New HKS-Designed Hokkaido Nippon Fighters Baseball Stadium Opens 

New HKS-Designed Hokkaido Nippon Fighters Baseball Stadium Opens 

The Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters opened their new 35,000-capacity Es Con Field Hokkaido March 30 against the Rakuten Golden Eagles of the Japanese professional baseball league. The ballpark, designed by HKS, a global architecture and design firm, is the crown jewel of a luxury mixed-used development that sits on an 80-acre greenfield site in Kitahiroshima, Hokkaido, Japan. 

“This is the first new ballpark to open in Japanese baseball in two decades and it will quickly establish a new bar for fan experiences and amenities,” said Mike Rogers, a Principal with HKS. “The materials we used and specific design details are representative of historic Sapporo architecture and a tribute to the community that loves this team. It is a homecoming for the franchise to once again be playing games in Hokkaido and we’re proud to have created such a beautiful venue for the Fighters’ return.” 

“This is the first new ballpark to open in Japanese baseball in two decades and it will quickly establish a new bar for fan experiences and amenities.”

The new stadium features a retractable roof like the Fighters’ Major League Baseball counterpart in America, the Texas Rangers, whose Globe Life Field ballpark was also designed by HKS, and it has an asymmetrical outfield wall – only the second of its kind in Japanese pro baseball. The symbolic triangular façade resembles a typical Hokkaido gable roof shape, and the venue’s actual roof can hold and shed up to 14 feet of snow, a necessity because Hokkaido is one of the world’s snowiest locations. 

The stadium is oriented to get the most morning sun and optimize growing conditions for its Kentucky Bluegrass playing field. The fan experience is enhanced by the heavy use of glass to give the stadium and indoor/outdoor feel, as well as three large doors on the ground floor that allows fans to be outside during a game. Es Con Field Hokkaido also has 360-degree concourse, and the main entrance lobby is only 18 rows from the field. 

But Es Con Field Hokkaido is more than a baseball stadium. The area around it, known as Hokkaido Ballpark Village, will feature a museum, hotel, restaurant, sauna and brewery, all with views of the field.  The sauna, or Onsen, for which Hokkaido is known, will allow hotel guests to emerge from the water and sit on benches to watch a game. Plans also call for the opening later this year of a new child care center, as well as a senior living residence on the site by 2024 along with a medical mall. 

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.

Getting to a Brain Healthy Workplace

Getting to a Brain Healthy Workplace

Download Full Report

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 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.

Es Con Field Hokkaido

Case Study

Es Con Field Hokkaido Hokkaido Ballpark Baseball Diamond is Japan's Latest Gem

Kitahiroshima City, Hokkaido, Japan

The Challenge

Impressed by HKS-designed Globe Life Field, home of the Texas Rangers, The Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters Japanese baseball team selected HKS to design its new 35,000-capacity stadium in time for the 2023 celebration of the Fighters 20th year in Hokkaido. The team wanted to create more than just a stadium, however, but a” small city” that would look and feel like Hokkaido, with multiple partners who are willing to build together a creative entertainment capital for the region.

In addition, because Hokkaido is the northernmost of the Japanese islands, designers faced the challenge of creating a stadium that could still host games even in extremely cold or snowy conditions, while still allowing for the growth of natural turf for the safety and better performance for the players. Also, the Fighters required a stadium and surrounding mixed-use development that would only not be state of the art for the fans, but for the players as well, all while maintaining the “feel” of Hokkaido. The symbolic triangular façade resembles a typical Hokkaido gable roof shape that sheds snow. Introducing it as a massive glass wall gives it a modern impression.

The Design Solution

Working to overcome communication challenges, the HKS-led design team used a thorough analysis to study the history, climate, and culture of the region and collaborated closely with the Fighters to create the ideal ballpark and mixed-use development. A retractable roof satisfied the requirement to protect fans and players from the elements. Hokkaido is one of the world’s snowiest places and the roof can hold up to 14 feet of frozen precipitation. The retractable roof, which will usually remain open, also allowed the team to use a natural grass field, which is easier on players’ knees and legs. And the stadium itself is oriented to get the most morning sun and optimize growing conditions for the turf.  Also, the team’s clubhouse is the second largest in the world behind only that of the Texas Rangers at Globe Life Field.

For fans, ES CON Field Hokkaido Ballpark and the development around it is designed to be a unique experience and destination. The stadium is asymmetrical to offer variation and different experiences, and designers used lots of glass to maintain transparency and augment the important inside/outside connection. The glass also allows for lots of natural light, which further enhances the fan experience.

The stadium and surrounding development sit on an 80-acre greenfield site, with various elevations that allow fans to always enter the ballpark at concourse level, regardless of their entry point, and easily go up or down from there. Because nature is so integral to the Hokkaido lifestyle, landscaped terraces at the stadium provide plenty of access to the outdoors, both visually and literally. In addition to the glass that allows great views of nature and the landscape, two large doors on the ground floor allow fans to be outside during an event to enjoy the natural atmosphere. A two-layered escalator system allows fans to easily navigate the stadium’s 360-degree concourse, which serves to encourage them to explore the entire stadium and leads to more access to the outside.

Despite the openness and accessibility of the ballpark, however, HKS designers worked to make sure it feels intimate and “right-sized” wherever a visitor happens to be. Spectators have clear site lines to the field and beyond. The main entrance lobby is only 18 rows from the field, and the Home Plate Club is a scant 14 meters (45.9 feet) from home plate itself.  The twin 86x16m video boards are located left and right of centerfield so that fans have an unobstructed view of the mountains.

In addition to the stadium, the development will also feature a museum, hotel, restaurant, resorts, brewery, and sauna — all with views of the field. The sauna, or Onsen for which Hokkaido is famous, was created by digging 1,300m (4,265 feet) into the earth to reach the hot natural spring water. On game days, hotel guests can emerge from the water, sit on benches and watch the -Fighters take the diamond. And to reach the stadium, regional trains run both from the airport in Chitose and Sapporo – Hokkaido’s capital and largest city — to the stadium; combined with a well-designed street system that connects the ballpark to the train and regional highways.

The Design Impact

Hokkaido Ballpark F Village and ES Con Field Hokkaido is one of the most eagerly anticipated projects in recent Japanese history. Not only will it provide a state-of-the-art baseball stadium, but the development around it – museum, hotel, restaurants, offices, agricultural research facility and residential spaces, including senior housing – has made it one of the most talked-about and sought-after areas in the country. Since the development was announced, the area ranks in the top five land value increases in Japan, and news outlets report on its progress almost daily. And because of the flexibility of the HKS design, the development will be actively used both before and after games as well as throughout the entire year by baseball and non-baseball fans alike.

Project Features

Why Mass Timber Makes Sense – and Saves Dollars

Why Mass Timber Makes Sense – and Saves Dollars

HKS is a firm committed to exploring new building methods and materials, community health, design excellence and sustainability. That’s why we are a major proponent of the advantages of mass timber construction. Even though mass timber buildings represent only a fraction — less than .000189 percent — of the country’s commercial buildings, there are many reasons why this building type is a smart choice.

While some claim mass timber can be as much as 5 percent less expensive than steel and concrete construction, additional cost savings are possible through shorter construction time of prefabricated panels, less labor required for installation and in lower foundation costs due to less structural weight than in the material itself, which can cost as much or slightly more than concrete per square foot.

Mass timber also sequesters CO2 and its manufacture is far less carbon intensive than either concrete or steel. In addition, mass timber has a high strength-to-weight ratio that allows it to perform well during seismic activity, and its fire resistance properties meet or exceed most code requirements.

Mass Timber Buildings Have Health Benefits

There are also considerable health and aesthetic benefits of mass timber construction.

Research shows a link between exposed wood structural elements and greater workplace satisfaction and productivity. Studies also point to a growing body of evidence that natural materials, plants, natural light and access to nature relieve stress, the underlying cause of many forms of physical and mental illness. Variations in color and texture of wood and its tactile qualities can be both healthful and beautiful.

There are also considerable health and aesthetic benefits of mass timber construction.

Health facilities have been wary of mass timber due to the need for infection control. Because mass timber is engineered, its surface is smooth, free from cracks and knots seen in raw wood. It can also be coated creating a surface that can withstand industrial cleaning agents. Unlike other building materials, it also has reduced off-gassing, which translates into better air quality.

HKS Principal Kirk Teske notes the advantages of bundling underfloor air distribution (UFAD) with mass timber.

“Because UFAD doesn’t mix the air in the occupied zones like traditional forced air systems, it’s healthier,” Teske said. “UFAD also allows you to keep the HVAC ducts, electrical conduits, and data cables under the floor leaving the wood structure exposed. Done correctly, you feature the biophilic aspects of the wood structure with only the sprinkler piping and lighting systems remaining as a part of the ceiling structure.”

Considering the post-pandemic state of the commercial office market, Teske believes this combination would provide that sector with a unique niche offering that is especially attractive to corporate users that value environmental sustainability and healthy alternatives for their employees.

The HKS-designed Colorado Research Exchange will feature a 15,960 sf amenity center constructed with mass timber.

The Flexibility of Wood

Our practice spans a multitude of building types from senior living to commercial mixed use, education to hospitality, health to sports and more. Regardless of the building type, our clients are interested in creating spaces that are highly functional, adaptable, affordable and celebrated by users and the community-at-large.

Mass timber products, which come in a variety of sizes and forms, can help fill the bill. Cross Laminated Timber (CLT), is a wood panel system that uses wood stacked crosswise at a 90-degree angle and glued into place. Its strength, dimensional stability and rigidity make it suitable for use in mid-and high-rise construction. Nail-Laminated Timber (NLT), is dimensional lumber placed on edge with individual laminations fastened with nails or screws.

Dowel-Laminated Timber (DLT), panels are stacked like NLT and friction-fit together with hardwood dowels. Its strength comes from friction of the dowels, so it doesn’t use adhesives, nails or screws making it more sustainable, easier to mill and attractive for exposed structures. Glued-Laminated Timber (Glulam), is a structural engineered wood product commonly used for beams and columns. It allows for long spans of exposed framing as well as curvature.

So, Why Aren’t There More Mass Timber Buildings?

While hailing the energy-saving features of mass timber, some skeptics have expressed concern for deforestation due to wood’s increasing popularity.

“Most of the wood used in mass timber comes from trees that can be sustainably managed through responsible forestry practices,” explained Teske. “With smart design and planning and collaboration with knowledgeable manufacturers and contractors, we can mitigate any possible downside to using wood. A 2014 study stated that using wood as a building-material substitute could save 14%-31% of global CO2 emissions and 12%-19% of global fossil fuel consumption. The positives greatly outweigh any negatives.”

“Most of the wood used in mass timber comes from trees that can be sustainably managed through responsible forestry practices,” explained Teske.

Another reason cited for not using mass timber is that it is not as cost effective as its purported to be. According to Ryan Ganey, HKS Structural Engineer who has worked on several mass timber buildings in the states of Washington and Texas, selecting consultants with experience in mass timber construction can help alleviate cost concerns.

“It’s important to work with a contractor who has had some experience in mass timber to recognize the full benefits,” Ganey said. “Some contractors price mass timber higher because they have not had as much experience with it and they want to cover themselves. But as it becomes more popular, contractors better understand the cost of materials and labor and can price more accurately.”

Another possible reason for not using timber is building codes. But in 2019, the International Code Council (ICC) approved a set of proposals that would allow tall wood buildings as part of the 2021 International Building Code (IBC). If design meets these code requirements, buildings can be built up to 18 stories.

But what about fire safety?

In a fire, heavy timber chars on the outside while retaining strength. That slows combustion and allows occupants to evacuate the building. According to David Barber of Arup, in recent fire testing, a seven-inch wall of CLT lasted three hours and six minutes — one hour longer than code requirements.

A few years ago, the only mass timber manufacturers were in Canada or Europe. Today there are about a dozen scattered across the United States making sourcing easier and further reducing the carbon footprint of the material by eliminating importing and shipping. In addition, mass timber can be beautiful and might make a significant difference in the speed of leasing or sales of commercial, mixed-use and residential space.

As of December 2020, 1,060 commercial mass timber projects had been constructed or were in the design phase across the U.S., according to Woodworks — Wood Products Council. Developers, investors and corporations are embracing the idea that mass timber may give them an edge in the leasing or sale of real estate and in recruiting and retaining top talent. We can’t wait to help them achieve their goals.

What is Brain Health and Why Does it Matter?

What is Brain Health and Why Does it Matter?

As a society, when it comes to our mental health, no matter which way we look at it and regardless of how much we spend on it, WE ARE NOT WELL. 

The World Health Organization (WHO) is clear about the increasing importance mental health plays in achieving global development goals, and one of the United Nation’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals calls it out as a specific target. Depression is one of the leading causes of disability, further highlighting the inseparable link between the mental and physical components of our lives. Suicide is the fourth-leading cause of death among 15-29-year-olds. People with severe mental health conditions die prematurely—as much as two decades early—due to preventable physical conditions.

Well, our brain needs our attention now – not just in terms of mindfulness and stress reduction, but also in terms of playfulness, purposeful engagement and creativity. Design can also help alleviate the problem by giving us agency and control over our environments.

In our society we often invest in physical fitness through a healthy diet and exercise to ward off chronic diseases. Similarly, cognitive fitness and brain healthy practices can block mental health challenges, depression, and dementia. Moreover, new research is emerging that says that there is a close link between our brain health and our cardiovascular health. Our bodies and our brains are connected, but our brain—that physical, pulsating, powerful organ—has been ignored.

We don’t prioritize our mental health and well-being because stigma stands squarely in our way. But that is beginning to change, starting with the phrase, “Brain Health” itself. Numerous campaigns have increasingly started to use the term. For example, in 2021, the Yale School of Medicine started the Brain Health Bootcamp focused on “replacing the term ‘mental health’ with ‘brain health’ to empathize how physical and treatable these conditions are and to destigmatize mental health.”

In some ways, brain health is to mental illness, as physical fitness is to disease. As we struggle to address societal concerns around isolation, loneliness, depression, addiction etc., we have to think hard about keeping our brain healthy, active, and fit. WHO now has an entire section dedicated to brain health described as follows: 

Brain Health is an emerging and growing concept that encompasses neural development, plasticity, functioning, and recovery across the life course. Good brain health is a state in which every individual can realize their own abilities and optimize their cognitive, emotional, psychological, and behavioral functioning to cope with life situations. Numerous interconnected social and biological determinants (incl. genetics) play a role in brain development and brain health from pre-conception through the end of life. These determinants influence the way our brains develop, adapt and respond to stress and adversity, giving way to strategies for both promotion and prevention across the life course.

Our brain needs our attention now in terms of mindfulness and stress reduction, but also in terms of playfulness, purposeful engagement and creativity. How can design help?

Research shows that creativity and play directly help neuroplasticity, as do positive associations. Reframing the stressors in our life to opportunities to problem solve is a simple example of how you can take a mental health challenge and turn it into a brain health enabler.

Can design help with this? Can design give us more agency and control over our environments, so we are not passive receivers of stimuli but active transformers? What is the role of place, process, and technology in exercising brain health? In this new age of computational design and digital/ physical convergence, what if we did not see the digital world as the hotch-potch of distractions that it is, but rather an opportunity to create responsive environments that enrich our lives?

Our work with the Center for Brain Health is teaching us a lot about going back to this ultimate Lego block of the human experience – the human brain. We’re taking this as an opportunity to go through brain health training and exercise brain health strategies in our own practice with the goal to explore how this impacts our experience, creativity, and burnout. Using the talent of our built environment professionals, we’ve also translated these brain health strategies into our own place, process/policy, and technology and started to pilot test some of these spaces and applications with the intention to learn, evolve, and ultimately share with clients. Environments that support brain health have to be enriched environments that meet our physical, sensory, social, and cognitive needs.

Think about why we feel good at a kitchen table, or at a playground, or on a hike. All of these environments have a strong sensory component that give us something to do physically, something to creatively engage with, and something to connect with others socially. One of our living lab offices is creating a haven space, social and collegial hubs, and an intellectual playground and idea theater—some concepts developed from our future of work research—to activate brain health in the workplace. The pilot study will give us greater insight on what design affordances promote and impact brain health.

Building upon the foundation of the human brain, we’re designing eco-systems that help the brain thrive. Because when the brain thrives, so does the body — and so does society.

HKS Expands Experiential Branding Practice Led by Industry Veteran Tony LaPorte

HKS Expands Experiential Branding Practice Led by Industry Veteran Tony LaPorte

Global design leader HKS is expanding the firm’s Experiential Branding practice, led by industry veteran Tony LaPorte.

In a career that has spanned more than 20 years, LaPorte has worked with organizations such as Capital One, Grant Thornton and Kellogg’s to help strengthen their brands.

Experiential Branding uses the built environment to convey a brand’s culture and values.

“Experiential Branding is the intersection of Place and Brand. We’re enabling brands to leverage critical spaces to strategic advantage,” LaPorte said. “This can improve talent recruitment, drive greater sales and elevate employee engagement. It’s all about creating a sense of identity and connection.”  

By layering architectural and interior design elements, organizations can allow the story of their brand to unfold throughout office environments, sales centers, hospitals and universities; this practice can reinforce the brand and improve the experience of workers, guests, patients, students or others who inhabit a space, LaPorte said.

“(Experiential Branding) projects are co-created by architects and interior designers, with the client as a partner throughout the design process,” said Kate Davis, Global Practice Director, Commercial Interiors, HKS. “We’re cultivating a deeper expression of their brand, allowing clients to be more connected to their brand and its value.”

HKS’ Experiential Branding practice can also help place-makers communicate their brands. Real estate developers, restauranteurs and start-up companies are among those who will benefit from brand strategy, brand identity and brand design services.

We’re cultivating a deeper expression of their brand, allowing clients to be more connected to their brand and its value.

HKS’ Experiential Branding service offerings will comprise Environmental Branding, such as experience centers, feature sculptures and wall murals; Branding research and strategy, brand identity, marketing collateral and website design; Signage and Wayfinding interior programs, exterior campus programs and donor walls; and Digital Environments, including interactive experiences and digital content.

Enlarging the HKS Experiential Branding practice augments work initiated by HKS Creative Director of Branding Services, Beau Eaton, for the firm’s Interiors practice. Previous projects include Our Lady of the Lake Children’s Hospital, Baton Rouge; Whole Foods Market South Regional Office, Atlanta; and SoFi Stadium, Inglewood, California.

The move to expand the Experiential Branding practice “complements and completes our services,” said Ana Pinto-Alexander, Global Sector Director, Interiors, HKS.

Why Health Equity in the Built Environment Matters

Why Health Equity in the Built Environment Matters

Inequitable access to health care costs the U.S. $135 billion each year. This is in addition to the nearly unfathomable loss of 3.5 million life years associated with premature deaths. Michael Crawford of Howard University shared that W.K. Kellogg Foundation data during a recent HKS webinar on Health Equity & Access that explored the high price of health inequity.

The webinar was part of the firm’s quarterly Limitless panel series, conversations between HKS leaders and experts in other industries about ideas that influence design, examined through the lens of justice, equity, diversity and inclusion.

For the most recent installment, HKS convened research, nonprofit and health care professionals to discuss equitable access to health care, and the intersection between health equity and the built environment.

Data to Address Health Disparities

Crawford, Associate Dean for Strategy, Outreach & Innovation at Howard’s College of Medicine, opened the webinar with a keynote address on the roles of digital technology and the built environment in addressing health disparities.

He presented information on life expectancy gaps for residents of major U.S. cities. Referencing data for Washington, D.C. zip codes, he said, “Two kids grow up in the same city, five miles apart. One has an expectation to live 27.5 years longer than the other child. How does that instill hope?”

Crawford described efforts by Howard University’s 1867 Health Innovations Project to improve health equity and access through digital health solutions and non-tech solutions for medically underserved communities. A pilot project involving the use of mobile phones to connect with people who have sickle cell disease has shown promising results for medication adherence but has also revealed limiting factors such as insufficient Internet access, he said.

This research, and the experience of dense urban populations during the COVID-19 pandemic, have identified needs for spaces where people can receive care, isolate to reduce disease transmission or access health information on the Internet using mobile technology. Transportation, green space and adequate housing are additional assets for creating health equity.

“These are items we are focusing on…as we think about the architecture community and what role you can play in terms of being able to facilitate greater access to tech solutions, or to build solutions that promote a community health and wellness mindset,” Crawford said.

He emphasized that the most valuable asset is the community itself.

Crawford said that listening to diverse community voices “leads to an equitable health design that can facilitate and promote health and well-being. I think it’s critically important in terms of how we design facilities.”

Understanding Community Needs

HKS Design Researcher and Senior Medical Planner Kate Renner moderated a panel discussion that followed Crawford’s keynote. The panel featured Ginneh P. Baugh, Vice President of Impact & Innovation for Purpose Built Communities, an Atlanta-based nonprofit community development organization; Robert Goodspeed, Associate Professor of Urban and Regional Planning at the Taubman College of Architecture & Planning, University of Michigan; and Kate Sommerfeld, President of the Social Determinants of Health Institute and Vice President of Community Relations and Social Investments for Midwest health system ProMedica.

Like Crawford, the panelists highlighted the importance of community involvement in projects to tackle health equity and access.

Forming a deep history with individuals and listening closely to what they have to say can take time, but provides “incredibly rich data,” said Baugh.

One thing to keep in mind, she said, is, “Who are we designing for?”

Health care spaces, for example, should be sized based on the number of anticipated patients plus the expected support network for people in the community.

“Who’s waiting with you for dialysis, or how many people need to be with that new mom?” Baugh asked.

Other community norms can come into play. Baugh recalled a clinic designed with a small waiting room that had people lined up down the block—but not people from the neighborhood. A community health worker knocking on doors learned local residents did not want to be seen waiting for an appointment outside the clinic.

Sommerfeld said that to design the best community health solutions, public and clinical data should be balanced with “voice and lived experience.”

While cross-sector partnerships with hospitals, universities, government and financial institutions can supplement insights from community members, she said, “make sure that residents are at the forefront.”

Working in partnership with the community can help identify evaluation metrics, strategies and uncertainties for urban planning projects, Goodspeed said.

He described a multi-year collaborative project on mobility that showed the importance of public transit to reaching places like the dialysis clinic or other medical clinics. By interviewing stakeholders and holding public workshops, researchers were able to pinpoint specific locations in the region, which they used to draw new transit maps to serve health care destinations.

Make sure that residents are at the forefront.

Health and the Built Environment

Panelists agreed the built environment provides rich opportunities for innovation in addressing health inequity and access.

“Housing is a health issue,” said Sommerfeld. “We’re seeing more and more payers start to invest in things like affordable housing across the country.”

If a child is in the emergency department many times a month struggling with breathing issues, paying to replace moldy carpet to improve the air quality of the family home is both cost effective and best for the child; evidence is mounting across the country for these types of interventions, Sommerfeld said.

Goodspeed noted the documented relationship between eviction and a host of mental and physical health outcomes. Housing stability is “a fundamental driver to health,” he said.

Families who live at the same address for three years benefit from a ripple of positive health outcomes related to children’s consistent school attendance and family members’ ongoing connections with neighborhood health providers, said Baugh.

Panelists also described how the built environment can improve food access, a key contributor to health equity.

To eliminate a food desert in Toledo, ProMedica’s Social Determinants of Health Institute “took a very bold leap to go ahead and open and operate a grocery store,” said Sommerfeld. The system has now helped five other health care organizations and nonprofits launch grocery stores to provide more equitable access to healthy food.

Baugh mentioned a neighborhood in South Atlanta that has been looking into accessory dwelling units (ADUs), small homes that can be installed in a backyard to provide additional income for residents. Local families can build wealth by owning or renting an ADU; the units also help increase the neighborhood population to the point it can support a grocery store.

Institutional changes, such as zoning codes that allow ADUs, can drive change for neighborhoods and individuals, Goodspeed said.

At the conclusion to the panel, Yiselle Santos Rivera, HKS Director of Justice, Equity, Diversity & Inclusion, remarked that the discussion had underscored the overall importance of innovation, collaboration and trust.

“We have to pay attention and we have to be intentional,” Santos Rivera said. “These, to me, are at the core of how we create a more equitable, just and inclusive world.”

Designing for an Ever-Changing Present: Clinic 20XX Refresh Study Amidst (and Beyond) COVID-19

Designing for an Ever-Changing Present: Clinic 20XX Refresh Study Amidst (and Beyond) COVID-19

The Challenge

Health care has been long due for systemic and system-wide reform, bringing an urgency for health care organizations, patient advocates, and policy makers to lead this effort. The U.S., compared to 10 other developed countries, is rated the highest in health care spending, yet lowest in quality of care (Commonwealth report: 2014 and 2021). The lived experiment of the COVID-19 pandemic, including challenges from the rise in health worker burnout, and fundamental issues with public health has once again reinforced the need for change-ready facilities. With plans to refresh the 2015 Clinic 20XX report, the Center for Advanced Design Research and Evaluation (CADRE) and HKS team examined the changes in primary care, in large part due to the pandemic, with a focus on:

What We Found in our Research

The research team commissioned a third-party independent vendor to survey both U.S. patients and physicians to capture their experiences:

Here are some key findings from the survey and report:

New drivers of change reflect what we need to live a quality life.
In addition to the drivers from 2015 (system reform, technology, the new patient, the provider, and the field), Climate Change (respiratory diseases, catastrophic events), Infectious Diseases (global outbreaks), Health Equity (access to care, treatment availability, outcome), and Burnout (staff burnout and retention, mental health) emerged in 2021. New players in the market, wellness, and home health are new trends identified in response to the drivers of change.

Process, patient-provider relationship, and place are the trifecta in creating the ideal in-person primary care clinic experience.
Streamlined process (44%), empathetic and knowledgeable providers (27%), and amenity-rich, safe, and clean environment (21%) were the top three components of the patient’s ideal experience. Physicians identified streamlined patient check-in and registration process (4.58 out of 5) and availability of exam room when needed (4.56 rating out of 5) as top facility features to run a successful practice, with patient relationships (4.57 out of 5) being key.


Experience vs. Service

Physical and digital preferences differ by generation.
Baby boomers (70%) and Gen Xers (55%) preferred in-person visits over virtual visits, whereas Millennials preferred virtual (58%) over in-person.

Primary Care Experience

The smartphone has increasingly become the lifeline for patients to access health care services, with a 17-percentage point shift from 2015. While excited about telehealth, especially in terms of access and convenience, physicians are still skeptical about the regulatory reform needed to make it successful.

Phone vs. Portal

Convenience is still key, but now with a digital layer.
Closely following cleanliness and hygiene in the perception of clinic appeal, convenience had typically been manifested through same day appointments and walk-in appointments (with less than 30-min. wait time) in 2015 and are still at the top for Baby Boomers in 2021; however, online registration and mobile apps to track health entered the top three for Millennials in 2021.

Physicians want workspaces that allow privacy, efficiency, convenience, and flexibility.
Closely following cleanliness and hygiene in the perception of clinic appeal, convenience had typically been manifested through same day appointments and walk-in appointments (with less than 30-min. wait time) in 2015 and are still at the top for Baby Boomers in 2021; however, online registration and mobile apps to track health entered the top three for Millennials in 2021.

What the Findings Mean

Patient and provider perspectives, layered on the key drivers and emerging trends, suggest key principles to design primary care clinics that are change-ready. For example,

Seven Key Principles:

Here are some key takeaways from the report findings:

Humanize the Experience.

The Clinic Is More Than a Building.

Build Relationship and Trust.

What’s Next

With increasing primary care provider shortages and health care worker burnout at peak levels, it is essential to consider how these drivers will collectively impact emerging care models and care team members, preferences and expectations moving forward.

This study concluded what has been a six-year exploration of how to design for change in the face of an ever-changing present. It is our hope that others will take the insights from this report (and others in the series), continue to ask questions, and use it as a starting point for meaningful innovation.

Two Years After COVID, Here’s What We’ve Learned as Designers

Two Years After COVID, Here’s What We’ve Learned as Designers

COVID-19 has officially been in the world for more than two years. During that time it has changed the way all of us live, work, play and think.

Tragically, it has also killed more than 6 million people worldwide. Health experts and scientists agree that many of those deaths could have been avoided. As the life continues in a world in which COVID will likely be a permanent companion, architects, designers and engineers have acquired many lessons in the past two years about what steps our industry can take — now and in the future — to make our lives safer and more comfortable. Here are a few things we learned at HKS:

1- Use What You’ve Got

It’s too costly to build new hospitals for the next pandemic, so converting existing spaces quickly is key for architects and designers. HKS-designed Orlando Regional Medical Center in Florida offers one blueprint how such blueprints can be done successfully. 

2 – Prepare for the Surge

In a pandemic, every available space – from lobbies to hallways – may become emergency treatment areas. That means that certain medically necessary infrastructure components – oxygen, medical gasses, pipes and wiring should be close at all times, even if generally hidden from view. And water, electricity and medical hookups should be available to quickly convert parking lots or nearby structures into field hospitals.

3 – Staff Needs Love, Too

The pandemic has clearly shown us that health care workers are a treasure and must be treated as such. They need ample space to unwind and relieve the stress that comes with their jobs. Designing spaces that give them plenty of room to relax and recharge, away from the hustle and bustle of patient care, is necessary. For example, spaces that allow privacy and allow staffers to control sound and lighting would be helpful, along with rooms with windows that overlook gardens or other serene settings.

4 – There’s No Place Like Home 

The pandemic has forever changed how we work, or more to the point, where we work. COVID forced employees to shift to working from home – or places other than their main offices – and many of them discovered that they not only liked the flexibility of doing so, but they were also more productive. One finding from HKS’ extensive internal research bolsters this point. The findings revealed that work satisfactions jumped 12% for employees who have control over their home conditions, such as the ability to close a door to block out noise. HKS used this internal research to develop a flexible work from home policy for its employees that became a model for the AEC industry. Firms will likely need to maintain this flexibility going forward to retain, obtain and reward its workforce.

5. Office Work isn’t Dead Yet

While it’s true that working from home is more acceptable than ever, many companies will still need employees in the office for a variety of reasons. And when those workers are there, they will need to feel healthy and safe. Again, HKS research helped provide insights into designing for a safe office space. Recommendations include having teams work in their own “neighborhoods,” creating work “shifts,” so that certain amount of people are in the office at a given time, mobile infrastructure and seamless technology so that processes are consistent at home and remotely, holding meetings outside when possible and adequate spacing of desks. But even with working in the office, flexibility will remain the key component.

6. Safe at Home

Because more work will continue to be done at home, residential spaces will have to adapt. Single family homes will obviously have more options and leeway to do this. But multifamily residential spaces will face unique challenges, in large part due to size and affordability limitations. During the height of the COVID pandemic, HKS worked on possible solutions for future apartment construction. Among the many considerations: flexible workspaces adjustable surfaces, adequate access to light and air in all the spaces, finding a way to “hide” workspaces when they aren’t being used so that employees won’t always feel “on the clock.”

7. Air is Not Rare

No matter who you are or where you go, you’ll need air. The pandemic often put that basic need in jeopardy. Designers have figure out ways to funnel breathable air into any space from office buildings to shopping areas to airports to sports arenas. Our HKS office in downtown Chicago uses displacement air distribution ventilation technology to help keep the air clean. At the open-air HKS-designed SoFi Stadium, designers minimized air pollutants there by maximizing natural ventilation through operable panels, using the building skin to increase occupant comfort and creating “grand canyons” – large, landscaped pathways, gardens and patios. Airports can use a scaled approach to ventilation to help remove airplane exhaust fumes that historically contribute to poor air quality.

HKS Partners With Center for BrainHealth to Help Employees Thrive

HKS Partners With Center for BrainHealth to Help Employees Thrive

HKS is partnering with The University of Texas at Dallas’ Center for BrainHealth® on a study to improve the way the firm’s employees work, collaborate and innovate, both individually and as an organization.

The ongoing COVID pandemic has contributed to high levels of worker burnout, even though efficiency and productivity in many industries remain high in this era of hybrid work.

The center’s BrainHealthy Workplace™ program is a three-year, longitudinal study with multiple organizations that will assess participants’ current brain health, share strategies and tools to improve their individual cognitive function over time, and measure change over time.

Nearly 200 employees from HKS are participating in the Center for BrainHealth’s BrainHealthy Workplace program, which offers online trainings, think tanks and daily brain exercises over a six-month span to optimize their brain health. The program is completely confidential; the firm will have no access to individual participants’ data.

“It’s no question that our people have been under enormous amounts of pressure over the last two years of the pandemic, and we do not want work to be an additional stressor,” said Dan Noble, President and CEO of HKS. “Our partnership with the Center for BrainHealth is empowering our people to learn new strategies to improve their resilience while also supporting them in becoming more focused and innovative, to help make the most of their time at work and in their personal lives. This is a critical piece of how we’re investing in our teams’ well-being and mental health as we collectively recover from the last two years.”

This is a critical piece of how we’re investing in our teams’ well-being and mental health as we collectively recover from the last two years.

Cognitive wellness is a big focus of this year’s Mental Health Awareness Month, which takes place in May. This year’s theme, “Back to Basics,” provides foundational knowledge about mental health and addresses the effects on people’s well-being due to stress, isolation and uncertainty from pandemic living, according to Mental Health America.

Dr. Upali Nanda, HKS Global Director of Research, said HKS’ partnership with the Center for BrainHealth could be a critical tool in mapping the firm’s future, with worker wellness at the forefront.

“It is particularly timely right now when we are in this era of experimentation around the workplace, and are battling high levels of burnout,” Nanda said. “Understanding the tenets of brain health allows us to reframe the role of the workplace, leverage the potential of flex work experience and focus on peak performance of our most valuable asset- our people and their ability to think, create and innovate.”

Understanding the tenets of brain health allows us to reframe the role of the workplace.

The Center for BrainHealth is one of the country’s leading centers for pioneering cognitive neuroscience research and translation into scalable tools that enhance brain health and performance. The BrainHealth team of clinicians and coaches has worked with corporations, first responders, every branch of the military, and schools on similar trainings over the past two decades.

“We are proud to partner with HKS to incorporate the science of brain health and performance into the workplace,” said Jennifer Zientz, deputy director of programs at Center for BrainHealth. “Our practical, science-backed strategies have been shown to support improved productivity, engagement and innovation at work – all of which enhance people’s ability to thrive in their lives. Together, we are discovering how to shape the optimal workplace of the future.”

HKS’ latest collaboration with the Dallas-based Center for BrainHealth emerges from a longstanding partnership. The firm designed the center in 2007, including state-of-the-art research space and leading-edge technologies dedicated to studying the brain and strengthening its function. The project won a 2010 Design Award from the Dallas chapter of The American Institute of Architects.

Fast Company Places HKS Among 2022 World’s Most Innovative Companies

Fast Company Places HKS Among 2022 World’s Most Innovative Companies

HKS is ranked No. 4 in the architecture category on Fast Company’s 2022 World’s Most Innovative Companies list. The annual ranking honors business making the biggest impact on their industries and culture with some of the most inspiring accomplishments of the 21st century.

“The world’s most innovative companies play an essential role in addressing the most pressing issues facing society, whether they’re fighting climate change by spurring decarbonization efforts, ameliorating the strain on supply chains, or helping us reconnect with one another over shared passions,” said Fast Company Deputy Editor David Lidsky.

The world’s most innovative companies play an essential role in addressing the most pressing issues facing society.

As COVID-19 drastically reshaped the way we live, work and play, HKS’ most innovative recent work focused on people’s well-being as we continued to create high-performing environments that support physical and mental health. And when the pandemic forced us to become acutely aware of the quality of air around us, we delivered solutions for breathing easier, by design.

Dallas’ HALL Arts Residences— the first residential project in Texas to register for WELL Multifamily Certification — exemplifies how sustainable design improves air quality and overall quality of life at home. Our Future of Work research and Chicago studio’s Living Lab demonstrate just how much our working environments can support our wellness and enhance productivity. And our award-winning design for SoFi Stadium in California showcases how even the largest, most complex projects can include natural ventilation, restore the environment and foster community connections.

The World’s Most Innovative Companies ranking provides a snapshot and roadmap for the future of innovation across the most dynamic sectors of the economy. This is the first time HKS has made the list, and the firm was also honored by Fast Company in 2021 as a Best Workplace for Innovators.

HKS President and CEO Dan Noble appreciates the recognition of the global firm’s more than 1,300 employees including architects, interior designers, researchers, communicators and more.

“I see our teams fulfilling our strategic vision to ‘think limitlessly’ on a daily basis through our design work, and I believe we have some of the best creative minds propelling our industry forward,” Noble said. “It’s incredibly rewarding as a leader to see this recognized by an external panel of experts at Fast Company through this award.”

Explore career opportunities at HKS through the link below.

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HKS Partnership with Cristo Rey Dallas Prep Exposes High Schoolers to More Career Choices

HKS Partnership with Cristo Rey Dallas Prep Exposes High Schoolers to More Career Choices

HKS was honored with the 2022 Bill Miller Corporate Leadership Award from Cristo Rey Dallas College Prep! The recognition is given to companies who partner and support the students of Cristo Rey Dallas. 

By the time Kenndrick Mendieta reached his senior year at Cristo Rey Dallas College Prep, he had worked for a major real estate firm and a Mercedes-Benz dealership through his school’s ambitious Corporate Work-Study Program. In the fall of 2018, he got one final corporate assignment: HKS, headquartered in downtown Dallas.

Mendieta, whose father works in construction, had expressed interest in architecture and was excited about the placement. He joined the IT department and, a few days into the job, shadowed an IT specialist who wandered into the sports practice to return a computer. That’s when Mendieta saw a blown-up rendering of the new Texas Rangers ballpark in Arlington, Globe Life Field, which was under construction at the time. He stared at it every time he walked to the sports practice.

“I thought, ‘Wow, is this really happening?’” he recalled.

While working for HKS, Mendieta toured the exterior of Globe Life Field and explored the Dallas Cowboys’ AT&T Stadium — which were both designed by HKS — and learned to use professional architectural design software Revit, building a personal design portfolio.

Although the coronavirus pandemic has forced the Corporate Work-Study Program to go remote for the time being, HKS remains committed to its partnership with Cristo Rey Dallas, which started in 2016. The nonprofit Catholic high school in the Dallas neighborhood of Pleasant Grove serves a diverse student body whose families have limited financial means. As part of the Corporate Work-Study Program, participating companies in the Dallas area pay Cristo Rey for students’ work to cover part of their annual tuition. HKS pairs students with employees across departments to acquaint them with the design field, along with other areas that may interest them, such as accounting and technology.

The four students assigned to HKS every year come to the office once or twice a week, helping with clerical tasks and other assignments from their supervisors. Executive assistant Amy Schwiening leads the supervisors and coordinates students’ schedules to help them navigate the firm. While clerical tasks are important, HKS staffers involved in the program gathered a couple of years ago to discuss how to improve students’ learning experiences at work.  Schwiening said she and her colleagues imagined what they would have wanted from such a work-study opportunity in high school, and they agreed that they would have benefited from additional exposure to the many facets of an architectural firm. Architectural designer Margarita Aguirre developed an architecture syllabus that teaches students how to use Revit and sharpens their spatial reasoning, which they practice on personal projects to build their own portfolios.

“If we don’t invest in these young people, having this opportunity with four students from Cristo Rey, we’re wasting time,” said Aguirre, who works in the sports practice. “Whether they study architecture or not, they’re the future.”

HKS has deepened its participation in Cristo Rey’s Corporate Work-Study Program over the years. In the summer of 2019, the firm hosted a corporate tour for Cristo Rey’s rising freshman class to cap their VIVA orientation program, which teaches kids basic skills to prepare them for the workplace. HKS’ student workers talked to their schoolmates about their workplace experiences, joined by Aguirre, Chief Financial Officer Sam Mudro and Chief Process Officer Bernita Beikmann, who described their professional journeys. HKS employees have also participated in panels at the invitation of Cristo Rey to share insights with other corporate partners and to talk about the importance of investing in diversity and inclusion initiatives. This fall, HKS volunteered its professional development team to conduct a strengths assessment for Cristo Rey’s freshmen to help them discover their talents. Schwiening also coordinated a school supply drive that raised $2,000 worth of items for Cristo Rey students.

“HKS Dallas has been a partner of Cristo Rey Dallas since 2016, and every year their commitment has grown stronger,” said Lucero Piña, Cristo Rey’s external partnership manager “In 2016, they gave Cristo Rey Dallas students an opportunity  and welcomed two freshmen and two sophomores into their Dallas office. Since, the firm has been responsible for the students’ exposure to Unreal Engine [software], supported and mentored two graduates of Cristo Rey Dallas (and counting), hosted students and their families to personalized tours of the AT&T Stadium, welcomed and inspired 145 incoming freshman students to their offices and designated Cristo Rey Dallas as their school supply drive beneficiary in 2020. The list could go on and on.”

She added: “HKS makes it clear that they are invested in our youth’s future, the Dallas community and are dedicated to making a difference in Southeast Dallas.”

Schwiening and her colleagues who team up with the Cristo Rey student-workers are evangelists for the Corporate Work-Study Program’s success in building relationships and exposing teens to additional career choices.

“I want these kids to have something that I didn’t have,” Schwiening said. “These kids are so incredible. I would love to have had something like this when I was their age.”

She said she comes to work every day wanting to be better for the students under her watch.

“I’m privileged that I have this opportunity to work with them. I feel so rewarded at the end of the day.”

We checked in with some of our current and former Cristo Rey student workers to ask about their HKS journey:

“I want these kids to have something that I didn’t have,” she said. “The kids are so incredible. I would have loved to have something like this when I was their age.”

Cristo Rey students show off models they made based on Revit projects at the VIVA Cristo Rey Corporate Work-Study Program freshman tour at HKS headquarters in 2019.

Kenndrick Mendieta

Mendieta, 19, is a sophomore at the University of North Texas in Denton, where he is studying construction management. He is the first in his family to go to college.

His HKS stint began with the IT department in the basement of the firm’s headquarters, or “the cave,” as staffers call it. He helped the IT team install software and fix bugs in designers’ computers.

Mendieta later switched to the sports practice, where he sat near Aguirre and began Revit lessons. He made some mistakes at first, such as using a floor for a roof, but became more confident as the lessons progressed.

“I picked it up pretty fast, I’m not going to lie,” Mendieta said. “Every time I talked to other students, I would ask them, ‘Where you at?’ or ‘How are you doing on this certain type of project?’ We would compete sometimes.

“I liked it. I loved it, actually. It worked my brain.”

HKS designers checked on his work, sometimes giving praise and other times providing constructive criticism. One designer offered advice on Mendieta’s college application.

Mendieta joined his classmates on a tour of HKS’ sports venues in Arlington and was struck by the enormity of Globe Life Field.  After starting at HKS, he grew even more curious about buildings. Mendieta spent his 30-minute light-rail commute to work staring out the window, studying the buildings along the route. 

For his final Revit project, he chose to design his own house, which he hopes to build with his father on a tract his parents own. He said he received guidance from a lot of people at HKS, who helped him visualize the interiors and be more precise with his plans.

“HKS gave me a hands-on opportunity to see everything,” said Mendieta, who is still considering a future career in architecture. “Like an image someone has in their head, how to get it on paper.”

Kenndrick Mendieta graduated from Cristo Rey Dallas Prep last year and won the Class of 2019 Corporate Work Study Director’s Award.

Carla Cano

Cano graduated from Cristo Rey in the spring of 2020. She’s a freshman studying political science and English at University of Dallas in Irving. Like Mendieta, she’s the first in her family to attend a university.

Cano spent all four high school years in HKS’ work-study program. As a freshman, she wasn’t sure what career path she wanted to pursue.  She helped the human resources department with filing and scanning and provided support to the accounting and marketing departments.

Cristo Rey sent period surveys to students to track their work-study progress and ask if they wanted a change.

“I never really wanted something new,” Cano said. “I really liked HKS and the fact that we were constantly getting switched out of departments. I was getting different experiences of the workplace. I was able to see what HR did, what marketing did, what administration did.”

During her junior year, Cano began her design lessons with Aguirre and became acquainted with the architectural side of the business. She sat in meetings about Globe Life Field, a project in which Aguirre was a member of the design team.

Cano said she also began interacting more with other Cristo Rey student workers at HKS. Their Revit curriculum led to friendly competition.

“It was a source of motivation, because if one of us was behind, we wanted to catch up as far along as the other ones,” Cano said.

The fact that Cano and her fellow HKS student workers were getting hands-on architectural training was a source of pride among the group and elicited jealousy among other schoolmates. Cano recalled that some of her friends teasingly asked her: “Carla, can you say you don’t want to go next year, so we can take your spot?”

When Cano and her Cristo Rey schoolmates visited Globe Life Field and AT&T Stadium with the HKS Cristo Rey supervisors in 2019,, they also took the teens to the architecture school at University of Texas at Arlington so they could experience a college campus.

Though Cano ultimately chose to study liberal arts, she said that her HKS experience opened her eyes to the world of possibilities in architecture.

“Starting Revit opened up that creativity flow,” she said. “I’ve always been into liberal arts like English because when you read a book, everybody is going to interpret a book differently. When we started doing Revit, I started to see Kenndrick’s house looks like this, my house looks like this, Diego’s looks like this and Edward’s looks like this. We all had the same plan, but they still look different. It started to get my brain gears going.”

HKS executive assistant Amy Schwiening chats with Carla Cano in December 2018.

Diego Covarrubias

Covarrubias is a senior at Cristo Rey who has been working with HKS since his freshman year.

Then, his dream was to become a movie director. During a Cristo Rey summer training program, Covarrubias discovered he was good at Microsoft Excel. He was placed with HKS’ accounting department, where his supervisor taught him to analyze large data sets through Excel functions such as pivot tables.

Covarrubias recalled being nervous during his first couple of weeks at HKS. He thought he would have to address everyone formally and that his colleagues would be dismissive of him because he was a teen. But his HKS coworkers put him at ease. He found himself cracking jokes with the accounting team.

“They didn’t treat me like a kid,” he said. “They treated me like part of the group.”

In his junior year, Covarrubias met Aguirre in the sports practice. He started tagging along to Monday meetings about Globe Life Field. And he became acquainted with Unreal Engine, a software application for building video games that HKS used to create an interactive model of the ballpark.

Inspired by the work of the sports practice and with support from HKS staff, Covarrubias taught himself how to use Unreal Engine to create his own video game.

“I would Google certain things, like how to create a spread, how to create a background, stuff like that,” he said. “I already knew how to use Photoshop, so I would create my backgrounds and I would export to them to Unreal Engine.”

Covarrubias is setting his sights on a business degree from the University of North Texas. He now envisions a future as an entrepreneur who designs his own skateboards, graphics and apparel.

“Based on all the stuff I’ve learned, it’s really changed my entire career path,” he said.

Covarrubias credits HKS with giving him the confidence to navigate professional environments. For instance, he had to work fast and with precision when completing his accounting tasks. He also grew close to an HKS colleague, approaching him for personal advice.

“Never be afraid to ask questions,” Covarrubias said. “Never be afraid to be you.”

Cristo Rey senior Diego Covarrubias received a Certificate of Excellence plaque from HKS for his work during the 2018-19 school year.

Daisy Lujano

Lujano is a sophomore at Cristo Rey and is in her second year at HKS. She’s still figuring out what career path she wants to take. Over the years, she’s considered whether to study computer science or become a doctor. The latter has been on her mind because of the coronavirus pandemic.

During her freshman year, Lujano was assigned to the structural engineering department and helped with filing and other clerical duties. She toyed a bit with Unreal Engine and learned how to create building models using Revit.

“At first I was really scared because I didn’t know what to do or how to do it, but as I went on, I got used to it, and it became easier,” she said.

One of her personal projects was to create a floor plan, design the interiors of the building and pick wall colors.

“You can create whatever you can think of,” she said. “You can use those plans and designs to create an actual house.”

Though she is working remotely this year, Lujano said she hopes to keep learning new skills. She encouraged other Cristo Rey students to speak up and build relationships with their supervisors, something she said was difficult for her at first because she’s shy.

Lujano said there was a time when she wasn’t even comfortable placing an order at a restaurant and would defer to her mother, but her workplace experience has pushed her to be more assertive.

“Whenever I first started going to HKS, I was scared just talking to new people,” she said. “When I started meeting my supervisors, I had to talk more and be more open.”

Daisy Lujano poses for a photo with HKS Chief Financial Officer Sam Mudro during Cristo Rey’s Draft Day in 2019.

Five Trends Shaping Life Science Labs of the Future

Five Trends Shaping Life Science Labs of the Future

The demand for life science and technology buildings is steadily growing. As advancements in medicine and private investments in research surge, the need for more, better-designed laboratories and support spaces increases. And the growth isn’t just taking place in traditional science and medical clusters like San Diego, San Francisco and Boston — it’s also permeating emerging areas such as Los Angeles and Denver.

As life science and technology designers at HKS, we want to help developers, institutions and companies in our field meet their needs for expansion and change. So, we conducted research to understand the sector’s current real estate needs and how we can address them through design. After reviewing more than 40 recent publications including journal articles, real estate news and design research, we identified trends from the years before and during the COVID-19 pandemic. We also interviewed a variety of life science professionals in the academic, corporate and government realms to validate our findings and gain valuable real-world insight.

We learned that during the pandemic, laboratory utilization increased while the use of other types of workspaces decreased. People with more administrative functions in all sectors are now slowly returning to offices, but the scientists who worked in laboratories never left. Their workflow, however, did change — people are balancing collaboration and individual work differently than before. Still, laboratories, support spaces and associated offices continue to have highly specific requirements and designers must be able to innovate and deliver projects that support those needs with creativity and expediency.

Here are five trends we discovered from our research and how we are actively translating them into our projects to help shape a more sustainable and efficient future.

1 – Renovations on the Rise

Renovations are becoming increasingly popular in the life science and technology community. A lack of vacant greenspace in desirable areas for lab development has led to more projects that adaptively re-use outdated structures. Renovations are often both a sustainable solution and a financially smart choice. With the help of architects and planners, savvy real estate investors can quickly determine which vacant spaces make the most financial sense to become conversions.

Renovations are often both a sustainable solution and a financially smart choice.

Some existing buildings are easier and more cost effective to convert than others. Factors to consider include whether they have the proper structural floor-to-floor heights to accommodate the ductwork required for chemical fume hoods and instrumentation or appropriate column spacing to accommodate lab modules. Additional considerations designers think about when determining if a site makes sense to convert include available space for emergency back-up generators, service and delivery accommodations for loading docks, and bulk storage for specific gasses.

Though the most common type of renovation property for life science and technology conversation is an office building, warehouses and shopping malls have also become desirable. As more people shop online, malls have become less desirable for consumers to travel to, meaning there are many opportunities to leverage those structures that already have built-in conveniences such as parking and eateries to accommodate changing needs for researchers and scientists.

HKS helped transform a modest office and warehouse building in a Kansas suburb into a state-of-the-art Food and Drug Administration laboratory.

Broader considerations for renovation projects include proximity to amenities, university research hubs, and associated health care and research institutions. Students and researchers in university settings are more likely to be attracted to facilities that are close to where they study or live, especially if they are also located near conveniences like restaurants, public transportation and day care.

2 – Flexible, Adaptable Labs

Scientists’ space requirements are transforming along with the real estate landscape, making flexible and adaptable laboratories more critical than ever before. Research needs for start-up companies often look quite different year-to-year and technological improvements in all parts of the life science sector are constantly changing workflows.

The ratio of lab space to office space is subject to change over time and a one-size-fits-all approach doesn’t support shifts and growth in personnel or projects. Flexibility in design allows for spatial enhancements that adapt to future changes

HKS’ design for Biolab Research Facilities in Singapore features flexible compartmentalization to accommodate different start-up companies and facilitates interior and exterior connections with nature.

While there are reasons to enclose some laboratory spaces such as biocontainment, noise mitigation, and environmental control, open laboratory concepts are increasingly desirable. Designs with open concepts promote interaction and resource sharing. When organized with a modular approach, labs and offices can become interchangeable and offer opportunities to flex spaces for increased efficiency with minimal disruption.

Other design solutions including movable furniture components and ceiling-mounted service panels for plug-and-play connections to workstations make modifications much easier. Sustainable rubber flooring products can be changed out much more easily than traditional epoxy flooring, which also allows for the laboratory to flex with the needs of scientists. As individual lab and office footprints become smaller and people seek more variation in their work settings, self-contained workstations that can easily move around are also becoming popular.

3 – Differentiating with Amenities

Laboratories are places of discovery and amenity spaces can be as crucial to a facility’s ability to promote discovery as the labs themselves. By programming desirable amenity spaces, designers can help optimize the experience of those working in life science buildings. Gold standard amenities are crucial to attracting and retaining top talent for the highly competitive life science industry.

Scientists and researchers want buildings that support health. Amenities that focus on wellness and sustainability are increasingly key for life science buildings and campuses. Amenity spaces throughout buildings such as fitness rooms, showers, bike storage, and grab-and-go shops or cafés with nutritious food make workplaces more appealing and support holistic well-being. And supportive recreational and leisure spaces such as a yoga studio, meditation room, sport courts and game rooms allow for much needed exercise or downtime.

Amenity spaces can also cultivate placemaking and support sense of community among scientists, researchers and administrators. Collaboration spaces adjacent to labs can enhance knowledge sharing and entice teammates to come to the office for face-to-face interactions. Within common areas, designers can create conditions for flexible arrangements including multiple seating styles, layouts and technological tools. Allocating space for informal and formal collaborations with open and closed room options is optimal, as is robust audio-visual systems to connect remote teammates and provide digital equity.

At the site level, building location, orientation and surroundings can also be viewed as amenities. Sun exposure and shade, direct connections to nature with views and indoor/outdoor working spaces, and biking or walking paths — all these elements positively impact well-being while contributing a desirable batch of amenities. When incorporated into buildings that support physical and mental health with high-performance design strategies such as natural ventilation, acoustic comfort measures, open stairways, efficient and flexible energy systems, these amenities can support a thriving scientific workplace.

4 – Modern Innovation Hubs

Just as new geographic life science clusters are popping up nationwide, smaller clusters of diverse, concentrated facilities are, too. Called innovation hubs, these developments are essentially campuses that support research companies in their endeavor to create and develop new ideas. Generally, they include wet and dry laboratory spaces and access to centralized equipment as well as conference and collaboration spaces.

Innovation hubs are becoming more prevalent as people realize how important and influential shared data and findings can be. They are often located near healthcare facilities for combined research opportunities, universities for attracting talent, and other amenities that are desirable for the workforce. Innovation hubs are beneficial to companies and institutions of all sizes and experience — from start-ups to established research groups — because they support learning from others and working together.

Due to the collaborative nature of their building programs, innovation hubs benefit from thoughtful design, as designers similarly leverage talent and opportunities to create solutions in their daily work. Planning and design for innovation hubs is crucial at the early development phase because they depend on proximity to other labs and research institutions. When designed and developed with the spirit of creative iteration and sharing they are intended for, innovation hubs can support a wide variety of high-impact scientific discoveries.

5 – Urban Settings and High-Rises

In recent years, life science and technology research entities have been locating or re-locating to populated urban areas. New technologies help make high-rise lab buildings more economically and socially feasible and they are a practical, high-density solution. Explosive growth in the biotechnology and pharmaceutical industries has caused companies and developers to capitalize on the advantages of urban locations, thereby maximizing land values and reducing environmental impacts.

HKS designed 850 Phoenix Bioscience Core (850 PBC), which bridges surrounding urban neighborhoods, the academic community, and the corporate life science research community.

Similar to innovation hubs, urban research settings allow the scientific talent to remain local to academic institutions while providing them the benefit of the urban living amenities they are accustomed to — arts, cultural and community-based activities, public transit and collaboration with other research groups.

As urban population rates continue to climb, developers are looking for designers and builders with experience and knowledge in pharma and biotech research and deep understanding of applicable (and often complex) code requirements for both high-rise and laboratory design. Designing for hazardous material storage and delivery, engineering controls for lab safety, and sustainable solutions for changes in energy, water, and air are all necessary considerations to responsibly accommodate urban life science and technology labs.

Impacting Life Science Design of Today and Tomorrow

Apart from these five, our research revealed trends in life science and technology real estate that closely matched other sectors. Changing investment factors and structures, a desire for high-performance and sustainable design, and attention to sanitation because of pandemic concerns are all sector-agnostic patterns. And while new and developing technologies impact every industry, we also noticed that cloud-based experiments and the integration of artificial intelligence are likely to significantly impact scientific workflows and life science real estate in the coming years.

At HKS, we are committed to understanding evolving trends and designing for positive outcomes. By maintaining our valued partnerships and creating new relationships, we strive to design spaces that are flexible and conducive to innovation within the life science and technology industry.  

If you would like to learn more about our findings and hear recommendations about how to leverage these insights, please contact Rich Smith or Nancie Constandse.

This project was completed as a part of HKS’ Research Incubator program. This annual initiative empowers practitioners throughout the firm to invest focused time and energy into exploring topics that encourage innovation and a culture of curiosity. To learn more about this program, please contact us at [email protected].

A Rethinking of Hospital Design

A Rethinking of Hospital Design

This story, written by Barbara Sadick, first appeared in the 2022 Edition of  U.S. News & World Report Best Hospitals. It is reprinted here with their permission.

When Jason Schroer, Director of Health at HKS, an international architecture firm based in Dallas, saw hospitals being deluged with COVID-19 patients, he empowered his teams across the globe to provide pro bono design services to help hospitals manage the flood. That work ran the gamut from putting up temporary walls to creating triage centers to converting convention centers into field hospitals. “This is a pivotal moment that will impact how hospitals will be designed going forward,” Schroer says.

This is a pivotal moment that will impact how hospitals will be designed going forward.

Because it’s financially prohibitive to build new hospitals to accommodate the next pandemic, which might not occur for decades, the ability to convert existing spaces quickly is the focus today for architects, engineers and designers. Orlando Regional Medical Center in Florida had a head start, having been influenced by the 2014-2016 U.S. Ebola outbreak to open a new area of the emergency department, designed by HKS, in 2015. Flexible pods that normally are used for patients with less severe conditions and injuries can, at the flip of a switch, be converted to negative airflow rooms where the air pressure is lower than the air pressure outside the room. When doors are opened, contaminated air doesn’t flow out. Instead fresh filtered air flows in, and exhaust systems remove contaminated air, filtering it before it’s pumped outside. The 12 negative pressure airflow rooms can easily be converted to 25 single rooms with separate entrances. During the current first true test, the negative air-flow rooms have made staff feel safer while treating patients, says Patrick Cassell, director of emergency services.

Surge ready

As has been seen, even corridors, lobbies and conference rooms may be needed for patient care in a pandemic, Schroer notes. “That means we should think about placing infrastructure such as oxygen and medical gases, pipes and wiring in alternative spaces that can be hidden from view, but easily accessible behind wall panels,” he says. Being “surge ready” means having water, electric, and medical hookups available to convert even parking lots and adjacent structures into field hospitals, says Bill Scrantom, the Americas health care leader at Arup, a global engineering and consulting firm.

Anterooms between hallways and patient rooms, where caregivers can wash their hands, sterilize equipment and put on and remove protective gear, create greater separation between clean and contaminated air. But be-cause costs typically prevent all rooms from being “designed to the highest contagion standard,” Schroer says, health systems need to strike a balance between rooms designed to be convertible for treating pandemic patients and rooms dedicated to normal operations.

Providing adequate room airflow and proper disinfection of surfaces is key to preventing the spread of infection. Scrantom points out that direct ultraviolet light will kill germs on surfaces, but can be used only when rooms are empty because it can cause skin burns and eye injuries. Antimicrobial surfaces like copper and silver provide limited defense against viruses like COVID-19, so regular disinfecting regimes are crucial.

Proper airflow

Air filtration systems continually clean the air, while ventilation systems bring in fresh air. Air should be constantly circulating in order to dilute concentrations of pathogens, and although plastic barriers can help protect people from direct sneezes and coughs, they can also obstruct good airflow. Placing infectious patients in closed rooms under negative pressure isn’t absolutely required for COVID-19, but could be vital for the next novel coronavirus.

“Establishing one-way circulation for infectious patients from building entry to patient room is also important,” Scrantom says. “This keeps un-infected individuals out of harm’s way and keeps the containment pathway well understood for cleaning.” 

Since physical interaction between patients and hospital staff should be limited to avoid infection spread, patient rooms and nurse stations will be designed with virtual care technology, experts say. Caregivers will be able to closely monitor and communicate with patients without always having to enter the room. Scrantom says hospitals will also be equipped to monitor less ill patients in their homes.

Finally, much attention is being paid to finding ways for health care workers to relax and relieve stress. Schroer says offering access to rooms with windows that overlook gardens is a good start. “Ideally, we’d like to see designated spaces to recharge” that allow staffers to turn down sound or lighting and have privacy for reflection. “It’s important,” he says, that “we focus on healing the healers.” –Barbara Sadick

HKS Moves the Needle on Design Excellence with 2021 Top Projects

HKS Moves the Needle on Design Excellence with 2021 Top Projects

At the end of each year, HKS reflects on our goal to create sustainable, beautiful and equitable designs by awarding the firm’s Top Projects. We celebrate new buildings that have opened, take a close look our in-progress work and delve back into our research to discover how we can better serve clients and communities through design.

HKS’ pursuit of design excellence in all our projects lies in the synthesis of methodology, research, innovation, performance and technical execution. Building on these pillars, we adopted the AIA Framework for Design Excellence several years ago, embedding its 10 measures into the way we work across borders and disciplines.

Guided by the tenets of Design Excellence, we turn a lens on ourselves each year with the Top Projects awards initiative.

“Top Projects has increased the amount of critical dialogue we have around our projects,” said HKS Global Director of Design Anthony Montalto about the awards, which began six years ago. “The commitment to understanding the measures for design excellence — starting with integration — is where we bring all the aspects that make HKS to the table.”

For the third year, HKS invited an external jury of industry experts to select our Top Projects from a finalist slate of work from all practice areas and global regions. Chaired by Dallas-based public architect Brent A. Brown, the 2021 external jury included Tara Green of landscape architecture firm OJB, Angelita Scott of the International WELL Building Institute and Ron Stelmarski of global architecture firm, Perkins & Will.

This esteemed group recognized nine Top Projects representing three categories — built designs, designs on the boards and research or special projects — using criteria founded on the principles of design excellence and the balance of beauty and performance.

Top Projects: Built Category

These five lauded projects exemplify the impact that architecture, sustainability and thoughtful interior design can have on people and their experiences in the built environment.

Top Project of the Year: SoFi Stadium

SoFi Stadium in Inglewood, California is the world’s first truly indoor-outdoor stadium and the NFL’s largest at 3.1 million square feet. Situated under one massive roof canopy, three state-of-the-art venues including the 70,000-seat stadium, the covered outdoor American Airlines Plaza and the 6,000-seat YouTube Theater can simultaneously host different events. With 25 acres of public space, including a large lake and park with diverse regional plants, SoFi Stadium and the Hollywood Park Entertainment District are year-round community destinations and public amenities. “We have elevated the design, experiences and definition of what sports entertainment buildings can be,” said Mark Williams, HKS Principal and Global Director of Venues on SoFi Stadium.

“We have elevated the design, experiences and definition of what sports entertainment buildings can be.” 

Architecture Honor Award: UC San Diego North Torrey Pines Living and Learning Neighborhood

North Torrey Pines Living and Learning Neighborhood (NTPLLN) is a 1.6 million square foot mixed-use neighborhood that provides an affordable on-campus living experience with a focus on physical and mental wellbeing, a connection to the community and a commitment to the environment. Home to the university’s social sciences and arts and humanities departments, the campus features housing, classrooms, offices, dining, and extensive outdoor spaces, public art and retail. Now in its second year of operation, NTPLLN is a “living lab” where social and environmental outcomes are consistently measured, with initial reports showing improvements in satisfaction and well-being among students.

Interiors Honor Award: Travel Company Workplace 

The most recent collaboration in HKS’ long relationship with a noted travel company, this commercial interior design emphasizes workplace culture and a relationship to the surrounding mountainous region. The office’s layout, materials palette and furnishings support the client’s free address desking policies, technology goals and employee engagement efforts. Infused with a sense of adventure and discovery prized by employees, the inventive interior design provides many choices for working and socializing that promote well-being and connection.

Merit Award: Neustar

Spanning three floors of HKS-designed Reston Station mixed-use development in Reston, VA., Neustar’s new corporate headquarters is a collaborative and adaptable workplace for more than 500 employees. The design incorporates a dynamic but calming materials palette and distinct geometric shapes permeate the walls and ceilings throughout. With access to outdoor space and ample natural light and a layout that supports mobility and individual choice, Neustar is an office centered on employee well-being.

Merit Award: Texas Health Frisco

A 20-acre health care campus, Texas Health Frisco includes an eight-story acute care hospital and a four-story multidisciplinary clinic with flexibility for future expansion to serve a growing community. Focused on enhancing experiences for patients, families and caregivers, the design is founded on hospitality ideals and biophilic principles. The Texas Health Frisco campus incorporates local natural materials and is sensitive to the region’s ecology, making it a premier sustainable health care environment.

Top Projects: Research, Advisory, Theoretical, and Special Projects Category

From a field that included a diverse array of research and conceptual design work, the special project that took top honors this year demonstrates the importance of mental health as a design consideration.

Special Recognition Award: Designing for Crisis Care

A research report supported through HKS’ Health Fellowship, Designing for Crisis Care explores how the built environment can influence positive health and well-being outcomes for people experiencing mental and behavioral health crises who enter emergency departments seeking help. Through intensive reading, interviews, and analysis, the research yielded a framework for investigation into individual, social, operational and design factors that may be harmful and a checklist health care designers and clients can use to create safe and beautiful care spaces. “We can really bring energy to conversations with clients to start asking new questions about how we can make this space better for them and for patients,” said HKS Design Professional and Researcher Hannah Shultz.

“We can really bring energy to conversations with clients to start asking new questions about how we can make this space better for them and for patients.”

Top Projects: On the Boards Category

The Top Projects jury also bestowed honor and merit awards and special recognitions to several of HKS’ unbuilt projects. Ranging from competition designs for stadium and entertainment complexes in Europe and Asia to an upcoming arts hub in the U.S., the projects awarded in the On the Boards category demonstrate how architecture and design can be powerful agents of change in diverse cities around the world. The winning unbuilt projects — presently part of confidentiality agreements — are examples of how Top Projects helps designer across HKS evaluate and improve upon in-progress work.

From 2021’s Top Projects to 2022 and beyond

Top Projects is both a celebration and a learning opportunity. Every HKS employee — including those on teams who created this year’s 103 initial project submissions — has access to feedback from both internal and external juries.

“Much of this dialogue is about the evolution of the practice at HKS, centering design and being able to improve overall performance for clients, cities and individuals that come into contact with these projects,” said external jury chair Brent A. Brown, who praised HKS’ commitment to research, architecture and interior design innovations that address environmental and social needs.

HKS’s Top Projects steering committee, which includes 2021 chair Graciela Andraos along with Montalto, said that the program is a way our firm can improve and infuse design excellence more authentically into every project.

“This process and this body of work has proven, both externally and internally, that we are a true design firm,” said Andraos, a senior interior designer. “We are a diverse firm with multiple voices at the table. We must continue to push that envelope and steer that ship in the right direction.”

Architects Must Lead Conversations about Climate Change to Prioritize People and Planet

Architects Must Lead Conversations about Climate Change to Prioritize People and Planet

The 26th session of the Conference of Parties (COP26) is underway in Glasgow, Scotland and this is the first year that the American Institute of Architects has sent an official delegation of observers to the Conference. The group includes HKS Principal and Director of Integration, Julie Hiromoto, FAIA. She is attending  along with AIA President Peter Exley, FAIA, of Architecture Is Fun; and Michael Davis, FAIA, of Bergmeyer Associates; and Dr. Mark Breeze, University of Cambridge and AIA UK Sustainability Chair; who together comprise the official AIA delegation of NGO observers. 

At COP26, we’ll talk about how architects can help reach international goals to address the climate emergency. We’ll do it by designing for energy efficiency and carbon neutrality by 2030 in accordance with standards set forth in the Paris Agreement on climate change and the AIA 2030 Commitment.

“I will be listening and engaging to learn how architects can take a leadership role to realize the plans that will be finalized in Glasgow,” says Hiromoto. “Where can design have the greatest impact? How can we inspire everyone—from our teams to our clients, collaborators and communities—to do more to realize a more just, net zero carbon future?”


How can we inspire everyone—from our teams to our clients, collaborators and communities—to do more to realize a more just, net zero carbon future?

But we can’t achieve our goals alone. We can only realize them with the support and involvement of our clients, our consultants, our contractors, our suppliers, our communities, our policy makers and government officials. It will take all of us to realize our goals.

What can we, as architects, do? We can lead the conversation. We can listen. We can build alliances built around values, such as Architecture 2030’s 1.5°C COP26 Communiqué, because architecture reflects our values as a society.

To attain our goals, we must determine what do we value now? What do we measure? How can we prioritize people and planet? It’s all about values, how we talk about them, how we measure them, and how we express them.

What is the value of clean air?

When we first designed our HKS Chicago office, we were thinking about what our employees wanted in an office. We were also thinking about how to embody our firm’s core values, or as our CEO Dan Noble put it, “to walk the talk.” We prioritized we spaces over me spaces, and we prioritized sustainable design that would improve human health and well-being. It was the right move to express our values.

And then, COVID-19 changed everything about how we value clean air.

Our initial investment in our values realized an unexpected return, as we can now say that our employees recognize a 56 percent indoor air quality improvement. The design of our new office has also realized a 60 percent reduction in energy cost per square foot to operate, improved the quality of air and water our team consumes, led to greater employee sleep satisfaction and increased employee presence in our office. Read more about the impact our design has in an Impact Report outlining the measurable outcomes of our energy, financial and well-being goals.

What is the value of water conservation?

Water is one of the world’s scarcest natural resources. And as the effects of climate change impact our global environment, more flood zones emerge, more ecosystems are endangered and water quality is compromised. We can adapt and improve upon these conditions with design and in the process, conserve water and reduce building emissions.

In designing the Virginia Military Institute’s Corps Physical Training Facility, we worked with civil engineers to reconfigure a creek that routinely flooded parts of the historic campus and local community. The building spans the creek, sitting atop a holding basin that collects water and limits the dangerous amounts of run-off that has damaged streets and the quality of local drinking water.

The building and its surrounding landscape also feature a cistern to retain rainwater absorbed through green roofs and permeable pavers. Recycled water collected through these means is cleaned through on-site filtration and used in plumbing systems with low-flow fixtures. The Corps Physical Training Facility’s building systems take advantage of water available in the atmosphere to cool internally circulating air, also cutting back on energy use and emissions.

Our work at VMI exemplifies how high-performance design really is a “team sport,” and how collaboration is crucial to sustainability.

What is the value of equitable communities?

In early 2021, HKS designers started working with a southern Dallas neighborhood to design a park on land that was once a dumping ground for roof shingles piled up higher than — and often adjacent to — the houses nearby. Residents worried about the health risks that the heaps of toxic waste posed for their families. Some constantly wore masks to mitigate the effects of what became known as “Shingle Mountain” on their lungs.

City officials have since cleared out the neighborhood eyesore and Citizen HKS, local activists, the Dallas Regional Chamber, and the Dallas Stars Foundation are partnering with residents to repurpose the land. The park project is called Floral Farms, as a symbol of hope and change for the community.

The park will include a community garden, soccer field, walking trail and a landscaped entrance featuring the phrase “together we can move mountains” to celebrate the residents’ resolve in removing Shingle Mountain. The project is an example of how architects can partner with their local communities to solve their most pressing challenges through impactful design.

These are just a few examples of our values at HKS. The time is now for us to flip the traditional script, to change the conversation. We must bring to light the long-term value of design — and what that means — to all the people who architecture impacts. What we learn at COP26 will help us on our journey.

“The world is watching all of us, from architects to elected leaders, as we determine how to build a more just, resilient, and healthy future,” says Hiromoto. “Our work is just getting started; post-COP26 the next challenge will be inspiring people to take action with us. We will tell the story of how we can better realize our shared societal values through architecture and design.”