously. We spend most of our waking hours working with others – we can make it fun and fulfilling or a chore and a drag. The gift of humor shouldn’t be minimized.

How can leaders design and build better teams?

Part of being an effective leader is being in touch with your people, developing friendships and learning people’s strengths and weaknesses, passions and personalities. With understanding and empathy comes trust. Our people are our differentiators. Hire the best people you can find who share your values and give them the tools, training and mentorship they need to grow and evolve. And then get out of their way. Let them figure things out.

High-performing teams are built through inspiration, transparency, a certain degree of ambiguity, and diversity and inclusion.

Inspiration – Our job as leaders is to emulate the transparent culture that we aspire to, to establish the strategic direction we want to go and to inspire others to come along. In the book, The Way of the Shepherd: Seven Secrets to Managing Productive People, Kevin Leman wrote, “If you want your people to go above and beyond, they must see your passion, your heart. If it’s greatness that you want, it’s greatness that you must give.” You can’t be afraid to show that you care and that you’re passionate and committed to your purpose.

Transparency – Two things I continue to strive for as a leader are more transparency throughout the firm and the support of an effective feedback loop that includes all our people, regardless of their rank or experience. People walk into my office all the time – I encourage it. We have an “Ask Dan” feature on the HKS intranet that goes directly to me and enables people to ask me anything they want, anonymously or not. We’ve also instituted checks and balances to make sure every member of HKS’ Executive Board, including me, is holding true to our Strategic Plan. We are all held accountable to the firm’s established values and vision.

Ambiguity – I’ve learned to accept holding opposing ideas in my head at the same time. Decisions aren’t always black and white. Embracing the messy gray is crucial – it’s where the most profound solutions come from. I like to say that I’m comfortable with ambiguity as long as we’re clear about what we want to achieve.

Diversity & Inclusion – It’s no surprise to hear that our profession has lacked diversity, especially in the leadership ranks. This is partly because people tend to hire and promote those who are most like themselves. To help break this pattern, at HKS we have created a robust Justice, Equity, Diversity and Inclusion program with a dedicated JEDI Director who is leading community outreach, education and enrichment programs that are helping us build a more diverse team and leadership. These efforts include our recently launched partner diversity program, HKS xBE, which is designed to help disadvantaged businesses build relationships and pursue new opportunities in the architecture and design professions. Diverse teams give rise to innovative thinking and increase the value of our work in the communities we serve.

How do you view the future of leadership at HKS?

We are fortunate to have a cadre of qualified people who can step into leadership roles. What I am looking for in our future leaders is innovation, creativity, empathy, grit, honesty, humility, optimism and heart.

Eric Messing

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HKS in 2023: Projects To Get Excited About

HKS in 2023: Projects To Get Excited About

Named by Fast Company as one of the Most Innovative Companies in 2022, global design firm HKS is looking to grow our business and bring exciting, positive impact to communities around the world this year.

From improving design through innovation, research and equity-centered approaches, here’s an insightful snapshot of some projects and initiatives that we’re excited to see in 2023:

Pioneering Research and Designs that Transform Communities

1. Brain Health Research – HKS recently launched brand-new findings from the brain health study we conducted in partnership with the University of Texas at Dallas’ Center for BrainHealth® with insights into how people and companies can work smarter, more collaboratively and healthier. The report also includes what we’ve learned about designing workplaces to enhance cognitive functions and well-being.

2. Project Connect – The Austin Transit Partnership (ATP) just announced a major partnership with an international design team led by HKS, UNStudio and Gehl to create system-wide architecture and urban design for the light rail program of Project Connect, a major expansion of Austin’s public transit system.The collaborative team is getting to work on designing a technologically advanced, human-centric transit experience true to Austin’s culture and landscape.

Stunning New Places to Work and Relax

3. HKS New York City Office – Located in the NoMad neighborhood of Manhattan, HKS’ new New York City Office will open this spring. With a design inspired by the city’s complex transportation system and artistic culture, the office will be a center of creativity and innovation that serves as gateway destination for HKS’ global clients. Goals for the design include adaptable collaboration, acoustic comfort, access to nature and daylight — all key elements to support the health and productivity of designers working in one of the world’s biggest and busiest cities.

4. The Ritz-Carlton, Portland – HKS crafted the vision, developed the planning and strategy, sculpted the interior architecture and designed the furniture and finishes of the Ritz-Carlton that debuts this summer in downtown Portland, Oregon. This 35-story mixed-used high rise was created in partnership with Portland-based GBD Architects and BPM Real Estate Group. The interiors of the multifaceted building’s hotel, residential, retail and office spaces celebrate the beauty of the Pacific Northwest, native culture and craft and Portland’s spirit of exploration.

Game-changing Venues for Extraordinary Entertainment Experiences

5. ES CON Field Hokkaido – ES CON Field Hokkaido ballpark is a 35,000-capacity baseball stadium scheduled to open for play this spring in Japan. Home to the Pacific League’s Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters Baseball Club, the complex is the heart of a dynamic, master-planned mixed-used development. The stadium’s retractable roof and sliding glass outfield doors – which help grow natural turf – are among many firsts for a ballpark in the Asian market. Other highlights include a pair of 88-meter-long video boards that create an immersive digital experience, and traditional Japanese onsen natural hot spring baths that fans can enjoy while watching games.

6. Cosm — The first public venue for global experiential media company Cosm is undergoing construction throughout 2023 at Inglewood, CA’s Hollywood Park, home of HKS-designed SoFi Stadium and YouTube Theater. The venue will feature live sports, entertainment events and arts and music experiences in a future-forward immersive digital technology environment. Cosm is sure to bring even more cutting-edge entertainment value to the Los Angeles area when it opens next year.

State-of-the-art Education and Health Care Environments

7. Baylor St. Luke’s Medical Center O’Quinn Medical Tower at McNair – The new O’Quinn Medical Tower, opening this spring, will house the Dan L Duncan Comprehensive Cancer Center, outpatient radiology and endoscopy services and an ambulatory surgery center. The medical tower and an adjacent 850-car parking garage addition are part of a multi-year project to consolidate patient care on Baylor St. Luke’s McNair Campus in Houston. This campus is located next to the Texas Medical Center and new TMC Helix Park, an area under development for world-class health care and research innovation.

8. UC San Diego Theatre District Living and Learning Neighborhood – Opening in the fall, UC San Diego’s Theatre District Living and Learning Neighborhood is a mixed-use student residential community that will also serve as a major public gateway to UC San Diego’s campus. Comprised of five buildings with student housing, academic, administration, a conference center and amenities such as dining, retail, and fitness, the Neighborhood is designed to enhance well-being and minimize environmental impact.

9. Children’s Hospital of Richmond at VCU Patient Tower – This full-service pediatric facility in Richmond, Virginia includes emergency, inpatient and outpatient care all connected to a robust academic medical center and the hospital’s award-winning CHoR Pavilion, also designed by HKS. Because children’s health care often causes significant stress on young patients, families, and care team members, the tower’s research-informed design is intended to create an oasis for children and make people feel calm and at ease. All areas feature easily navigable circulation patterns, natural light and soothing artwork and are intended to promote choice. The building will open this spring.

10. Mount Sinai Beth Israel Comprehensive Behavioral Health Center – Work at the Comprehensive Behavioral Health Center for Mount Sinai Beth Israel, a teaching hospital in New York City, involved the complete renovation of a six-story structure originally built in 1898. The facility, due to open this spring, is designed to support mental health care, physical health care, addiction treatment, social services and integrated outpatient care. It will be the first center for comprehensive behavioral health care in New York state.

Looking Ahead

These HKS projects, along with many others scheduled for 2023, continue to demonstrate how architecture and design can bring joy, comfort and connection anywhere in the world.

“These projects reflect our commitment to service and pursuit of excellence for our clients, partners and colleagues in the new year,” said Dan Noble, HKS President and CEO. “We appreciate the collaboration and partnership that led to these successes and look forward to the future.”

These projects reflect our commitment to service and pursuit of excellence for our clients, partners and colleagues in the new year.

Dan Noble, HKS President and CEO

HKS Launches HKS xBE to Cultivate Inclusion in Architecture & Design Industry

HKS Launches HKS xBE to Cultivate Inclusion in Architecture & Design Industry

HKS announces the launch of a new partner diversity program, HKS xBE, that gives xBE firms (a term inclusive of all disadvantaged businesses) and their members access to opportunities to build relationships, pursue new work and bolster innovation within the architecture and design professions.

The program has two primary components: a 12-week seminar, xBE Rise; and an xBE Network, which aims to increase diversity among the firm’s myriad partnerships for architecture and design projects.

“HKS is committed to building a more diverse workforce and partnership network across the AEC industry,” says HKS CEO Dan Noble. “We value a wide range of different ideas and perspectives which we believe enrich the profession of architecture, foster design innovation, and increase the community value of our work.”

“HKS is committed to building a more diverse workforce and partnership network across the AEC industry.”

HKS Director of Justice, Equity, Diversity and Inclusion, Yiselle Santos Rivera, notes: “HKS xBE is a step in opening the profession of architecture to become more diverse, equitable and inclusive. We look forward to the relationships it will inspire.“

HKS invites xBE firms and their employees to participate in two ways:

  1. Firms may enroll in the HKSxBE Network, so that we better understand your culture, expertise, and business goals in hopes of fostering future collaboration. Eligible firms will hold one of the following certifications: Minority or Women-Owned Business Enterprise (M/WBE), Disadvantaged Business Enterprise (DBE), Service-Disabled Veteran-Owned Businesses (SDVOB), Historically Underutilized Businesses (HUB), Disability-owned Business Enterprise (DIS), Small Business Enterprise (SBE) or LGBT Business Enterprise (LGBTBE).
  2. Individuals may enroll in our 12-week seminar, xBE Rise. The purpose of xBE Rise is to learn how we might partner most effectively so that we are better positioned to serve clients and deliver industry-leading work together. Topics will mirror the phases of project design and delivery, and will include subjects such as contracts & risk management, marketing, community engagement and sustainable design. In each session, participants will explore barriers to success as well as perspectives on success for diverse teams.
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Getting to a Brain Healthy Workplace

Getting to a Brain Healthy Workplace

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Why brain health? We’ve written before about the need to embrace mental health through the prism of brain health. This emerging and growing concept encompasses neural development, plasticity, functioning, and recovery over the course of our lives. In some ways, brain health is to mental illness what physical fitness is to disease. The current study focuses on employees—while we still have our eye on broader societal concerns, including isolation, anxiety, and various problems that come with balancing technologies in the digital age. In short, we found that brain health strategies work—those who engaged the BrainHealth SMARTTM Strategies experienced a marked improvement over the course of our year-long study, as measured by the Center of BrainHealth®’s BrainHealthTM Index. On a fundamental level, our work shifts the conversation about workplaces.

“It’s time to change the narrative around how we work and fully leverage our brain capital. And it starts with the actions we take internally, with our own people, to help them emotionally, socially, and cognitively thrive.”

Dan Noble, HKS President and CEO

In 2021, HKS partnered with the Center for BrainHealth for a pilot program to investigate the role of place, process/policy, and technology in creating a brain-healthy workplace. The Center for BrainHealth is a nonprofit research institute dedicated to advancing the science of brain health,” how the brain best learns, reasons and innovates; actionable ways to protect it from decline; and proactive protocols to repair and generate brain systems. The organization developed a training program for brain fitness that works just like any physical fitness regime, leveraging 9 BrainHealth SMARTTM Strategies that prime the brain to calibrate mental energy, reinforce strategic thinking, and ignite innovation.

The core of our research leveraged a representative sample of HKS employees who participated in the program by completing a brain health assessment, accessing training modules, and translating brain health strategies into their daily lives. Additionally, five HKS Living Labs participated during the summer of 2022, as employees returned to the office at a higher frequency as part of their flexible work experience. We captured data and insights through surveys, observations, and interviews. We also convened semi-structured gatherings with colleagues, as well as both virtual and in-person think tanks.

In all, we determined seven key findings from our year-long study. Some corroborate past studies—such as the growing need to address distractions and multitasking. At the same time, others contribute new elements to discussions on mental health. Here are a few key insights from our report:

1. The brain can be trained.

Our study showed a statistically significant increase in brain health index for individuals who went through the brain health training.1 Those that completed the core cognitive training had a higher average than those that did not.

2. Managing distractions is a key challenge for focused work in the office.

The office isn’t only for collaboration—workers need spaces deliberately designed for focus work. Acoustics and a lack of environmental control consistently ranked lowest in satisfaction among design elements.

3. Multitasking is related to reduced effectiveness and increased burnout.

43% of our study’s participants said they frequently multitask—a bad habit related to a host of issues, including burnout. Our workstations are also multitasking alongside us.

4. Where we work matters, and using a range of spaces helps.

Creating a range of spaces based on task type or working modality may unlock innovation. We found that when participants used a range of spaces, satisfaction with collaborative work effectiveness in the office was higher.

5. Digital and physical workplace habits need time to develop.

Our satisfaction with individual and collaborative tasks increases with the time we spend in specific locations—we need time to acclimate to our environments for optimum efficiency.

6. Being together in-person is related to improved connection to team and increased opportunities for informal knowledge sharing.

Over the course of our 10-week study, collaborative behaviors increased and perceived connections to one’s team increased.

7. Perceived connections to one’s team are strong, but connection to the community is lagging.

After months or years of remote work, we must continuously evaluate how hybrid work arrangements impact interpersonal relationships across the organization.

By creating workplace affordances, we translated our key findings into strategies for our work environments. Workplace affordances are how we perceive environments to meet our needs. Based on the research, we proposed five primary affordances: focus, exploration & ideation, collaboration & co-creation, rest & reflection, and social connection. Affordances denote the end goal of how users will engage an environment—but they also begin with a question. Consider—how does the workplace foster social connection and community building? Or, how does our workplace afford us the ability to focus?

We then identified three fundamental habits underpinning a workplace designed for brain health—these are our workplace ABCs. First, the intent of a task must be aligned with the chosen environment. Based on the work an employee must accomplish, they must leverage the unique digital and physical affordances available to them. We also identified that workers need balance throughout the workday. Balanced habits are about intentional variability: working in different modalities and accessing a diversity of spaces designed to meet those needs. Finally, connection is critical to the workplace for brain health. This means connecting with others to boost a sense of belonging and provide a sense of purpose. Relating to how we align what we do with where we work and finding balance, connection also means equipping workers with the autonomy to choose and the authority to have control over their environment.

What’s Next?

We’re embracing the experiment: building on what we’ve gathered from our Living Labs and insights that we’ve gleaned from those who participated in our year-long study. We know that we’re not done yet. Our firm’s Flex Work policy is changing based on our learnings. We’re partnering with the Center for BrainHealth to develop a brain healthy workplace certification to encourage brain health practices and build accountability. We’re also focused on how our brain health explorations support unique business needs, so we’re developing a robust business case and toolkit for brain-healthy workplaces that will extend the work from this insights report into actionable real estate tools and measured impact.

Citations: 1 Zientz, J., Spence, J., Chung, S. S. E., Nanda, U., & Chapman, S. B. (in review). Exploring how brain health strategy training informs the future of work. Frontiers in Psychology.

HKS Employees Discuss the Importance of Black Professionals in the AEC Industry

HKS Employees Discuss the Importance of Black Professionals in the AEC Industry

From the days of courageous architecture pioneers Paul Revere Williams and Norma Merrick Sklarek until today, Black professionals have long made significant contributions to the Architecture and Design industry. But for many of them, being a Black person in the field — whether as an architect, designer, engineer, or other professional — brings about unique challenges.

As part of HKS’ Black History Month celebration, three of our Black colleagues — Michael Pruitt, Shantee Blain, and Chandler Funderburg — discuss their thoughts on what it means to them to be a Black professional in the AEC industry, and why they believe that’s important.

Michael Pruitt

Design Professional in Technical Resources Group/Quality Management
Number of years in the industry: 25
Number of years at HKS: 17

It is extremely important to me to be a Black man with a career in architecture because it gives me the opportunity to show young Black boys and girls who look like me that there are many more careers that they can choose in life other than sports and entertainment. I grew up in the small Northeast Texas town of Clarksville. One disadvantage of growing up in a small town that is two hours away from the nearest major city is that I was never exposed or introduced to a lot of different career choices, and especially not architecture. Without proper resources and guidance, it has made my career journey a little harder than many of my colleagues. I sincerely feel that my purpose is to be a good example and inspiration for Black children who may have no idea what architecture is, and also let them know of the various possibilities and career opportunities that are available in our field.

A good friend of mine was a schoolteacher in a predominantly Black elementary school in Lancaster, TX, and each year she would invite me to present during the school’s career day. I participated in several of the events and they were something that I looked forward to each year. Our HKS marketing department would provide me with a projector along with a cd containing slideshows and videos of the many different projects the firm has designed over the years. It was always amazing to see the children’s faces light up as they watched those videos. The questions that they asked, and the newfound curiosity that they displayed, were priceless. Those interactions that I had with them are the exact reasons why I love what I do, and they are also the reasons why, again, it is so important to me to be a Black man with a career in architecture.

Shantee Blain, AIA

Washington, DC Office Director/Vice President
Number of years in the industry: 18+
Number of years at HKS: 18+

Being a Black Architect…

…means fulfilling a promise to my dad that I would be a great architect, one he would have wanted to collaborate with on the construction sites he managed. He told me, “I’ve worked with some bad architects, Shantee. Couldn’t answer questions. Wouldn’t collaborate. Hell, some couldn’t read their own drawings. If you’re going to be an architect, Shantee, be a great architect.”

My uncle was an architect. He taught me that a construction drawing is a work of art.

My grandfather was a master builder. He taught me to take pride in my work.

Being a Black architect means continuing a family tradition, setting an example for the next generation and taking a vested interest in another’s story and supporting them.

Being a Black architect means never thinking about being a Black architect until asked to. Or until you’re identified specifically for being Black. I wasn’t taught to be a Black architect, but to be an architect. The education I received at my HBCU, Florida A&M University, wasn’t for a future Black architect, but for a future architect.

Being a Black architect means sometimes being seen for the color of your skin before your ability or the position you hold.

Being a Black Architect means instead of measure twice, cut once, one must think twice before speaking once. Think about your tone. Think about your words. Speak calmly. Think about your audience. Think about perception. Speak safely. [Repeat]

Being a Black architect means finding your mantra; “Don’t apologize for your passion, lest you seem apologetic. Don’t apologize for correcting someone, lest you seem compliant. Don’t apologize for wanting more, lest someone forget your worth.”

Being Shantee, architect means being passionate about each project, feeling excited about the art of the drawings, and empowering the next generation of future architects.

Chandler Funderburg

Knowledge Manager with GKS and Structural Engineer
Number of years in the industry: 5
Number of years at HKS: 5

Representation has always been important, not just now. Much of America’s historic architecture exists because of the unpaid, unacknowledged labor of Black Americans, both enslaved and free. And yet we have been systematically barred from access to spaces where our ingenuity could flourish, leading to the exclusion of Black people from strategic involvement in the decisions that impact our communities. 

To change course, we must overcompensate for the lack of diversity in this profession. The myth of meritocracy and the belief that diverse populations just ‘haven’t worked their way up yet’ has contributed to the exclusion of Black professionals for far too long. Look around in your important decision-making meetings and ask yourself how many Black people are sitting at the table with you. 

Without intentionally elevating Black and other People of Color (POC) voices in architecture, we will inevitably miss the opportunity for innovation and improvement — in our design work, processes, and office cultures. Rather than asking Black people to prove or explain that their voices add value, let’s ask our leaders and non-POC colleagues how they can promote Black input in spaces where it is notoriously onerous to be heard. 

HKS has zero Black individuals on the executive committee, four Black Principals, and one Black Partner. With our emphasis on being industry leaders and influencers, we should strive to be the exception. No more obscure ideas, initiatives, or sentiments — we need zealous participation in changing the landscape of the profession, and only then can we attain the level of unparalleled design that we are capable of reaching.

HKS Celebrates Outstanding Team Members with Annual Awards

HKS Celebrates Outstanding Team Members with Annual Awards

Each year, HKS recognizes its people and projects during the firm’s annual Year-End Celebration Event. This festive event is attended virtually by employees in all 26 HKS offices worldwide. With “office shout-out” videos, contests, and cash prizes, the culmination of the Celebration is the individual and team awards.

These awards — seven individual and three team — represent different aspects of our firm, from architecture and interior design to sustainability and justice, equity, and inclusion. The awards are also peer-nominated, so anyone in the 1,600-person firm can be recognized regardless of tenure or location. Each category’s submissions are then reviewed by a jury that reviews, debates, and selects the winner, who is announced to the firm during the Celebration event.

Congratulations to HKS’ 2022 Annual Award winners:

Individual Awards

Excellence in Interiors: The Excellence in Interior Design award honors an individual who has contributed to the growth and prominence of the Interior Design practice at HKS. This person is not only a gifted designer but also a trusted advisor to clients, mentor to staff and recognized industry leader.

Sarah Clair, Sr. Interior Designer in Richmond, advanced and developed Interiors’ Revit families and libraries to maximize the team’s efficiency, reduce errors, and elevate the quality of design and drawings. In addition to managing the onboarding of our interior designers, she is the Interiors Sector liaison between Practice Technology and Quality Control. Additionally, she leads the All Interiors monthly meetings, which celebrate our design successes and promote sustainability within the firm.

Fierce Advocate: The Fierce Advocate promotes and encourages justice, equity, diversity and inclusion in all they do. Leading with empathy, vulnerability and authenticity, this person fosters belonging within our firm and beyond.

Courtney Krause, Architect in Detroit, continuously looks for ways to engage multiple unique viewpoints and encourages her colleagues to do the same. As an office J.E.D.I. champion, Courtney is a key member of her studio and contributes to its culture of psychological safety and trust. Courtney initiated a Month of Service partnership with Living and Learning Enrichment in Detroit, which helps participants with disabilities achieve their goals through therapeutic, work-based, community engagement. Advocating for her community is part of her character, and her impact is present at HKS and beyond.

Ashli Hall, Sr. Communications Project Manager in Dallas, has worked tirelessly to support and advocate for others through the J.E.D.I. program since its inception. She manages the execution of the Limitless Panel Series and also coordinates the xBE Partnership Program. She also helped lead the J.E.D.I. Council and engaged with the K-12 Outreach Chairs to support programs like Girls, Inc. Her selflessness and dedication are often behind-the-scenes, but the impact of her work speaks for itself. 

Fire in the Belly: With guts and grit, the Fire in the Belly has the inner drive and determination to fulfill our strategic pillars. This person is emotionally invested in our business and ardently dedicated to leading with knowledge, advising with influence and designing for outcomes.

Manzer Mirkar, Sr. Project Architect in Los Angeles, fulfills HKS’ strategic pillars through his dedication to his projects, initiatives, and mentorship. An invaluable member of the Venues group, his ability to take design to fabrication has infused his projects with innovative elements. He advises with influence by mentoring individuals, his team, VPEC, multiple students at local universities, and staff in the L.A. Office. He designs for outcomes, infusing his Research Champions knowledge throughout his projects and initiatives. He has dedicated countless hours to leading his office, and his drive to improve the firm and to mentor others does not go unnoticed. Manzer demonstrates his passion by putting the project above himself, but more importantly, places his peers and the junior staff above all else.

Insatiable Innovator: If creativity is thinking of new ways to solve old problems, innovation is putting those ideas into real action. The Insatiable Innovator challenges the status quo by fostering a safe place for discovering breakthrough solutions that will solve the problems of tomorrow.

A Sustainable Design Professional in Orlando working with the Design Green team, Sammy Shams consistently searches for new opportunities to incorporate sustainable design principles into projects across the firm. His work with influential clients such as Cleveland Clinic and Baptist South Florida strengthened those relationships and led to more sustainable solutions. He was instrumental in developing the HKS Resiliency+ toolkit, adopted by clients and AIA National as a primer on combating climate change and focusing on resiliency planning. The AIA adoption of the toolkit will allow firms worldwide to benefit from his team’s thought leadership and expertise.

Masterful Mentor: First and foremost, the Masterful Mentor is driven by its passion for helping others achieve their professional goals. A trusted confidant, supportive coach and enthusiastic advocate, the Masterful Mentor guides their colleagues, as well as the next generation of leaders, to succeed along their career paths. ​​​​​​​

Aimee Middleton, Sr. Project Architect in Atlanta, creates space to share knowledge, ask questions, and grow as an office, regardless of where team members are in their tenure within the profession. Her ability to define and create avenues for mentorship and learning in the day-to- day make her an exemplar for our firm. She is always willing to share her time, attention, and experience and has a genuine gift for engaging and exciting others with new learning opportunities. As one nominee wrote: “I’ve heard her called the best PA in all of HKS. Not only does she excel at her job in the role of serving clients, but she’s also an incredible mentor to those around her at HKS.”

Whole Architect: The Whole Architect takes ownership of the entire project to lead all stakeholders to success. A well-rounded thinker, this person owns the project from start to finish, collaborates with clients and partners to overcome challenges, leads with knowledge and delivers results. 

Kerry Bennett, Sr. Project Architect in Raleigh, is the epitome of The Whole Architect. She is committed to the entire project, client, and design excellence through meaningful collaboration as a devoted colleague. Her attention to detail, project organization, passion for success, and empathetic leadership makes her a trusted advisor for our clients. Kerry knows how to manage diverse project teams with various needs and experience levels and is always accessible, approachable, and helpful. Amidst the chaos, challenges, and opportunities, she always finds common ground and solutions to deliver an exceptional product to our clients and end-users.

Unsung Hero: Valuing their purpose, the Unsung Hero makes it happen behind the scenes. The person is the consummate team player, embraces accountability, and can be counted on to deliver under circumstances.

Oscar Angulo, Project Coordinator in Dallas, is known within the firm for his grounded knowledge and insight which help maximize creativity and deliver projects of the highest quality. He leads with humility, provides mentorship organically, and is a joy to have on a project team. Oscar is the consummate professional and every project is improved by his involvement. Even under tight deadlines, he provides a listening ear, a willingness to help others, and still manages to get the job done. Most importantly, he teaches the “why” behind things- why details are constructed a particular way, why sheets are set up the way they are, and why something works or doesn’t work. He promotes learning as a process rather than just the end result, setting up those less experienced for success.

Team Awards

Integrator Extraordinaire: This team’s superpower is its ability to connect the dots across our firm. The Integrator Extraordinaire leverages all of HKS to extract value for our practice, our clients and our communities. To the Integrator Extraordinaire, 1+1=3.

Federal Government Team

Bree Beal

Brent Wilson

Gene Corrigan

Jay Waters

Jim Whitaker

Kevin Sparks

Sarah Gray

This team of seven individuals lives and breathes the vision set forth by HKS with Limitless Thinking and our mission to support our federal government agencies with design excellence, committed leadership, and superior project management. ​By connecting the dots with the right personnel for the type of work, the Government Team crosses all sectors, service lines, and global offices to deliver outstanding and award-winning projects for our clients. ​From P3 to Design-Build to Integrated Delivery, the Government Team serves as advisers from the pursuit, start, concept to completion, working together with our HKS sectors and teaming partners.

Light Footprint:The Light Footprint team considers the impact of their work on people and the environment. This team’s unwavering pursuit of environmental sustainability inspires all of us to design a greener and more resilient world. 

Chicago Health, University of Wisconsin Eastpark Medical Center Team

Alina Chelaidite

Amber Wirth

Amy Kerkman

Arek Mazurek

Briana Pina

Carlos Barillas

Clint Nash

Colby Dearman 

Courtney Kraus

Craig Rader

Deborah Wingler

Gabby Pearson

Janhvi Jakkal

Josh Boggs

Joyce Sanchez

Kendra Price

Neetika Wahi

Nick Savage

Parsa Aghaei

Rupert Brown

Sandra Christian

Sarah Kleber

Scott Martin

Steve Jacobson

Steve Stroman

Tommy Zakrzewski

Tyrone Loper

Victor Valadez Gonzalez

As an academic institution, University of Wisconsin maintains progressive sustainability commitments and goals. ​At the beginning of this large, 365,000 square foot complex project, the team conducted a visioning session and nature of place process to set goals and align with the client. In all cases, the team has been able to advocate for and deliver upon the promised goals, as well as significantly reducing the project’s carbon footprint.

Starship Enterprise: The Starship Enterprise celebrates an Enterprise team that supports our vision through its limitless thinking. A valued advisor to leadership, this team helps to pioneer a course for us to boldly go where no firm has gone before. ​

Marketing Communications Team

Abby Fine

Amy Eagle

Ann Franks

Ann McGonigle Kifer

Annabeth Mohon

Apryl Dailey

Ashli Hall

Benjamin Robinson

Brenda Vizcarra

Caroline Casper

Chasa Toliver-Leger

Chelsea Watkins

Christie Ehrhart

Claire Sun

Danielle Celmer

Daryl Shields

Ellen Gao

Ellen Giles 

Francesca Rossi

Haley Ellis

Hannah Jaggers

James Frisbie 

Jamie Seessel

Jeanette Dvorak

Jennifer Stewart

Julie Obiala

Karen Funke Ganshirt

Kathleen O’Donnell

Kathryn Ward

Katie Carnival

Katy Dabbert

Kevin Sparks

Krista Corson

Lauren Marshall

Lauri Wilkins

Leah Ray

Leanne Doore

Louis Adams 

Maggie Dingwell

Mandy Flynn

Mary Catherine Smith

Mary Potter

Megan Finn

Megan Quain

Mekenzie McIntire

Michael Weekley 

Molly Mueller

Rachel Benavides

Selwyn Crawford

Shalmir Johnston

Shannon Simon

Shawn Sunderland

Shelley Shaffer

Sriraksha Ragunathan

Stephanie Butzke

​The members of the HKS MarCom studio meld their collective skills to provide unique storytelling opportunities for our people, projects, and firm. ​Through external and internal communications, client outreach, and pursuit development that brings in new work, they innovate, advise and integrate with each practice, region, service line, and enterprise group to support and communicate the firm’s key messages. 

“We could not accomplish our impactful, world-changing work without the brilliance and innovation of our people, and these award winners are leading that charge,” HKS President and CEO Dan Noble said. “I look forward to a bright future for our firm with this next generation of leaders at the helm.”

HKS is so thankful for each of its team members and the impact they have on our colleagues, our clients, and our firm. Congratulations to all of this year’s winners, and here’s to an outstanding 2023.