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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

U.S. Southeast’s Growing Economy Spurs New Design and Development Trends

U.S. Southeast’s Growing Economy Spurs New Design and Development Trends

For the past 50 years, population growth in the Southeastern United States has outpaced the country’s overall growth rate by nearly 40%. The region is now home to more than a quarter of the nation’s residents and a slew of major employers, including dozens of Fortune 500 companies.

Even more people and businesses flocked to the Southeast from Northeast and West Coast cities during the pandemic as Americans looked for temperate, less-dense living environments and were able to work remotely.

“We’re seeing a lot of growth particularly in the Southeast related to peoples’ shifting priorities for what they want out of life and what they want out of work,” said HKS Regional Director Shannon Kraus.

The exploding Southeast population has led to a flourishing regional economy that grew over 10 percent in 2021 alone. HKS is working with clients and communities to understand the impact these shifts are having on the region’s built environment — and expanding our design services for a resilient future.

We’re seeing a lot of growth particularly in the Southeast related to peoples’ shifting priorities for what they want out of life and what they want out of work.

Commercial Real Estate Re-evaluation

In Raleigh and Atlanta, an influx of companies re-locating to or opening regional headquarters has caused a surging need for commercial office space.

Lynn Dunn, Office Director of HKS’s new Raleigh location, said that companies in industries ranging from finance to pharmaceuticals are keen to set up shop in fast-growing North Carolina as employees and corporations “seek the tremendous benefit of quality of life” that can be obtained there.

“It’s fairly inexpensive for corporations to come to this area from an investment standpoint. For years, we’ve had companies consistently moving here from across the country,” Dunn said, noting the top recognition North Carolina recently received in CNBC’s “Top States for Business” survey and Raleigh-Durham area’s repeat inclusion in national “best places to live” reports.

Dunn and HKS Atlanta Office Director Julie Volosin said that building owners, property managers, brokers and developers are collaborating to keep up with evolving desires of employers and employees. Companies moving into their cities are interested in building new high-performance offices as well as repurposing existing spaces.

“Atlanta is a broker-driven market and we’re seeing brokers courting corporations around the country to relocate here. There is also an increased interest among brokers and building owners to reposition buildings with more robust amenities and technology-rich infrastructure,” Volosin said

As organizations determine new policies for employees’ in-office and hybrid working models, they are evaluating real estate changes and how to best utilize the spaces they invest in. HKS is designing corporate workplaces to optimize versatility.

“We really focus on creating the most flexible kind of space that will support their work and business plans. We consider the flexibility within the footprint of the real estate as well as the external ecosystem that surrounds it,” Volosin said, noting that offices located near ancillary spaces for working or conducting meetings, such as parks or coffee shops, are increasingly popular.

Designers and researchers across HKS offices are exploring workplace habits and environmental conditions in “living labs.” Along with improvements in technology and policy shifts, HKS is investing in spaces that will entice employees, clients, and the community to use offices with intention and purpose. 

This year, HKS’ Atlanta office is leading the firm in how workplaces can best accommodate and support a hybrid workforce. The design for the new Atlanta office, located in the Buckhead business district, is the result of a multidisciplinary process that combined research, place performance advisory, and commercial interiors teams. No longer a sea of workstations, the Atlanta office has design havens, idea exchange centers, agile team pods, and a communal hospitality plaza — all of which offer abundant choices for where to work, interact with clients and serve the community.

“We’re in a state of transformational discovery right now. It’s a journey as we continue to learn and leverage a truly hybrid workplace,” Volosin said.

We’re in a state of transformational discovery right now. It’s a journey as we continue to learn and leverage a truly hybrid workplace. 

Changing Job Markets Prompt New Design Needs

Among the Southeast’s most attractive relocation destinations, Florida has a job market in the throes of major transformation due to its growing population.

In Central Florida — which has a historically tourism-driven economy — incoming science, technology and health companies have begun to diversify the job market, according to HKS Orlando Office Director Nathan Butler.

“Our area’s legacy is deeply rooted in the service industry with a transient population that far outweighed the permanent population. Resources have historically supported tourism disproportionately,” Butler said. New emphasis on non-hospitality industries, he added, has created better balance in the local economy and provides exciting opportunities to design new health, commercial and mixed-use developments.

HKS designers in Central Florida are also answering the call to work on public sector projects as local governments invest in building places that support the area’s expanding permanent population. New community venues for sports and the performing arts, transit system facilities and civic buildings are among the types of design projects rising in number, particularly in Orlando, Butler said.

Another of Florida’s major cities, Miami, is also experiencing rapid population growth and a diversifying job market as many people from the Northeast moved there during the pandemic.

“Miami is growing to the point where you can’t build quick enough for the people who are moving here,” HKS Miami Office Director Jonathan Borrell.

Although Miami is a tourist destination like other Florida locales, it has the unique quality of being an international business hub with large financial institutions and deep connections to the global hospitality industry. Borrell said that the inflow of new residents, combined with big business interests, is driving a wave of mixed-use developments.

“There’s a big market here for commercial mixed-use,” Borrell said, adding that the HKS team there is building relationships with local clients who want to provide more connected and vibrant 24/7 destinations throughout Miami.

What “Mixed-Use” Means Moving Forward

HKS leaders from the region said a strong desire for mixed-use properties permeates most cities in the U.S. Southeast. What “mixed use” means, however, is evolving in light of population and economic growth, expanding to include more types of properties than a traditional blend of residential and commercial.

“In middle markets, developers are very interested in multi-modal transportation and mixed-use developments,” Kraus said. “And the mix of uses can be a broad range.”

In Raleigh and the North Carolina Research Triangle, science and technology companies, research organizations and the area’s many higher education institutions are driving demand for life science centers, and innovation-based workplaces and learning environments. Dunn said that design teams there are working with clients to create mixed-use hubs with these — and many other — types of buildings at the heart.

“Creating depth with different uses is what makes a space dynamic and attractive to people. We look at amenities like retail, parks, entertainment and how they connect to the community,” Dunn said.

In middle markets, developers are very interested in multi-modal transportation and mixed-use developments.

As the city grows, Dunn says Raleigh is becoming an attractive destination for conferences and sporting events, which require diverse venues, hotels, dining, and retail located in close proximity.

“We have a great need for hotels that developers and investors are looking into. The city has lost opportunities to host national events due to the lack of hotel rooms to support them,” said Dunn. Building on the success of the firm’s hospitality work in the Southeast on major projects for clients including Four Seasons, Marriott, and the Biltmore, HKS is deepening local relationships to support Raleigh’s goal to accommodate large-scale events.

Integrated Design Approaches for Stronger Outcomes

Regional Director Kraus and all four HKS Office Directors located in the Southeast said the firm is committed to diversifying design service offerings and enhancing the built environment during this period of change — and they’re working together to do so.

“We are one firm and one profit center globally. We work well at leveraging our different sectors and services in all our work, and I think that will continue,” said Volosin. She shared the example that firm-wide strategic advisors, designers and planners are collaborating with non-profit organizations and city agencies for more equitable public environments in the Atlanta metro area.

Borrell and Butler said HKS’ Florida offices are expanding upon the firm’s long legacy of working on health and hospitality projects by sharing the talents of designers from those sectors with local commercial, education and senior living clients.

“The more we find ways to blur lines between practices, the better position we’ll be in to deliver better projects for our clients and have stronger, more collaborative teams across offices,” Butler said.

The more we find ways to blur lines between practices, the better position we’ll be in to deliver better projects for our clients and have stronger, more collaborative teams across offices.

Architects are working with colleges and universities in all parts of the Southeast — including the University of North Carolina, Duke University, and Florida International University — on a wide spectrum of building types including residential, education, sports, life science and health facilities. By distributing talent across practice areas, HKS designers are creating learning, working, and leisure spaces for a rising generation of business, research and medical professionals.

“There are synergies between all these different practice areas. Our individual practice areas are working together to determine the best opportunities and offer a depth of expertise,” Dunn said.

As the Southeast’s economy and population both continue to shift and grow, HKS is seeking to strengthen its partnerships with communities, helping to ensure a bright future through innovation and collaboration.

“We want to be seen as the go-to firm for creative solutions to complex problems, where we can have an impact at the project level, neighborhood level and city level,” Kraus said.


HKS Announces New Mexico City Leadership Team and Office Move

HKS Announces New Mexico City Leadership Team and Office Move

HKS, a global design company recognized as one of Fast Company’s Most Innovative Architecture Firms, today opens the doors to our new location at Insurgentes Sur 1431 PB-2, Insurgentes Mixcoac, in Mexico City. We also want to introduce our new Mexico City leadership team: Juan Carlos Pineda as Office Director, Jorge Bracho Marzal as Studio Practice Leader, and Dan Flower as Senior Designer. Juan Carlos will oversee studio management, with Jorge and Dan leading design.

Left to right, Juan Carlos Pineda, Jorge Bracho Marzal, Dan Flower

Twenty Years in Mexico City 

Since opening our doors in Mexico City in 2002, our local studio has participated in many award-winning projects supported by HKS’ global network of talent. Our new Mexico City office reflects our belief that design excellence should embrace a commitment to ESG, or environmental and sustainable governance and demonstrates our latest thinking in workplace design. 

“Nowadays sustainable design is not an option, but a must,” Jorge Bracho said. “At HKS Mexico, we are committed to designing projects for all our stakeholders – communities, clients, end users and the planet — that excel in form and function, as well as projects that minimize negative environmental impacts and energy consumption.”

At HKS Mexico, we are committed to designing projects for all our stakeholders – communities, clients, end users and the planet.

Expanding our commitment to the city, region, and country 

Entering our twentieth year in Mexico, we will build upon HKS’ reputation for delivering exceptional projects to local, regional, and global clients, with a focus on the hospitality, health, education, commercial and mixed-use markets. “We have a great team here in Mexico,” said Juan Carlos, a Principal at HKS. “We look forward to moving into our new home and working with our current and future clients on exciting new work.”

“Our new leadership team and office in Mexico City reflects our long-standing commitment to Mexico,” said Dan Noble, President and CEO of HKS.  “Juan Carlos, Jorge, and Dan are exceptionally talented and committed to expanding our client and partner relationships. We are already working on many new projects in Mexico and look forward to many more.”

Luis Zapiain and Sergio Saenz, both HKS Principals and Global Directors of the firm’s Hospitality practice, remain closely tied to our Mexico City office and leadership. Our portfolio of resorts in Mexico notably includes Esperanza, an Auberge Resort; Las Ventanas Al Paraiso, a Rosewood Resort; and Waldorf Astoria Los Cabos Pedregal.


Our new leadership team and office in Mexico City reflects our long-standing commitment to Mexico.


HKS, la empresa global de diseño reconocida como una de las firmas de arquitectura más innovadoras por Fast Company, abre hoy las puertas de su nueva ubicación en Insurgentes Sur 1431 PB-2, Insurgentes Mixcoac, en la Ciudad de México. También presenta a nuestro nuevo equipo de liderazgo en la Ciudad de México: Juan Carlos Pineda como Director de Oficina, Jorge Bracho como Líder del Estudio de Diseño, y Dan Flower como Director de Diseño. Juan Carlos supervisará la administración del estudio, con Jorge y Dan a cargo del diseño.

Veinte años en la Ciudad de México

Desde que abrimos nuestras puertas en la Ciudad de México en 2002, nuestro estudio ha participado en muchos proyectos galardonados, apoyados por la red global de talento de HKS. Nuestra nueva oficina en la Ciudad de México refleja nuestra creencia de que la excelencia en el diseño debe incluir un compromiso con la gobernanza ambiental y sostenible (ESG, por sus siglas en inglés), y demuestra nuestro pensamiento más actual en el diseño del centro de trabajo. 

“Hoy en día, el diseño sostenible no es una opción, sino un deber”, comentó Jorge Bracho. “En HKS México, estamos comprometidos con el diseño de proyectos para todos nuestros grupos de interés (comunidades, clientes, usuarios finales y el planeta) que sobresalgan en forma y función, así como proyectos que minimicen los impactos ambientales negativos y el consumo de energía”.

Ampliando nuestro compromiso con la ciudad, la región y el país

Al ingresar a nuestro vigésimo año en México, aprovecharemos la reputación de HKS como base para entregar proyectos excepcionales a clientes locales, regionales y globales, con un enfoque en los mercados de turismo y hotelería, salud, educación, comercial y de uso mixto. “Tenemos un gran equipo aquí en México”, comentó Juan Carlos, director de HKS. “Estamos ansiosos por trasladarnos a nuestro nuevo hogar y trabajar con nuestros clientes actuales y futuros en nuevos y emocionantes proyectos”.

“Nuestro nuevo equipo de liderazgo y oficina en la Ciudad de México refleja nuestro compromiso a largo plazo con México”, anunció Dan Noble, Presidente y Director Ejecutivo de HKS.  “Juan Carlos, Jorge y Dan son excepcionalmente talentosos y están comprometidos a expandir nuestras relaciones con clientes y socios. Ya estamos trabajando en numerosos proyectos nuevos en México y esperamos muchos más”.

Luis Zapiain y Sergio Sáenz, ambos Socios y Directores Globales de HKS del sector de Hotelería de la firma, permanecerán estrechamente vinculados a nuestra oficina y liderazgo en la Ciudad de México. Nuestra cartera de resorts en México incluye proyectos emblemáticos como: Esperanza, de Auberge Resort; Las Ventanas Al Paraíso, Rosewood Resort; y Waldorf Astoria en Pedregal Los Cabos.

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.

HKS Expands Its Presence in North Carolina With the Opening of Raleigh Office

HKS Expands Its Presence in North Carolina With the Opening of Raleigh Office

HKS, a global design company recognized as one of Fast Company’s Most Innovative Architecture Firms, is expanding in North Carolina with the opening of an office in Raleigh.

A leader among international architecture and design firms, HKS is known for its innovative ability to create and deliver environments of distinction through award-winning architecture, planning, interior design, research and commitment to ESG (environmental, social and governance). Since 1984, HKS has been a part of designing more than 200 North Carolina-based projects including Cone Health, Wake Forest Baptist Health, Duke Health, JW Charlotte, American Tobacco Master Plan, Smoky Hollow and Biltmore in Asheville. 

“We have been active in the Research Triangle for many years,” said Dan Noble, President and CEO of HKS. “Our new office in Raleigh will allow us to expand our offerings to our existing clients, develop new relationships with clients and partners and deepen our commitment to the community.”

“Our new office in Raleigh will allow us to expand our offerings to our existing clients, develop new relationships with clients and partners and deepen our commitment to the community.”

HKS has long been active in the Raleigh area, offering a local portal to a global network of award-winning designers. The new office – the firm’s 26th — will focus on Commercial/Mixed-Use, Life Sciences, Education and Health projects. The Raleigh office will be led by North Carolina native Lynn Dunn, along with an energetic staff of nine.

Dunn attended North Carolina State University and believes that great design begins locally by achieving clients’ visions through a reflection of their brand, mission and purpose. Dunn empowers designers at all levels, cultivating their passions and strengths and collectively connecting with the community for the greatest impact.

“I am excited for the opportunity to open and lead the Raleigh studio for HKS, bringing national and global design perspectives to the region that I call home,” said Dunn, a Principal at HKS. “Building on the tremendous portfolio of work in the Carolinas over the past three decades, HKS will continue to make an impact on businesses and the local community through the creation of high-performance environments that support physical and mental health. The unprecedented and stimulating growth we are seeing in the region needs leadership, innovation and social and cultural consciousness. HKS is the right firm at the right time in North Carolina and offers me the opportunity to further serve my community through thoughtful design and creating a sense of place for all.”

“HKS is the right firm at the right time in North Carolina and offers me the opportunity to further serve my community through thoughtful design and creating a sense of place for all.”

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.

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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Bringing Equity into Focus, HKS Honors Black History Month 2022

Bringing Equity into Focus, HKS Honors Black History Month 2022

Each year in February, we celebrate Black History Month by recognizing and honoring Black Americans who have influenced our country’s history and paved the way for future generations to succeed. The Association for the Study of African American Life and History (ASALH) defines an annual theme for the month, and the 2022 theme, “Black Health and Wellness,” is especially relevant and one that’s personal to me as a designer. Architects should take great pride and responsibility in our ability to impact health and well-being through the buildings we create, the communities we impact, and the end-users who interact with our facilities. We have the power to create places that address and potentially resolve systemic inequities that continue to exist in Black communities today.

Though our industry historically has low numbers of Black architects, we are making progress in being a more diverse and equitable field, and we all play a part in that — whether through recruitment efforts, mentoring opportunities, community outreach, and more. And it’s more important than ever before; with a more diverse population racially, culturally, and socioeconomically within the U.S., the teams designing buildings in diverse communities should make efforts to reflect those environments. If our teams can better reflect the populations for which we design, we can ensure more inclusive, equitable and successful projects for all stakeholders.

After all, our role is not to design for people, it’s to design with people.

HKS is fortunate to have a growing number of Black leaders within our firm who bring their expertise and visions to life each day while paving the way for future team members to join our firm and the industry at large. We’ve asked a few of them to share their thoughts on this year’s Black History Month theme, their role within our industry, and how they contribute in their communities.

From left to right: Shantee Blain, Selwyn Crawford, Chandler Funderburg, Tyrone Loper

What is your cultural background and how do you connect with it?

Shantee Blain — Office Director and Project Architect; Washington, D.C.

All four of my grandparents come from mixed lineage and they and my parents all identified or identify as Black, as do I. I consider myself a native of the DMV (District, Maryland and Virginia) area. My parents relocated here from Southern Virginia shortly after they married, and my siblings and I were born and raised here.

Selwyn Crawford – Editor; Dallas

I hail from the Deep South (Florida), as do both of my parents (Georgia), and I strongly identify with the Southern Black experience – and for me, that is not a negative.

Chandler Funderburg (Davis) – Engineer; Fort Worth

My mom is Black and white, and my father is Nigerian, but I grew up with my mom’s side of the family, all of whom are white—just like the majority of my peers in grade school. It took me a long time to make sense of who I was and find a real sense of authentic identity, but it also allowed me to develop the skill of adaptation, patience with people, and a widened perspective of the world.

Tyrone Loper – Senior Project Architect; Detroit

My father, Otis Loper, was born just under a century ago in rural Mississippi. My grandfather, Marshal Loper, was a sharecropper born in the late nineteenth century. It is believed that my great grandfather was born in bondage in rural Mississippi. This would place me three generations post chattel slavery. My parents moved north during the second great migration and settled in a Detroit Slum called Black Bottom. The City of Detroit razed Black Bottom and my parents settled into one of the many neighborhoods open to Negros after European immigrants settled into Post-War suburban Detroit.

How does the theme “Black Health and Wellness” resonate with you as important in the year 2022?

Blain: Black Health and Wellness, and specifically Black mental health, is often overlooked — not just from a global standpoint, but also within the Black community. Often, mental health isn’t talked about until it’s too late, but there’s been more conversation about it recently during the pandemic and due to the Black Lives Matter movement. Working from home during the pandemic was beneficial because it took away the need to be “on” all the time at work, but it was also easy to get sucked into the distress of the news. I plan to find a better balance by taking the time to process and reflect. 

Crawford: To me, Black Health and Wellness goes back to the days of slavery and how from then until this very day, Black people have constantly prepared themselves physically, emotionally, and spiritually, for the unique challenges that they face. In other words, “Black Health and Wellness” is not just a 2022 thing or a COVID-19 pandemic thing, it’s a generational way-of-life thing.

Funderburg: Black Health was and still is so often neglected, and it’s important not only to address and improve barriers to our physical health, but also to allow ourselves to care for our mental health and well-being. In the Black community, at times, we get caught up trying to prove ourselves and our worth through work and striving, but we often don’t put enough emphasis on taking the space to give our mind and body the care and rest they need to live a fulfilling and long life. I’d like to see that change.

Loper: The Association for the Study of African American Life and History 2022 theme “Black Health and Wellness” is timely in this pandemic. SARS-COV-2 exploits comorbidities or underlying health conditions and as such magnified the poor nutrition, lack of access to medical care, fresh air and safe spaces for Black men, women and children

“Black Health and Wellness” is not just a 2022 thing or a COVID-19 pandemic thing, it’s a generational way-of-life thing.

Tell us about a project or initiative you have contributed to that you are particularly proud of.

Blain: I’m proud of how diverse the D.C. office has become in recent years. I started with HKS when the office opened about 17 years ago and we had few people of color and no women in leadership positions. We’ve dedicated ourselves to bringing on and promoting diverse talent as the office has grown. We reach out to students — including those at HBCUs like my alma mater Florida A&M and local schools like Howard University — to offer guidance and make connections for hiring staff and interns. Personally, I make a point to maintain mentoring relationships with young people I meet through those initiatives and through more informal connections. It’s a huge deal when you have people who look like you in your desired field or workplace.

Crawford: Since I joined HKS in June 2018, I have been directly involved in the hiring of four full-time employees. Of those four, three (75 percent) have been people of color. If we continue on a similar path to seeking diversity in all areas, it can only serve to elevate our firm.

Funderburg: I was incredibly grateful to be a part of the work done by the HKS J.E.D.I Council and Champions this past year. I’ve seen so many people channel their time and energy into making HKS an even better place to work for everyone and I can’t wait to see what impacts continue to be made for HKS and for the young talent that we hope to see in our seats one day.

Loper: In 2011, I encouraged HKS Detroit leadership to start recruitment and I led the first interview team at my alma mater, The University of Detroit Mercy, hoping to identify more Black American talent. In 2018, I successfully secured HKS sponsorship of the inaugural Hip Hop Architecture Camp offered through the Museum of Contemporary Art – Detroit (MOCAD). There, a group of Detroit youth got to craft imaginary space from their unique perspective using the Hip Hop genre as inspiration for expression. For most of these young people, this camp was their introduction to creating architecture and interacting with architects.

How would you encourage peers and colleagues in the architecture, design and construction industries to provide support for Black people in the workforce — not just during Black History month, but always?

Blain:  Encourage younger staff to reach out to you and have frank conversations with them. Advocate for them to get experiences you may not have gotten when you were just starting out.  I’m genuinely interested and invested in the professional growth of our office and believe we succeed together when given opportunities to pursue what we are most passionate about. Also, expanding your network and circle is important. Over the last few years in our more virtual work environment, it’s made a huge difference to me to make more connections with people outside of D.C and the East region.

Crawford: First, don’t just talk about it, be about it. Second, along with your complaints, bring viable solutions to fix what you’re complaining about; and lastly, advocate on behalf of someone other than yourself, particularly your fellow Black colleagues whose work efforts might seemingly be overlooked.

Funderburg: Widen your circle. The best way to learn how to support someone is to get to know them. If you make an intentional effort to understand someone’s needs, motivations and background, it’ll be easier to know what you can do to support them.  But most importantly, help make space for people to be themselves, whether you understand every aspect of who they are or not.

Loper: I would encourage my peers to participate in one of the many initiatives that companies like HKS have launched, such as our HBCU Engagement Team. Recently, the Detroit chapter of the National Organization of Minority Architects (NOMA) sponsored a career fair and encouraged young professionals to participate. I know firsthand the power of such exposure. During high school, I participated in the inaugural Boy Scouts of America Explorers Group, sponsored by a large architecture firm. I knew that a career in architecture was a real possibility for me because the director of the group was a Black American architect.

The Breathable Airport, Part 3: Beyond

The Breathable Airport, Part 3: Beyond

This is the third and final article in a three-part series on how we can utilize the latest advancements and knowledge of ecosystems, mechanical and ventilation systems and material science to finally enable the design of a “breathable” airport that is capable of cleaning the air and enabling natural ventilation for the well-being of its users.

The NOW and NEXT strategies previously described can be implemented into existing infrastructure, expanded into large scale renovations or implemented into the design process for new additions such as concourse expansions or new concourse construction.  The BEYOND category builds on those strategies by integrating large-scale interior and exterior solutions for new, ground-up construction.  These concepts aim to impact both the airport and the surrounding community. The timeline for this category is 30 years from now and beyond.

The Beyond Impact

The Future Airport Prototype will attempt to provide clean air equally and holistically throughout the interior and exterior of the airport by integrating multiple strategies into one prototype.  It reimagines the spatial layout by organizing spaces into a ring centered around a courtyard and smog tower.  A hybrid of biological air purification strategies and mechanical solutions, with heavier reliance on the former, provides an equal distribution of clean air.

An Air Traffic Smog Tower located in the center of the courtyard of the central ring begins the air cleaning process by pulling in polluted air at the top of the tower and distributing clean area at the base to the surrounding courtyard. Operable walls at levels 2 and 3 provide an opportunity for natural cross ventilation through the building during warmer months.  To continue the biophilic elements inside the building, bio gardens create an inner spine with a park-like atmosphere, surrounded by holdrooms and concessions.

The BEYOND solution(s) take a whole-building approach to embracing biological-based systems at the dominant mitigation strategy for poor air quality while letting technology continue to perform as needed. In turn, the approach begins to change the typology of an airport as it must facilitate air circulation through the building through a natural environment and rely on passive strategies for air movement.

The Path Forward

The aviation industry has recently adopted a climate goal of net-zero carbon emissions by 2050. Embracing out-of-the-box thinking as it pertains to airport operations and infrastructure will play a major role in reaching this goal. The scalable solutions we have outlined in this three-part series allow facilities to begin implementing green initiatives into existing infrastructure while encouraging them to visualize a greater impact for future building projects which benefit the employees, the passengers and the community.

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].

The Breathable Airport, Part 2: Next

The Breathable Airport, Part 2: Next

This is the second article in a three-part series on how we can utilize the latest advancements and knowledge of ecosystems, mechanical and ventilation systems, and material science to enable the design of a “breathable” airport capable of cleaning the air and enabling natural ventilation. 

The NOW strategies described in part one of this series are designed for implementation with little or no disruption to existing infrastructure. The NEXT category expands on that concept and includes interior and exterior solutions that can be integrated into existing projects during large-scale renovations or implemented into the design process for new additions such as concourse expansions or new concourse construction. The timeline for this category is 15-30 years from now.

The Next Impact

The NEXT solutions integrate biological air purification elements into the building architecture and play a major role in improving air quality while working in tandem with mechanical systems to improve their efficiency and enable partial natural ventilation. This approach increases the scale of impact that bio-solutions have on the built environment and can be planned and implemented on larger additions or renovations of existing airport buildings.

Bio Air Prototype

Bio Air is an integrated interior prototype that can be used across common airport spaces such as the main terminal, security, concessions/retail and passenger waiting areas. This solution utilizes displacement air, which is an energy-efficient mechanical system that reduces the spread of airborne particles and pathogens. Bio-filters can be integrated into this system in the building’s interior to further clean the air that is supplied to occupants. Planters, seating elements, interior walls, counters and column enclosures all offer opportunities for integrated interior biophilic designs that provide both air cleaning and connect occupants to the natural environment.

Bio Garden Prototype

Bio Gardens are integrated green spaces that can be designed into a variety of locations in the airport including the concourse area. The gardens are linked to a filtration system that cleans exterior air, specifically polluted air from jet fuel exhaust. Bio Gardens offer a natural and lush indoor/outdoor space for occupants to enjoy clean air during temperate conditions.

Big Tower Prototype

The Bio Tower attempts to capitalize on a common but often underutilized airport structure – the air traffic control tower. Polluted air is sucked into a greenhouse at the base of the tower and solar energy is used to heat the air. As the hot air rises, it passes through multiple cleaning filters and exits at the top of the tower. 

Like the NOW solutions, all of the above prototypes can be implemented separately or in various combinations for facilities that want to incorporate more passive air cleaning into facility additions. The NEXT solutions attempt to blur the boundary between interior and exterior by integrating biological air purification strategies with mechanical systems for a larger impact on energy savings and the health and well-being of occupants.

The third and final part of this series will explore the BEYOND solutions that reimagine the entire airport building.

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].

The Breathable Airport, Part 1: Now

The Breathable Airport, Part 1: Now

The Challenge

Airports have long been a hotbed of poor air quality, both inside the terminals themselves and on the surrounding property. The buildings, vehicles and aircraft are known culprits of harmful emissions. In addition, as large gathering spaces where millions of people circulate and congregate, airports can help spread contagious diseases quickly and easily. As a result, airports operate as closed ecosystems that compromise the quality of air circulating throughout the building.

Pollutants and pathogens continuously affect the health of travelers and airport employees. Combustion of jet fuels produces pollutants that impact air quality both indoors and outdoors, emitting byproducts such as carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide and nitrous oxide. Pathogens can be viruses or bacteria that can rapidly spread through air and/or surfaces.

The Scalable Solutions

To design airports that are capable of both improving interior air quality and even cleaning omissions generated by nearby planes, we looked at how natural ecosystems breathe. Plants and algae often play this role in natural ecosystems, taking in air, cleansing it of toxins, and returning it to the environment in a form that is healthier for humans. We analyzed these natural ecosystems in relation to the latest technological advancements in ventilation and material science to propose a “breathable” airport, one that cleans air to provide environments that support the health and well-being of people.

We created a three-part, scalable approach that benefits passengers, employees and the surrounding community:

Over time, pollutants will decrease and pathogens will change. Biological air purification strategies will have a larger role in the future, and we will depend less on mechanical ventilation while beginning to blur the barrier between the interior and exterior.

The Now Impact

The idea of the NOW is for airports to implement solutions that are currently available at a small scale and can be applicable to existing spaces that want to enhance the quality of air. Or projects that are relatively small in scale.

“Seating Breeze”

This prototype integrates a biophilic air cleaning unit into holdroom furniture placement. This system can be combined with displacement air and can be seamlessly integrated into holdrooms where space is limited.

The “Park Pod” 

This prototype can operate as an independent habitat/ecosystem within underutilized spaces such as ticketing islands, moving walkways and old offices. Not only does it clean surrounding air but utilizes biophilic elements that can benefit the well-being of passengers by reducing stress levels and providing an area of rest and reprieve. Organic shaped benches, CityBreeze units incorporate moss walls that can clean 82% of fine dust from the air with visual displays that can showcase the system itself, ads or local artwork.

Bio Trees & Bio Panels

The Bio Tree prototype can utilize apron-level space for the placement of algae “trees” that can clean pollutants from the air before they enter the building. Additionally, algae panels can be added to existing façade walls. Both strategies can clean the air, benefiting employees working on the apron level as well as occupants on the interior by providing cleaner air at air intake locations.

All the previous solutions can be implemented separately or in various combinations for facilities that want to incorporate sustainable air cleaning strategies with the added positive impact to occupant health and well-being.

Part two of this series will explore the NEXT solutions – those that can be integrated into large-scale renovations or considered during the design of a new concourse.

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].

Celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month: Four HKS Members Share their Stories

Celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month: Four HKS Members Share their Stories

Hispanic Heritage Month is celebrated September 15 to October 15 each year to honor the contributions of Hispanic Americans throughout United States history. This year’s theme — “Esperanza,” the Spanish word for hope — is especially timely given the state of the world.

Hispanic Heritage Month coincides with the national independence days of Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Mexico, Chile and Belize.

While the month recognizes contributions of Hispanic Americans to our history, culture, and achievements, it is also a reminder that Hispanic Americans and Latin Americans offer diverse perspectives and experiences that cannot be classified with one brushstroke.

More than 62 million Americans – at least 19 percent of the nation’s population – identified as Hispanic in 2020, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

We spoke to four members of HKS – all of whom represent different practice areas and experience levels – to understand what their Hispanic heritage means to them and how it has shaped them personally and professionally.

From left to right, German Carmona, Mariana Santiago, Nicole Acarón-Toro, and Priscilla Cuadra

What is your heritage?

Nicole Acarón-Toro — Project Architect, Los Angeles

Boricua. I’m Puerto Rican, born and raised in the Island, which depending on the lens you look at it with, makes me an immigrant, even though Puerto Ricans are U.S. citizens by birth.

German Carmona — Senior Urban and Architectural Designer, New York City

I was born and raised in Argentina. My mother and her family are Italian immigrants, and my father is from Spaniard and Portuguese descent. I am of Latin descent, even though I do not identify as Latino. I think most Argentineans don’t, since that corner of Latin America is more of a melting pot of heritage. I do consider myself “White Hispanic of Latin descent.”

Priscilla Cuadra — Architect, Miami

My family is Nicaraguan.

Mariana Santiago — Design Professional, Dallas

I was born in Argentina, but I also have Italian and Lebanese heritage.

This year’s theme for Hispanic Heritage Month is “Esperanza: A Celebration of Hispanic Heritage and Hope.” What does that mean to you personally?

Acarón-Toro: I strive to walk in the world with esperanza y fé (hope and faith) always guiding me, knowing that hope needs to be grounded in action for my path to lead towards growth and alignment with my highest self. As an individual, I grow wiser the more I expose myself to different cultural backgrounds and traditions, and it is my hope that Hispanic and Latinx communities, not only this month, but year-round, feel empowered to represent and expose who we are in a way that provokes curiosity in others to celebrate our beautiful nuances and grow wiser altogether.

Cuadra: The word “esperanza” or hope reminds me of the purpose a lot of Immigrants, including my family, have when moving to this country. It reminds me of the American Dream, and the grit it takes to succeed.

Santiago: To me, hope is essential for our wellbeing, hope that things will be better each day. I believe in the importance of hope but also of hard work and persistence. When working hard on something that you believe in, you understand its true value. You begin to respect the work itself and build some good qualities along the way.

As an individual, I grow wiser the more I expose myself to different cultural backgrounds and traditions.

Reflecting on your heritage, upbringing and/or values, what are you most proud of about your culture?

Acarón-Toro: When going back in studying ancestral traditions, all dances, music, and celebrations were organized in a circular manner, highlighting that everyone is equally important, and holds their own weight in contributing to the collective community.  This directly translates to our present, in which we still lift each other up, and face adversities together, with an incredible resiliency and joy.

Carmona: My heritage values and culture are why I picked a city like New York City for my home. It is a clear melting pot of backgrounds, races, beliefs, culture – all of it! New York City and my home country, Argentina, are the perfect celebration of inclusivity and individualism at the same time.

Cuadra: There are a lot of things to be proud of, but most of all, I’m proud of being raised by fearless people. I admire their ability to adjust to a completely new environment, and most importantly, how they chose to see the humor in their struggles to fit in.

There’s always room for the design industries to grow and advance. What are some ways we can restore power to underrepresented communities through our profession?

Acarón-Toro: For current professionals, really diving and listening to the communities where their projects are located at is key, yet we also need to look at future generations of architects for further growth.  When I contrast my experience studying architecture in Puerto Rico vs studying and teaching in LA, the curriculum in PR was more diverse, promoting studies of local and vernacular architecture, architecture from Spain, Latin America and other parts of the world, and several design studios with projects sited in underrepresented communities.  I truly believe the Academia in the U.S. has room to improve in representation as well as instill values that hold our professionals accountable as citizen architects.

Carmona: I believe the answer is already happening. Acknowledgement is the first step toward it, and we are talking about it, aren’t we? Then action of course, and I want to believe we are also starting to do it. I remember one of my first projects in our New York office was the first time I attended a client meeting where HKS was determined to stand in front of a client panel making sure all genders and at least five races were represented in the selected team members who attended. It made me so proud and surprised at the same time, it was completely unprecedented for me.  

Santiago: The role of the Latin community is already growing. To nurture this, we need to be receptive and empathetic to other people’s backgrounds. What has helped me with this in the past is to experience new things and being out of my comfort zone.

Not Just a Building: Using Design and Advocacy to Create More Socially Just Communities

Not Just a Building: Using Design and Advocacy to Create More Socially Just Communities

Every major U.S. city has been historically affected by social and spatial injustice in some way, from housing to policing to policymaking. And reversing generations of unjust policy making and economic disenfranchisement will require individuals across industries to take an active role in redefining  our cities.

An HKS panel recently explored what the architecture industry can do to help create more socially just communities. As stewards of the building environment, architects, designers and planners have the unique opportunity to redistribute power to undeserved communities by translating their vision and voices into the spaces around them.

The multidisciplinary panel, organized as part of HKS’ two-week ESG in Design Celebration and moderated by HKS Project Designer Hilari Jones, captured how the industry can enable social justice through urbanism, policy, and community-focused projects to encourage inclusion and a stronger sense of belonging among the people those projects serve.

Each speaker touched on the value of diverse teams, repairing community relationships, and scaling the impacts to enable broader change.

‘Designing for Humans’

For New York Architect and Keynote Speaker Pascale Sablan, socially just design starts with intentionality.

“We need to not just think about the client who pays the bills, but also who is impacted by the projects and structures that we are developing,” said Sablan, who founded the organization, Beyond the Built Environment, to advocate for equitable environments that reflect the diversity of their people.

Success in architecture is often evaluated on the finished product: How big is it? What features does it have? What makes it unique? The panelists emphasized that design teams should challenge themselves to think bigger, defining their purpose and processes early on and ensuring that each project meets those shared goals.

“It’s actually not a building – it’s an opportunity. Who are you going to invite to be your partner in that?” said panelist Karen Weigert, of the climate-focused nonprofit Slipstream.

“And we forget that we’re designing for humans,” Patricia Acevedo of JLG Architects added. “If we’re looking inside our site, we’re forgetting that architecture is the first impression that people have of any town.”

Repairing Community Relationships

Community engagement is more than simply checking off a box before starting a project, the speakers said. The planning process should be a human-centered approach that strives to serve, not harm, the people whom the project touches.

At the start of any project, it’s wise for designers to identify who isn’t in the room and invite them to have a say in the decision-making process. Failure to do this can erode the trust of the community, leaving ripple effects that last well past the project’s completion.

“I get asked all the time, ‘How can we introduce architecture to kids of color or socioeconomically challenges communities?’” Sablan said. “And it’s not that they don’t know what architecture is; it’s that their relationship with architecture is negative. Their built environment fails to provide them the kind of spaces that they need.”

Siboney Díaz-Sánchez is a licensed architect who became a nonprofit affordable housing developer because she was tired of advocating for more community voices in projects and being told by clients that those voices had no place in the scope of the project.

At the start of any project, it’s wise for designers to identify who isn’t in the room and invite them to have a say in the decision-making process.

She participates in the Design as Protest collaborative that works with artists, architects, designers, and planners to make policy recommendations addressing issues such as permanent affordable housing, eviction, and social injustice.

In her current role as a developer, community members are paid as consultants for sharing insight on upcoming projects.

“They have valuable experience information and should be compensated for that,” Díaz-Sánchez said. “Not only do we make room in the schedule for those feedback loops, but we need to compensate community members for their time.”

Díaz-Sánchez explains to owners early in the process that if they get input from the community up front, it could save them money that they would spend later on legal fees and other expenses to address issues that residents might bring up during public forums or hearings.

“It’s going to benefit the project, the sustainability of the project, the pride of the project, and the longevity of the project if we have community voice and authorship,” she said.

Elizabeth Kennedy, who leads one of the oldest black-owned and woman-run architecture firms in the U.S., said it’s also important for everyone on a design team to leverage their unique identities to bring out the best in their work. She shared how her own experiences as a Black woman have helped her be more aware of the experiences of other people of color – even when those experiences are different than her own.

Working with clients, one key step is to educate them about the process of completing their project and the impact the project could have on the surrounding community. After learning of the impact on the surrounding community and ways to engage them in the project, clients may be more willing to support  an equitable solution that serves their business interests and addresses the community’s needs.

“Just like doctors, who originated as patients, had to learn bedside manner, there has to be some concerted effort of restoring to individuals the ability to understand the process … in order to advocate through design solutions that sustain,” Kennedy said.

Scaling the Changes

But change and advocacy don’t necessarily require grand gestures. Sometimes, the broader changes within the architecture industry come from more socially responsible policies that can tackle a variety of issues and concerns.

Policies can address equity, climate and sustainability while also dictating who is paid to do the work, as a way to give back power to communities that have been historically left behind in the public realm.

For example, some states now require a certain amount of money be set aside for energy efficient measures at new constructions. And some businesses have altered their procurement policies to prefer, or require, hiring minority or women-owned businesses for their construction projects.

Designers can also connect with like-minded individuals outside their firms to collaborate on issues they are most passionate about and learn what else their own firms can do  to move the needle forward.

Sablan is an active member of the National Organization of Minority Architects (NOMA), where she promotes knowledge-sharing among younger and more veteran members. She also founded Beyond the Built Environment in 2018 to promote diverse voices and stories, and show the various pathways that minority designers have taken in the field.

“I’m empowering us to feel comfortable about telling our stories, sharing ourselves, and being the author of how we’re introduced to the profession,” she said. “I’m also exploring all the different ways that we impact the built environment because there’s not just one right way to do it.”

Three Big Ideas for Tackling the Global Carbon Conundrum

Three Big Ideas for Tackling the Global Carbon Conundrum

The latest report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change sent shockwaves around the world, clearly communicating a sobering point — we’re running out of time to stave off the fatal effects of global warming.

While many greenhouse gases and pollutants drive up temperatures threatening the earth and its inhabitants, the August 9th report confirmed that the main driver of climate change is the amount of carbon dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere. Fortunately, experts behind the research believe humans still have the ability to influence what happens next.

“Stabilizing the climate will require strong, rapid, and sustained reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, and reaching net zero CO2 emissions,” according to a statement by Panmao Zhai, co-chair of the IPCC working group that wrote the report.

The crucial role design can play in reaching a net zero future is not lost on many in our industry.

“You would be hard-pressed to find an architect who hasn’t heard that buildings are responsible for nearly 40 percent of the world’s carbon dioxide emissions,” said HKS’ Director of Building Engineering Physics, Dr. Tommy Zakrzewski. “This is our chance to respond to the crisis.”

This is our chance to respond to the crisis.

During HKS’ recent “Carbon Crackdown” virtual panel, Zakrzewski and three building industry professionals discussed the many ways operational and embodied carbon are generated through design and construction activities. As part of our ESG in Design Celebration, a two-week long event series to raise awareness among our employees about important environmental, social and governance topics, the panel outlined strategies that can drastically lessen carbon production and emissions.

Spanning large to small scale changes, these experts revealed three key insights for how everyone who contributes to the built environment — including governments, developers, manufacturers and designers — can tackle the global carbon conundrum.

1 – If We Don’t Create High-Performing Buildings, We Will Lose Out

As climate change brings about massive ecological and social shifts, governments and policy makers have been noticeably slow to adapt building codes and impose emissions regulations. According to Cliff Majersik, Senior Advisor of Policy and Programs at the Institute for Market Transformation (IMT), there has been an uptick in climate-responsive energy codes across the United States, but not nearly enough to limit the major impact buildings have on the environment.

“We cannot think that just because we’re designing buildings to the latest energy codes that we’re doing the right thing,” he said, encouraging designers to consider existing codes a bare minimum.

With a mission to “catalyze widespread and sustained demand for high-performing buildings,” IMT conducts market research and advises on policy. Majersik has been responsible for shaping legislation related to green buildings and energy efficiency in sizeable jurisdictions including the District of Columbia and the State of California. On the horizon, he sees a groundswell of local governments adopting stronger policies and regulations for sustainable design.

“There are a number of cities and states that have either pending building performance standards or ones that are before legislators,” he said, noting that if architects design to these incoming standards now, they can cut back on carbon impacts and present strong financial incentives for clients.

Broad policy movements are coinciding with a substantial turn toward high-performance design among corporate developers. Recent market research IMT conducted on a private global building portfolio showed that green buildings had up to 17% lower operating costs and 28% higher net operating income. Majersik noted that such studies prove the business case for high-performance design is evident and that developers, owners and operators are taking that knowledge to heart.

“It’s not just that they’re paying lower utility bills or that their buildings are more comfortable and healthier for occupants. Employees and investors are increasingly holding them accountable for greenhouse gas emissions,” he said.

As policies progress, building owners and operators could be subject to significant fines for not meeting performance standards, Majersik said. He believes that architects are the “most empowered profession” at the table in the building industries because return on investment for sustainable solutions is higher during the design phase than any other period in a building’s lifecycle.

“You need to be part of the climate solution, you need to go back to your projects, see how they’re doing and what you can learn. You need to educate your clients that this is right for the role and right for their bottom lines,” he said.

2 – Cooling Down the Planet with More Sustainable Design Doesn’t Mean Sacrificing Our Comfort

As the earth’s temperature continues to rise, we constantly see natural disasters drastically impact communities around the world. Keeping the warming level close to the IPCC’s targeted 1.5-degree Celsius limit is going to be a major challenge for all industries, including architecture, engineering and construction.

“There are different paths in the future and this [current] path can bring us up to 8 degrees Celsius. That would be a disaster,” said Tommaso Bitossi, Associate Director of German firm Transsolar, which creates high-performing, site-specific buildings and produces educational materials about sustainable design.

Increasing the efficiency of mechanical systems, optimizing building envelopes and capitalizing on renewable resources through items like photovoltaic arrays are design choices Transsolar routinely makes to limit the amount of carbon their buildings use and emit. Environmentally responsible building design, however high-tech, can only be successful when it’s conceived with mindfulness of locality and community, Bistossi said.

“Every building is different because of the local identity. And local identity and climate are connected,” he said.

Bitossi believes that making efforts to reduce global warming through the built environment doesn’t necessarily mean we have to give up the comforts we’re used to. Moving away from buildings that are essentially overly air-conditioned machines and back to incorporating passive strategies for air flow and thermal comfort, he says, will be key climate change solutions.

“There is no carbon reduction without thermal comfort. We still want to be able to move, travel and be comfortable in our buildings. We need to reach the point of carbon neutrality keeping our standards where they are,” he said.

There is no carbon reduction without thermal comfort.

High-performing buildings are only one piece of the puzzle — limiting global warming will depend on a variety of industries and organizations to work together. To reduce both embodied carbon and operational carbon emissions, Bitossi recommends integrated cross-sector solutions that consider local power sources, materials manufacturing and carbon sequestration.

Across all industries, wide-sweeping and immediate changes to reduce carbon worldwide are necessary, the IPCC report stipulates. Bitossi believes that designers and their collaborators have to make these changes a priority moving forward.  “As building professionals, we must advocate for low-carbon buildings for the future of our planet,” he said.

3 – We Should Flip the Script on Carbon and Materials

Having even a basic understanding of the damage carbon dioxide does to the atmosphere — whether it comes from building emissions or the burning of fossil fuels — is enough to cause fear and panic. But it doesn’t have to, according to Lisa Conway, Vice President of Sustainability, Americas for the global flooring company Interface.

“Carbon inherently is not a bad thing,” Conway said. “We’re all made of carbon. We have just taken too much of it and put it in the wrong place.”

Carbon inherently is not a bad thing.

To reach a carbon neutral future, Conway believes we need to “change our relationship with carbon” and focus not just on limiting the amount that goes into the atmosphere, but also drawing down the massive amount already there and repurposing it. In addition to promoting this shift in mindset, Interface’s Climate Take Back mission seeks to transform the building materials industry to be “a force for climate progress.” Interface is leading by example with a commitment to be a carbon negative enterprise by 2040 and has even developed carbon negative carpet tiles.

Materials like flooring represent a significant portion of the embodied carbon in a building project. For architects, interior designers and contractors, who all have a hand in specifying and installing materials, understanding embodied carbon and how to limit it is a crucial step they can all take in the fight against climate change. Conway recommends starting small by learning how to read and understand environmental product declarations (EPDs) and making thoughtful healthy material selections, one step at a time.

“You don’t need to know everything all at once. Become an expert on one material and then share the love of that knowledge,” she said. Conway added that she believes over time, as the building industries become more environmentally conscious, carbon negative materials that positively impact the planet will become more prevalent.

“When we can get to materials that we’re familiar with that can be carbon negative, I think it really bodes well for the industry of materials in general,” she said. “The real moonshot here is not about how much less bad we can do, but actually how we can make buildings part of the solution to reversing global warming.”

Fast Company Names HKS a Best Workplace for Innovators

Fast Company Names HKS a Best Workplace for Innovators

HKS ranked highest among design consulting firms on Fast Company magazine’s third-annual Best Workplaces for Innovators list. In 2021, the magazine honors organizations who continued to foster creative culture amidst unprecedented disruption. HKS was singled out for its research incubator program, one of the many ways the firm encouraged creativity while adopting a new flexible work policy during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Ranking #31 out of 100 on the Fast Company list, HKS is the only design consulting firm that placed among the top 75, an honor HKS President and CEO Dan Noble attributes to the firm’s culture, relationships and purpose.

“Our goal is to be the most influential firm in our industry,” said Dan Noble, President & CEO of HKS. “We want to be a trusted partner to our clients, a progressive and supportive employer and a force for good in the worldwide community. We believe in giving our people the time and resources they need to discover new and better ways of creating environments that combine beauty with performance. Our research incubator program is yielding exciting methods and ideas to do just that.”

Fast Company identified HKS’ Research Incubator as a stand-out example of our commitment to innovation. “The Research Incubator encourages diverse, inquisitive teams to think, synthesize and translate insights into impact, with a focus on new design ideas,” said HKS Global Director of Research, Dr. Upali Nanda. “When COVID hit, we had a choice. We could preserve our resources for when things returned to “normal”, or we could invest in shaping change at a time when the world needed new ideas, new hope. This recognition confirms our choice.”

When COVID hit, we had a choice. We could preserve our resources for when things returned to “normal”, or we could invest in shaping change at a time when the world needed new ideas, new hope.

One of our Research Incubator teams explored the future of work, studying how people worked from home in 2020. The goal was to explore what was successful, what was not, and form insights about the future of workplace design. The comprehensive, employee-centered study informed HKS’ new flexible work policy, underscoring our belief that work is not a place we go; it is what we do.

“Workplaces are evolving from containers to services,” says HKS Principal and Director of Commercial Interiors, Kate Davis. “Our research confirms this, and our teams now focus on crafting experiences for clients that weave together business, brand, mission and values in resilient ecosystems. I’m proud to work for a firm that leaned into the disruption of 2020 to craft a better future.”

In addition to HKS’ award-winning research program, highlights of the firm’s winning submission include COVID-19 conversions, in which we transformed civic and government facilities into flexible hospital treatment space in record time, as well as our CitizenHKS social impact program and our Justice, Equity, Diversity and Inclusion (J.E.D.I.) network.

Designing a Better Future: Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG)

Hate, Violence Must Stop Now

Hate, Violence Must Stop Now

The tragic shootings in Boulder and Atlanta epitomize the devastation and destruction wrought by prejudice, racism and blind anger. It affects all of us in a profound and visceral way. We are appalled by theses escalating senseless acts, born out of ignorance and fear.

While we don’t yet know all of the facts in either case, we do know this: hatred incited by racism, discrimination, and xenophobia is not only abhorrent and destructive, but it also diminishes our unity as human beings, erodes our trust in each other and diminishes the creative potential possessed by every one of us.

In the wake of such senseless acts anywhere, HKS categorically condemns violence and hate in all its forms. We mourn with the families of the victims in Boulder and we grieve with our Asian and Asian-American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) colleagues and communities. We stand together to build a more just, equitable, and inclusive world.

As designers, we have the responsibility to create spaces where all can thrive and feel welcome.

This recent violence compels us to strengthen our commitment to radical inclusion, relentless bias confrontation and compassion for everyone. Driven by our core values of Relationship, Character and Purpose, we pledge to create a culture that is safe, supportive, and encouraging of all voices.

We recommit to infusing social responsibility into our culture as well as our governance structure. To do this, we track our corporate objectives and key results in alignment with the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). These goals form the framework for our Environmental, Social and Governance Report, which we’ve posted to the UN website here. This report outlines the years of commitment and work that we have already completed as well as the work we have yet to do.

Achieving real change requires us to set definable goals, implement effective processes and track our progress.