Howard University East Towers

Case Study

Howard University East Towers Transformative Project Connects to a Neighborhood’s Storied Past

Washington, DC, USA

The Challenge

Howard University, a historically Black university located in Washington, D.C., has a 155-year legacy rooted in the District’s Shaw neighborhood. As it develops its portfolio of properties in the area, the University is creating a new heart of the neighborhood with vibrant and diverse mixed-use properties, housing, and public gathering spaces that connect to its historic campus and honor the history of its community.

The Design Solution

Located five blocks from the center of the Howard campus, East Towers will be a mixed-use multifamily residential building with 500 housing units and locally curated retail establishments.

HKS, its development partners at LOWE, and local minority-owned real estate firm FGLA created initial proposals for Howard University developments with thoughtful consideration of the neighborhood’s history as one of the centers of Black life in Washington. With goals of inclusion and sensitive place-making, those proposals led the University to directly award the team the East Towers project. The design approach balances sound development strategies that maximize land value with unique programming and placemaking that reinforce Howard University’s mission-oriented values and vision, along with the needs of the community.

The overall vision for the project takes its cues from the fabric of the neighborhood, beginning with a reimagining of W Street Northwest as a new neighborhood social center that promotes urban connectivity to the site. A courtyard created by the “C” shaped plan allows the building to bring the neighborhood’s energy further into the center of the site and the ground floor lobby. The courtyard’s exterior architectural identity incorporates a robust balcony expression and façade that allows for increased natural light within the residential units.

The site’s full block footprint in the heart of Shaw’s U Street Corridor also informs the architecture of the building. The project’s significant perimeter façades to the east, north and west take on an elegant yet restrained and cost-effective approach that responds to the narrow secondary streets surrounding the site. Crafted with brick and glass, the perimeter is contextually responsive and its visually calm expression contrasts with the more vibrant social heart of the courtyard.

Retail spaces on the ground floor will bring new opportunities for economic growth in the neighborhood and residential offerings include studios, one, two and three-bedroom units, many with balconies overlooking the interior courtyard.

One of the building’s signature design elements is suspended 10 stories above the main entry — the rooftop pool features skylights in its floor, allowing pedestrians below opportunities to catch rays of sunshine and a glimpse of swimmers above, while the building’s amenity-rich penthouse level will have indoor and outdoor lounges, grills, and casual seating areas to promote social interaction.

The Design Impact

East Towers is an investment in the future of the neighborhood that Howard University has called home for more than a century and a half. The development team is engaging local and minority-owned business partners throughout the project’s development. Eight percent of the building is dedicated to affordable housing and the design and construction teams will employ at least 50 Howard student interns.

The building will bring quality housing and public space to a rapidly changing neighborhood and foster connections between local residents and University students, staff and visitors. The building will support the overarching theme of “Creating Community” that drove the initial development proposal and align with Howard University’s strategic pillars to serve the community through collaborative partnerships.

The project will be transformative while also reflecting the unique history, heritage and legacies of the Shaw neighborhood through art, programming and branding. It will honor the significant and pioneering economic, cultural, social and institutional contributions of a proud and accomplished community of African Americans, many of which were associated with Howard University.

Project Features

Kristina Crawley

Five Design Trends Shaping Communities in 2024

Five Design Trends Shaping Communities in 2024

Advances in artificial intelligence, modular construction and other methodologies will bring renewed energy to the architecture, engineering and construction industry in 2024 despite economic and environmental challenges.  

In response to — and at the forefront of — current real estate and design trends, global design firm HKS is striving to revive and strengthen communities worldwide. In 2024, HKS will continue to create healthy, resilient, dynamic places that support peak performance and bring people joy. 

1 – Spaces for Healthy Living and Learning 

HKS is leveraging the firm’s research and health design expertise to help people navigate ongoing and emerging crises in health care, student health and well-being, and senior living. 

The Sanford Health Virtual Care Center in Sioux Falls, South Dakota is one of several exciting HKS health care projects opening in 2024. The telehealth center will improve access to care for rural patients, a medically underserved population.  

Clinical workforce shortages will be a continuing challenge for health systems in the year ahead, according to McKinsey & Company. HKS is designing facilities to address the health care staffing crisis. To further this work, the firm is partnering with design brand MillerKnoll on a study to identify factors that contribute to nurse burnout and to learn how these factors relate to the built environment. The study findings will be published this year. 

This year HKS will also participate in an impact study to gauge how the design of Uplift Luna Preparatory School, which is scheduled to open in Dallas in January, affects student outcomes. HKS’ design of the school was informed by research into how design can support social and emotional learning.  

At the 2024 Environments for Aging conference, HKS and industry partners will present a case study of Elevate Senior Living’s Clearwater, Florida community. HKS’ design for Elevate Clearwater is intended to help address the senior living affordability crisis. The number of middle-income older adults in need of affordable care and housing options is swiftly rising, as demonstrated by a study into the “forgotten middle” senior cohort, by research group NORC at the University of Chicago

2 – Commercial Office Reinvention 

It’s clear by now that hybrid and remote work are here to stay. Changes to work habits over the last four years caused major fluctuations in corporate real estate portfolios, leading to increased vacancy rates and diminishing valuations worldwide. But according to Deloitte’s 2024 commercial real estate outlook, newer, higher quality assets are outperforming older spaces and new construction projects designed to accommodate hybrid work strategies are on the rise.  

HKS commercial interior designers are creating offices with hybrid-ready technologies and attractive amenities for companies like Textron Systems in Arlington, Virginia and AGI in Naperville, Illinois. HKS’ advisory groups have also teamed with influential companies, including CoreLogic, to develop strategies and design concepts for their robust asset portfolios that help them keep up with the evolving real estate landscape. 

The firm’s industry-leading research on brain healthy workplaces has yielded exciting discoveries about how offices that prioritize employee well-being can be designed, delivered and operated. Piloting strategies in the firm’s own real estate portfolio and advocating for “breaking the workstation,” HKS researchers and designers are setting new standards for inclusive, productive office environments. In 2024, HKS will present these ideas to a global audience at South by Southwest® (SXSW®) and continue to design workplaces for new modes of working. 

3 – New Mixed-Use and Planning Match Ups

Fluctuations in the commercial office sector and retail are providing new opportunities in mixed-use development. PwC and ULI’s Emerging Trends in Real Estate 2024 report indicates that real estate investors are increasingly diversifying or pivoting their portfolios to counteract disuse of downtown offices and regional malls.  

A shift toward developments with a variety of localized services and amenities is occurring — and HKS designers and planners are at the forefront of creating exciting new projects with unique anchors. In Hangzhou, China, the 2023 Asian Games Athlete Village Waterfront Mixed-Use is becoming a prime destination for retail and entertainment, not unlike HKS-designed SoFi Stadium and Hollywood Park in Los Angeles with its newest attraction, Cosm. Beyond these new mixes, HKS designers are creating dynamic properties such as NoMaCNTR in Washington, DC, to join hotel and residential uses — a combination on the rise in many major cities. 

In 2024, HKS is expanding its ability to serve communities with mixed-use planning and design, fostering sustainable growth for cities in the years to come. The Austin Light Rail team — consisting of Austin Transit Partnership, HKS, UNStudio and Gehl — is set to finalize design guidelines for proposed station locations that will provide opportunities for Austin residents to live in more affordable locations and promote urban expansion into less dense areas. As the transit network expands, it will unlock real estate opportunities and give rise to a variety of diverse and exciting mixed-use properties. This work complements the Transit Oriented Developments projects HKS is working on to elevate the health and well-being of our communities nationwide.  

HKS designers are also set to craft a new master plan for the Georgia World Congress Center’s 220-acre campus in downtown Atlanta this year. The cohesive, sustainability-driven master plan will create a legible pedestrian-friendly environment that maximizes economic potential of the convention center campus. This will integrate the campus’ global canvas with surrounding historic neighborhoods using a comprehensive framework. 

4 – Adaptive Reuse Rising 

In their report on 2024 real estate trends, PwC and ULI write that that “the movement to convert existing buildings from office to multifamily (or any other asset class, really), offers a meaningful achievement in saving carbon emissions.”  

As part of HKS’ efforts towards sustainable and resilient design, the firm is igniting adaptive reuse for a variety of building types, such as ParkwayHealth Gleneagles Chengdu Hospital in China, a tertiary care facility created from a former shopping center. HKS’ design for Mount Sinai Beth Israel Comprehensive Behavioral Health Center in New York City reinvigorated a structure built in 1898 to create a new destination for behavioral health. HKS designers in London renovated a 19th-century office building into a 21st-century clinic. And for an expansion of Rusk State Hospital in Texas, HKS reinvented the hospital campus, which opened in 1883 to house a penitentiary, into a therapeutic and dignified behavioral health care setting. 

In a highly poetic adaptive reuse project, HKS reimagined a defunct airport terminal, which dated to the 1940s, as a creative, contemporary workspace for online travel company Expedia Group. 

In 2024, HKS will continue to advance adaptive reuse design across different markets and geographies. 

5 – Creating a Better World through ESG

Balancing holistic sustainability — including decarbonization, climate resilience, and equitable design practices — with business goals is imperative for commercial real estate investors according to 2024 outlooks by both Deloitte and PwC. Leading the architecture and design industries to a brighter future, HKS is committed to Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG). 

HKS leaders recently demonstrated the depth of the firm’s ESG efforts through thought leadership — speaking at the United Nations Climate Change Conference, the United Nations Science Summit on Brain Capital, and at the National Organization of Minority Architects (NOMA) conference, where HKS was also a Diamond Sponsor. 

Driven by ESG goals, HKS designers strive to enhance human and environmental well-being through the places they create day in and day out. The firm’s growing portfolio of high-performing projects includes the world’s first WELL-certified airport facility, a COTE Top-Ten Award-winning campus in California and a IIDA Global Excellence Award finalist hospital in Saudi Arabia to name a few. In 2024, HKS architects, sustainable design leaders and advisors will continue developing building portfolio sustainability guidelines and high-performance designs for major tech companies and educational institutions.  

HKS will also align with the Science Based Targets Initiative, which recently established building sector guidelines, to ensure the firm’s carbon neutrality goals are science-backed and can be properly benchmarked. The firm will provide voluntary disclosures about its offsets portfolio to meet regulatory requirements, enhance transparency and improve accountability. 

Most excitingly, 2024 marks the 10-year anniversary of Citizen HKS, a firmwide initiative that impacts lives and drives change through design, community service and financial philanthropy. HKS designers around the world will celebrate the pro-bono design work and service projects they have contributed to through Citizen HKS and re-commit to enhancing their communities for years to come. 

Alejandro Danel 

Case Studies

Office-to-Residential Adaptive Reuse Can Help Build Sustainable, Vibrant Communities

Office-to-Residential Adaptive Reuse Can Help Build Sustainable, Vibrant Communities

The evolution of office work is creating fresh opportunities to reimagine workspace. To attract today’s knowledge-economy workers and provide environments that help them perform at their best, businesses are adopting hybrid work strategies and new designs for creative, collaborative workplaces. Outmoded office buildings are ripe for reinvention as residential space.

Converting offices to residences may seem ironic in the era of work-from-home. But as Brad Wilkins, Principal and Studio Design Leader for the Austin office of global design firm HKS, noted, many older office spaces “are no longer at their highest and best use as office buildings anymore. They are now better suited for other types of uses – in particular, residential.”

HKS has an extensive history of repurposing, retrofitting and reimagining the built environment. The firm’s adaptive reuse work includes ProMedica’s corporate headquarters in Toledo, Ohio. That project gave new life to an historic, 1895 Daniel Burnham steam plant and a 1970s bank building. Also, ParkwayHealth Gleneagles Chengdu Hospital in China, a tertiary care facility created from a former shopping center.

HKS is leveraging its adaptive-reuse experience to explore ideas for transforming office space into residential space. Office-to-residential conversions expand the possibilities for how – and where – people live and work around the world.

Environmental and Economic Benefits

Sustainability is one of the chief benefits of adaptive reuse. “The first step when it comes to dealing with climate change is to reuse existing buildings,” said HKS Sustainable Design Leader Ramana Koti.

Repurposing existing buildings lessens demand for virgin material and can greatly decrease the amount of material discarded in landfills. Adaptive reuse can also significantly reduce embodied carbon – the CO2 emitted in the production of a building (this includes raw material extraction, the manufacture and transportation of building materials, and building construction).

Reducing embodied carbon is critically important as the global community approaches a key climate action deadline. The Paris Agreement international treaty on climate change calls for dramatic reductions in carbon emissions by 2030.

Architecture 2030, a New Mexico-based sustainable design think tank, offers a tool to help people compare the total carbon impacts of renovating an existing building versus constructing a new one. The calculator, called the CARE (Carbon Avoided: Retrofit Estimator) Tool, is free to use online.

Commercial-to-residential adaptive reuse projects also present financial investment opportunities. “From an economic perspective, you’re taking a building that probably has a pretty low basis and you’re redeploying it to be more valuable in the future,” said Doug Demers, Principal and Office Director of HKS Seattle.

Because these projects typically require less ground preparation, foundation work and structural construction than new building projects, adaptive reuse can hold a speed-to-market advantage over creating a building from the ground up.

Office-to-residential conversions can help meet market and community needs by matching the supply and demand for certain building types. As the market for older office space with fewer modern amenities drops, the need for housing is rising in cities around the world.

HKS’ design for the Benefield Building, a community center in Richmond, Virginia, includes 13,500 square feet of mixed-income co-housing, studio and 1- and 2-bedroom residential units. The pro-bono adaptive reuse project preserves a 1920s Spanish Art Deco structure as the front door to the center.

Revitalizing Communities, Retaining Character

Converting office space to residential space can rejuvenate a community. Office space “doesn’t really give you a community on its own, whereas residential does,” said Wilkins.  

When residential life is introduced into a business district, Wilkins said, restaurants that were open only at lunchtime can host dinner service. Children can play in plazas previously crossed only by people in business suits.

“There can be a whole different life to these places,” he said.

Adaptive reuse can energize a community while retaining the character of a building that is part of the local culture, said Jadenn Kelley, HKS Project Architect.

“The community already has ownership of the building. We’re just revitalizing it,” Kelley said.

And HKS Project Architect Taylor Odell added that with historic building conversion “not only are you maintaining the character of a neighborhood, but you’re getting a character in your (residential) unit that you’re not going to have” otherwise. “We can design great buildings, but we can’t design history.”  

HKS’ concept design for 1770 Crystal Drive, a 320-unit office-to-residential conversion in Crystal City, Virginia, transforms the existing height and set-back constraints of the site into a stepped vertical expansion that maximizes the unit count. The concept design showcases the adjacent park and unobstructed views of Washington, D.C. It includes wrap-around retail and building amenities to activate the public realm.

Challenges and Considerations

When it comes to repurposing a building as residential space, “the benefit of an office building is that it’s typically a clean floor plate, so structurally, it’s easier to divide up the floor plate into different units,” said Kelley.

Older office buildings tend to have smaller floor plates, which can more easily meet residential requirements for natural light and fresh air.

The deeper internal spaces of buildings with larger floor plates can serve as locations for amenities that are increasingly valuable in the residential sector, such as co-working spaces. “With these building conversions, the amenity package becomes incredibly important” to support flexible work experiences, said Kate Davis, HKS Partner and Global Practice Director, Commercial Interiors.

For the adaptive reuse of One Dallas Center, a modernist skyscraper originally designed by I.M. Pei & Partners in 1979, HKS incorporated 16 levels of residential units on the top floors of the 30-story building. The residential amenities include a lounge, fitness center and outdoor pool.

The firm renovated the building’s lower levels to serve commercial tenants, including HKS’ Dallas office. HKS redesigned the ground floor to function as a dual-purpose lobby for the residential and commercial spaces.

The typical column spacing for both office and residential buildings is 30 feet, which Odell said can simplify structural issues. Because centralized heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) systems are typical for office spaces, additional ductwork must be installed to support individual HVAC systems for residential units. Electrical systems generally require little in the way of adaptation, as long as the loads remain similar. Plumbing systems require upgrades to manage an increase on the supply side and the amount of waste produced. Life safety systems, such as sprinklers, fire alarms, stairways and egress points, need to meet residential code requirements.

On a building’s façade, incorporating balconies and more open glazing spans can create a less commercial, more residential look and feel.

Overcoming Challenges for a ‘Beautiful Future’

Zoning and financing can be concerns for office-to-residential conversions, especially in areas where projects of this type are considered novel. In their 2023 report, Behind the Façade: The Feasibility of Converting Commercial Real Estate to Multifamily, the Urban Land Institute and the National Multifamily Housing Council reported that “conversions can be financially feasible in a broad range of markets, original uses, building conditions and circumstances.” Tax incentives and special planning districts may help address funding challenges for these projects.

Demers said that standard solutions to common structural, planning, mechanical, electrical, plumbing and life safety issues related to office-to-residential conversions could be developed to lower the cost of these projects. This could be especially valuable for mixed-use developments of suburban office buildings in locations with parking and transit advantages, he added.

Converting office space to residential space can be a sustainable solution for enlivening neighborhoods and making the most of existing building stock.

“How do we keep reusing and reinventing?” Wilkins asked. “We have beautiful old buildings that may not be in their perfect state right now, for whatever reason, but can have a beautiful future.”

Urban Land: CMNTY Culture Campus Brings Design Innovation to the Music Industry

Herb Blain

Case Studies

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Wuxi Golden Bay Industrial Park Southern Starting Zone

Case Study

Wuxi Golden Bay Industrial Park Southern Starting Zone Ancient Cultural Heritage and Future Intelligence Find a Way to Coexist

Wuxi, China

The Challenge

The challenge faced in the design of the Golden Bay Industrial Park in Wuxi is to create a modern and vibrant urban industrial complex that attracts high-tech enterprises while preserving the city’s cultural heritage and emphasizing green and sustainable development. The goal is to integrate the old city with the new development, promote the fusion of industry and urban life, and explore innovative office spaces that foster collaboration and interaction.

The Design Solution

There are three key trends in the modern workplace: smart office, iconic office, and green office. The campus is divided into three main blocks, each with its own pleasant courtyard space, seamlessly linked by bridges and walkways. The centerpiece of the HKS-led design is a 120-meter iconic tower on Block A, facing the Jin Kui Park and serving as a gateway to the city. The park incorporates greenery and waterfront landscapes into the courtyards, creating a harmonious blend of nature and industry.

The concept of “金匮云盒” (Golden Treasury Cloud Box) is inspired by the city’s cultural heritage and envisioned a future with intelligent technology, green ecology, and cultural display. The design aims to provide diverse office spaces catering to different types of businesses and encourage interaction through public open spaces. The rooftop “City Living Room” offered a panoramic view of the Jin Kui Park, becoming a landmark space for the community.

The Design Impact

The design of the project is expected to have significant impacts on the development of the Wuxi Economic Development District. By promoting a mix of smart, iconic, and green workplace, the campus can attract a wide range of enterprises, from large corporations to innovative startups, fostering a dynamic and vibrant business environment. The integration of the old city with the new development and the emphasis on low-carbon principles demonstrate a commitment to sustainable urban growth. The project’ focus on energy-efficient technologies, green materials, and shared resources contributes to reducing carbon emissions and promoting environmental responsibility.

Project Features

OCT Nanjing Yangtze Riverfront Mixed-Use 

Case Study

OCT Nanjing Yangtze Riverfront Mixed-Use  Yangtze River Mixed-Use Development Fuses the New with the Old

Nanjing, China

The Challenge

The project is located in Nanjing, a magnificent and prominent ancient capital with a modern cityscape spanning both sides of the Yangtze River. The entire project covers an area of nearly 500,000 square meters (5.38 million square feet), with a total development volume of over one million square meters (10.76 million square feet) above ground. Along the approximately 1.8-kilometer (1.1-mile) riverbank, the client hopes to create a typical model of integrating commerce and cultural tourism destination to meet the demands of high-end consumption in the region, attract visitors from outside the area, and initiate a new urban commercial experience. 

The client aims to build a waterfront urban life hub that includes various formats such as stand-alone headquarters office buildings, comprehensive commercial spaces, outdoor and indoor gardens, boutique apartments, upscale hotels and cultural and creative spaces. The challenge for the designers is to satisfy a high level of diversity and complexity in functional requirements while also creating a cultural and tourism landmark. In addition, the project called for providing a high-quality living space that aligns with the city’s character. 

The Design Solution

The overall planning of the project aims to create a public space for leisure and cultural tourism. The specific functional spaces are also designed to be open, emphasizing the architectural aesthetics and public accessibility. As a result, the project’s overall appearance resembles an “urban forest.” The design process of the buildings is akin to ancient garden-making, incorporating both the worldly and pure aspects. 

The project is a forward-looking exploration of future community public and attractive spaces, and landscape-oriented areas. Notable planning highlights include a clear single circulation system with multiple entrances, blurred boundaries between buildings and landscapes to emphasize the integration of design and commerce, themed plaza spaces to enhance pedestrian flow, and a landscape-oriented functional layout to maximize the added value of landscape-dependent spaces. This creates a rhythmic urban skyline and highlights the central axis space with the space needle as its core. As one moves from the riverbank toward the inland, the building density gradually increases, and the landscape progressively blends in. 

The tallest and largest space capsule Ferris wheel in China — and the first domestic immersive experience space capsule Ferris wheel with a height of 139 meters (456 feet)— is located on the main axis of the site, serving as the focal landmark of the sprawling project. The shopping center on Block C creates a fascinating spatial experience, dedicated to building an extra-large ecological and artistic shopping center with an immersive experience. Inspired by ancient paper folding fans, the building uses different materials to create multiple diamond facets on the facades and entrance canopies, using light to create a splendid effect and a fashionable showcase. The sculptural form of the entire podium building attracts the attention of passersby from various angles. Its twisting and turning contours along the river create maximized viewing interfaces and multi-level terraces. The connected terraces form rows of shops and restaurants, resulting in a vibrant and dynamic functional space, where various business formats intersect, mimicking the flow of the adjacent waterfront. 

The Design Impact

The project combines diverse urban functions to bring convenience and a high-quality living environment to the local area. The design not only serves as a large-scale urban development but also embodies the cultural vitality of Nanjing, the aesthetic of riverside living and the vision for urban planning. Inspired by the   city’s spirit, the project blends commerce, culture and tourism to create a vibrant space that enriches the city’s fabric and enhances the overall urban experience. It is more than just a real estate venture; it reflects the city’s essence and aspirations. 

Project Features

Doug Demers


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Scott Baltimore

CMNTY Culture Campus

Case Study

CMNTY Culture Campus A Love Song for Los Angeles

Los Angeles, California, USA

The Challenge

CMNTY Culture Group (CMNTY pronounced as community), a new independent music and media company, seeks to improve access and equity in the entertainment industry for aspiring musicians, recording engineers and creative artists. To support this important mission, CMNTY Culture envisions a mixed-use campus with creative offices, studios, performance venues, and public event spaces — right in the heart of Hollywood.

The Design Solution

Every aspect of the CMNTY Culture Campus design is inspired by music and community connectivity. A high-performance façade wraps around the building, mapping a composition like a music notation staff. A grand exterior staircase invites the public to ascend through an atrium with native plants and fresh air, leading people to an outdoor rooftop amphitheater. At the building’s northeast corner, the façade dips, orienting the building around the amphitheater and framing views of the Hollywood sign in the hills beyond.

At over 460,000 square feet, CMNTY Culture Campus will nurture a thriving music industry scene with engaging venues, state-of-the art studios, and offices that foster collaboration among new talent and established music artists, students and teachers, and producers and creators.

The recording studio program is foundational to the CMNTY Culture Campus program. It includes world-class music production facilities and a hospitality component offering artists the opportunity to live on site during the recording process. The recording studio lobby provides access to six professional studios, a flexible production space and an artist lounge. Recording studios are strategically organized along ‘the hallway,’ a circulation route inspired by the historic instances of serendipitous hallway collisions between artists who partner to push the boundaries of music.

CMNTY Culture Campus offers an attractive co-location experience for creatives adjacent to the center of the music and entertainment industry. A variety of office floor configurations provide options for office tenants to flex and grow their teams while being a part of the campus culture with direct access to recording musicians, students and patrons. HKS partnered with landscape architecture office Hood Design Studio to create dynamic outdoor spaces on every office level that promote healthy working and nature-based restoration. The Highland office lobby, visible from the building’s exterior, also allows passersby to catch a glimpse through a recording studio window so they can feel as though they are a part of the creative process.

The building is designed to be an exciting and accessible place that engages its surrounding community to participate in activities on site. A covered plaza situated across the street from Hollywood High School — a historic regional magnet school — welcomes students to the campus. The plaza connects to a community auditorium that will host educational lectures by top recording artists, local entrepreneur and venture capital events, performances by professional musicians and students, and serve as an important “third place” for the neighborhood. The plaza, a café, and retail space provide amenities for building users and neighborhood residents as well as pre-show and post-show gathering places for patrons of performances.

The Design Impact

CMNTY Culture Campus bridges the history of Hollywood with the future of entertainment, offering the industry a creative home while creating a new paradigm for the design of office buildings, event venues and creative production facilities. The project is a love song for Los Angeles that pushes the envelope of what a creative campus can be and how it can give back to its community.

Project Features

Energized: Can a University Campus Reach Net Zero by 2025?

Energized: Can a University Campus Reach Net Zero by 2025?

Can a university campus reach net zero by 2025? The task may seem too tall, the timetable too tight. But the situation is urgent. That’s why the University of California, San Diego is committed to a sustainable future through the development and adherence of a Climate Action Plan (CAP) that includes specific goals and timelines informed by operational baseline data.

UC San Diego is a longtime leader in climate change research and education, dating from Dr. Charles Keeling’s groundbreaking work linking rising levels of atmospheric carbon to fossil fuel emissions. The university has made significant progress in areas such as academics and research, energy and climate, sustainable operations, environmentally preferable procurement, waste diversion, clean transportation and water conservation and is on track to meet its ambitious sustainability goals. Chief among them, that its buildings and vehicle fleet become climate neutral by 2025.

UC San Diego’s all-inclusive transformational plan also supports many state and regional objectives and directives to tackle carbon emissions. At the building scale, the CAP is integrated within the university’s new project developments, including the HKS-designed North Torrey Pines Living and Learning Neighborhood (NTPLLN), to achieve carbon neutrality.

NTPLLN opened in fall 2020, during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. The design intent led to significant positive measured outcomes for student well-being and the neighborhood is now certified LEED v3 Platinum – the largest higher education project in California to achieve that distinction.

A New Living and Learning Home for Sixth College

NTPLLN is a dynamic mixed-use neighborhood that combines academic, residential, commercial and cultural programming. It is designed to reduce the environmental impact for current and future generations. Prominently positioned on UC San Diego’s 1,200-acre campus, NTPLLN is the new home for Sixth College and the university’s social sciences and arts and humanities departments. The vibrant 1.5-million square-foot neighborhood fulfills UC San Diego’s vision of a fully integrated university community by blending residential housing for more than 2,000 students, academic buildings, classrooms and community space to create a truly immersive community-centered learning experience.

Each building houses a combination of living, learning, community and administrative facilities and provide expansive terraces with sweeping ocean views and myriad outdoor spaces, including pedestrian and bike-friendly pathways. Every design move was strategic: to create a place of health, wellness and environmental responsibility that supports student and faculty well-being and academic excellence. Additionally, NTPLLN promotes healthy human and environmental interactions and improves air, water, and soil quality for enhanced biodiversity.

Supported by several performance frameworks including LEED, Parksmart, CALGreen and the AIA 2030 Commitment, the integrated sustainability features target carbon-neutral operations by embracing initiatives that will measurably reduce energy consumption, water use and waste, ensuring the sustainable community will meet the future needs of UC San Diego’s administration, faculty and students.

Meeting and Exceeding Energy and Environmental Goals

The design takes full advantage of the local micro-climate to deliver improved environmental quality and enhanced occupant comfort within indoor and outdoor spaces at multiple levels. Future climate weather files were utilized to stress test the resiliency of the project design based on carbon emission escalation rates and mitigation scenarios, ensuring that the resources utilized for the design and construction of NTPPLN today meets the needs of the campus tomorrow.

The siting and massing of residential buildings are intentional design measures to balance access to daylighting, reduce solar gains and promote natural ventilation. The fixed exterior shading provides reductions in solar heat gains during peak cooling months, improving thermal comfort and reducing energy demand.

Given the favorable and unique climate conditions in San Diego, over 70% of the housing building area is naturally ventilated which is an alternative passive measure to using energy intensive mechanical ventilation and cooling. All residential units include operable windows to naturally cool and ventilate each unit. Studies demonstrate that passively ventilated spaces improve cognitive functions from increased volumes of outside air. And little did we know that naturally ventilated spaces and the open-air campus design would become a critically important safety feature to help protect student and faculty health during the pandemic.

A photovoltaic system powers the 1,200-space parking structure, which was designed with deep light penetrating wells for potential conversion into other uses in a car-free future. The parking structure includes various energy efficiency measures including sensors capable of detecting unsafe levels of emissions that control exhaust fans, daylighting wells to reduce electrical load from lighting and that provide an opportunity to naturally ventilate the space.

To advance campus efforts toward carbon neutrality, the NTPLLN Design Build Team integrated an on-site modular micro-anaerobic digester thereby creating a local environmental impact asset and catalyst. The anaerobic digester provides on-site generation of electrical energy from organic food waste and materials while producing valuable enrichened liquid fertilizer for community gardens. This diverts waste from the landfill and eliminates the emissions generated from offsite trucking. The anaerobic digester acts as a closed loop system where the conversion of organic waste into fuel and nutrients promotes the concept of community based, farm-to table- and back to farm, life cycle.

Since NTPLLN opened, on-site building performance metrics have been consistently tracked. The measured performance of NTPLLN resulted in an 81% reduction in measured energy use intensity (EUI) inclusive of renewables – exceeding initial targets and helping UC San Diego get even closer to reaching ambitious climate action goals.

NTPLLN also achieves a 30% energy improvement over CEC 2016 Title 24 and a 70% predicted energy reduction through the AIA 2030 Commitment. On-site renewable energy amounts to 4% of total energy while 60.5% of the electricity consumption at NTPLLN is offset through renewable energy credit purchases, procured through the University of California Wholesale Power Program. Continuous benchmarking with Energy Star Portfolio Manager, and on-going measurement and verification, aid in further decarbonizing energy and water operations at UC San Diego.

Because energy efficiency measures exceed California’s Title 24 requirements, the school was able to participate in San Diego Gas & Electric’s Savings By Design program, which awarded more than $200,000 in funding that can be applied to other needs.

Setting Goals for LEED – and Leading through Teaching

Referencing the Chancellor’s vision for the university and goals identified in the CAP, in collaboration with UC San Diego staff, Clark Construction and HKS facilitated a multidisciplinary immersion course that utilized NTPLLN as a living example of how LEED’s comprehensive approach to the built environment can substantially improve environmental outcomes at various scales.

Modeled after one of USGBC’s educational resources, the pilot course adopted the framework of LEED® Lab™, designed specifically for LEED for Building Operations and Maintenance (LEED O+M), but in the context of LEED Building Design and Construction (LEED BD+C) both in theory and application. Students gained a unique opportunity to connect and engage with professionals who designed and delivered NTPLLN by reviewing prerequisites and credits related to site considerations, energy use, water consumption, waste management and occupant comfort. They also learned how to evaluate a project’s impact on the surrounding land and ecosystem.

The LEED Living Lab pilot course is now offered for-credit — a first of its kind at UC San Diego. The desired outcome of the course is to use the built environment to broaden the students’ view so that they can mature into sustainability-focused citizens and become leaders in their fields of studies. While the focus of the CAP is foremost campus operations, it embraces the vision of a student-centric university using experiential learning techniques to provide opportunities for students to gain real-world experience. The LEED Living Lab pilot course became a cornerstone of both supporting the CAP process and delivery of NTPLLN.

Enforcing climate action plans are particularly important for the state of California where aggressive greenhouse gas reductions are demanded and are setting the pace for the nation. The desired outcome is to improve public health and air quality, conserve water, efficiently use existing resources, and increase clean energy production, thereby improving the quality of life for UC San Diego and the broader community. The NTPLLN project has been a transformational opportunity to nurture a collaborative and interdisciplinary living and learning community that provides an educational experience focused on collaboration, leadership, and innovation in a diverse and interconnected world, supporting the UC San Diego Strategic Plan.

The University of California has more than 40 LEED buildings, with most new construction targeting Gold certification or higher, including another HKS-designed project at UC San Diego — the Theatre District Living and Learning Neighborhood. With more than 4 million square feet of green building projects in its pipeline, the University of California is a leader in enhancing human and environmental health and well-being at the neighborhood, campus and community scales.

NTPLLN demonstrates — with its significant measured outcomes for environmental and human health — how climate action plans, design-build collaborations, and outcome-driven designs can positively impact the future of architecture and education.

Skyiera Mixed-Use Master Plan

Case Study

Skyiera Mixed-Use Master Plan Creating a Cultural Destination within New Cairo

New Cairo, Egypt

The Challenge

The client noticed a lack of connectivity and community-focused destinations within the sporadically developed New Cairo. HKS was tasked with designing a masterplan that supported the creation of inviting and functional public spaces with the right amenities and cultural attractions. The well-being of residents and the success of a region was dependent on the development of vibrant and livable communities.

The Design Solution

In response, HKS designed a new 1 million square meter (11.7 million sf) masterplan that incorporated a variety of uses such as a business hub, world-class retail center and two hotels with branded residences to attract a diverse range of visitors.

One of the most important elements of the masterplan is Nile Park, with plenty of green space, seating areas, playgrounds and recreational facilities. It serves as a vital community resource, providing a place for people to gather, relax and enjoy the outdoors. Within the park, a 2,000-seat performing arts theatre serves as a cultural destination and hosts a wide variety of performances and events throughout the year, becoming a key anchor for the community.

The Design Impact

Skyiera creates a vibrant and livable community that includes the infrastructure, amenities and attractions necessary to support a diverse range of residents and visitors. Providing spaces for work, play and cultural enrichment, the masterplan would be a major step towards building a sustainable and successful community in New Cairo.

Project Features

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. 

HKS in 2023: Projects To Get Excited About

HKS in 2023: Projects To Get Excited About

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

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

Pioneering Research and Designs that Transform Communities

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

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

Stunning New Places to Work and Relax

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

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

Game-changing Venues for Extraordinary Entertainment Experiences

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Looking Ahead

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

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

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

Dan Noble, HKS President and CEO

HKS’ Sarah Nelson-Woynicz Brings Inclusivity and Activism as AIA Atlanta’s Exceptional Young Architect

HKS’ Sarah Nelson-Woynicz Brings Inclusivity and Activism as AIA Atlanta’s Exceptional Young Architect

Sarah Nelson-Woynicz didn’t grow up knowing she would be an architect. Instead, architecture found her. Starting in middle school, Nelson-Woynicz played brass instruments, thinking that would lead her into a career in music education or composer. 

But in high school, Nelson-Woynicz toured the College of Architecture at Virginia Tech University and thought to herself, “maybe this is where I’m supposed to be.” 

“I never knew that I wanted to be an architect, but now that I am, I couldn’t imagine doing something different,” said Nelson-Woynicz, an architect in the Commercial Mixed-Use studio of the HKS Atlanta office.  

The 28-year-old Raleigh, North Carolina native has always taken an active role in her community. In her youth, she was deeply involved in her community where she developed a devotion for volunteering, working with Habitat for Humanity, food banks and community gardens. 

She still brings that same passion and community-oriented mindset to her architecture role today. Her favorite part of the job comes from being a team player and learning from her peers throughout the design process of projects like the Neuhoff Mixed Use Development which brought together multiple team members from at least three time zones across the world. 

 “It was about the idea of creating the opportunity of bringing people together with one collective vision and one common goal,” she said.  

Taking on the Activist Role 

Nelson-Woynicz began her career at HKS in 2015 as an architectural intern in Richmond, Virginia. But she wanted to live in a larger city with public transit so, she moved to Atlanta after graduating. She wasted little time getting involved in her new city, becoming HKS Atlanta’s Better Together champion initially and then, a founding member of HKS Pride.  

Identifying with the LGBTQ community, Nelson-Woynicz wanted to contribute to an inclusivity program while helping to push the J.E.D.I. initiative further. 

“I knew that it was something where I wanted to bring together a community, a culture and a workplace that really emphasized equity, diversity, inclusion and belonging into Atlanta,” Nelson-Woynicz said. “I think my real passion is with HKS Pride, creating the space for voices that are not often heard for a variety of reasons.”  

She is the treasurer of HKS Pride and focuses on recruitment and engagement by reviewing HKS external opportunities and working to create and share information across the internal HKS Pride network.  

“Sarah’s passion and dedication for creating inclusive spaces is infectious,” said Yiselle Santos Rivera, HKS Director of J.E.D.I. “She not only will build you up with her enthusiasm but her commitment to J.E.D.I. work is inspirational. It’s a real joy to discuss how to develop platforms to celebrate authenticity and see her quickly transform a conversation into action.” 

“Sarah’s passion and dedication for creating inclusive spaces is infectious.”

Yiselle Santos Rivera, HKS Director of J.E.D.I.

Making a Difference in Atlanta

In 2021, Nelson-Woynicz was included as speaker for a panel discussion at the Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD) about equity and inclusion in the workplace. All the panelists were queer-identifying practicing architects and Nelson-Woynicz shared her experiences in the profession, including a pivotal moment in her career when she first met an “out architect.” 

After the panel, she received a message from a student at SCAD who said that Nelson-Woynicz was the first openly LGBTQ person they had met. Nelson-Woynicz said that the exchange “ultimately pushed me to really want to get even more involved.”  

As a result, she launched a digital blog named “Pride by Design,” that focused on interviewing and elevating organizations, architects and designers who are specifically LGBTQIA identifying, creating a space to share their stories. She says she has not only seen and felt the impact this space gives but serves as a constant reminder to show up, and that there is more work to be done.

“There are students that are graduating who aren’t seeing themselves in the profession still and we can’t lose this amazing robust group of talent just because they don’t see themselves in the profession,” she said. 

Nelson-Woynicz is also involved in Atlanta neighborhood communities, including zoning and planning, as well as American Institute Architects (AIA). Previously, she served locally on the AIA Atlanta Board of Directors as the Emerging Professional Director. Currently, she has a two-year term for the Young Architects Forum Advisory Committee as the Community Director.  

In 2022, Nelson-Woynicz was awarded the first Carmen Stan Memorial Women Lead Scholarship by AIA Georgia and Equity in Architecture. That same year, she was also named the John Busby Jr. Award (Exceptional Young Architect), the highest recognition for young architecture professionals in the metro Atlanta area. 

Nelson-Woynicz said that being recognized by her peers and colleagues for her efforts was a humbling experience.  

“The award is not just about me being in this space, but it’s about the amazing group who set the path and the group who’s coming and carving new paths,” Nelson-Woynicz said. “It was really special in that moment to sit and see this broader group of people in that room who are making an impact and difference not just in architecture, but in every sense and definition of community and in our in our neighborhoods.” 

Due to her drive for continual learning and mentoring, she co-led the development of HKS Atlanta’s office-wide mentorship program in 2019. The effort, in which the entire staff was engaged in learning from each other at all levels and across practice and discipline, became a model that she and her team shared with other HKS offices. 

Julie Volosin, Office Director of HKS Atlanta, called Nelson-Woynicz a true servant leader who continually thinks about what is best for the greater good — whether it’s for HKS and its clients or young emerging professionals. 

“She naturally motivates other teammates through modeling the way of learning new things about our profession and then sharing it forward, constantly challenging herself and others around her,” said Volosin.  

Being a young professional in the growing Atlanta office, Nelson-Woynicz looks to her younger colleagues for inspiration.

“I am in total admiration and respect for our group of younger professionals because they are absolutely changing the way that we think and do things across the board, from mentorship all the way to our practice and process within projects,” Nelson-Woynicz said. 

Nelson-Woynicz wants to bring other young professionals to HKS to help them find opportunities and flourish in their careers. 

“HKS is a firm and place that I think every new graduate should be considering and want to be a part of because we are striving to authentically listen, engage, and impact our communities.”  

Towards Wellness in Design: A Framework for Evaluating the Urban Built Environment

Towards Wellness in Design: A Framework for Evaluating the Urban Built Environment

Download Full Report

Why Is This Important?

How can the built environment foster positive health outcomes long before any patient steps foot into a hospital? According to the United Nations, approximately 68% of the world’s population will be living in cities or other urban centers by 2050. Urban design has the potential to be at the forefront of improving overall population and community health in the years to come. For this reason, it is vital for communities to identify, evaluate and prioritize designing for wellness in the urban built environment.

Figure above | Original graphic. Derived from Statista using data from the UN Population Division, World Economic Forum.

This study examines two main points. First, the study examines urban design strategies for wellness, such as designing for increased physical activity or better nutrition, and these strategies’ role in impacting the health and well-being of an urban population. Second, the study seeks to create an observational methodology for measuring how existing urban design in the built environment negatively or positively impacts population wellness, with the outcome being a new tool that can be leveraged for informed decision-making. In addition, this study explores insights into the variety of built environment metrics that influence human behavior towards wellness. By delving into the field of urban design and wellness, we help increase understanding into how urban design can contribute to a broader spectrum of care.

Figure above | Original graphic. Derived from Heinle Wischer Und Partner

What We Did

This study utilizes two reviews of the literature, the creation of an observational tool to test existing environments, and pilot studies of the tool to examine how communities can benefit from understanding design for wellness in their own urban built environment.

An initial literature review was conducted to understand how urban design and planning influence health and wellness broadly. Thirty-two urban design metrics, divided into five categories, were identified from the literature as influencing either psychological or physiological aspects of human health. From there, a second literature review was conducted to understand the characteristics of existing observational tools for health and wellness.

Based on the findings from the second literature review, a novel tool was developed that analyzes urban design characteristics for positive wellness outcomes. The tool, called WellMap, was created using descriptors and diagrams that allow one to score a specified study area. WellMap is designed to lend insight and prioritization to what a community or project site could do to contribute to overall healthier decision making. The WellMap tool is complemented by a design guideline matrix that offers urban design strategies dependent on the resultant rating, an Excel scorecard that automatically visualizes comparative results, and a client template for project teams to create a one-pager that summarizes all information.

What We Found

Literature review #1:

Literature review #2:

Five Factors Were Identified From the Literature Review That Influence Physiological and/or Psychological Wellness in the Built Environment:

Design Factors

Designing communities with provisions for physical activity (namely, walkability) has a sizeable impact on wellness. This impact is felt both through formal massing that affects human physical activity and through influencing external factors, such as vehicular speed, which are linked to vehicular and pedestrian fatalities.

Diversity Factors

A mix of land use and accessible destinations, such as shops within neighborhoods and communities, influences whether people choose to commute via walking, connect multiple walking trips or participate in leisurely walking.

Density Factors

As density tends to encourage mixed-use facilities, sufficient densities alongside other built environment factors increase the probability of individuals walking for transport and creating local businesses that attract people and support a local community.

Distance Factors

Access to facilities such as public parks, green spaces, health care facilities, grocery stores, third places, etc., support positive healthy lifestyle choices by allowing people to be active or practice other healthy behaviors.

Destination Factors

Major anchor institutions that spur economic development by helping to create mixed-use destinations increase the probability that residents and visitors will decide to participate in physical activity.

These five factors formed the foundation of the WellMap tool, which was piloted in three distinct areas within Atlanta.

Pilot Study Analyses

Figure above | Original graphic. Wellness + the built environment as a system of systems that interact with each other in the built environment, rather than singular variables.

Findings and insights from the literature reviews, WellMap tool creation and pilot studies led to the development of key considerations, design goals and a design considerations matrix for urban design and wellness. These are compiled into a comprehensive report of the study and a full PDF, Excel spreadsheet and one-page template of WellMap that is available for use and distribution to project teams.

What the Findings Mean

A decentralized, holistic approach to health and wellness in our communities is trending, and urban design for health affirms this through consideration of how buildings, streets, public spaces and communities foster health and wellness for all. WellMap seeks to make stakeholders aware of the larger context in which they are operating and how their project can tie into an existing network of wellness fluidly and efficiently by identifying inequities in the built environment. What we have learned is that although urban design by itself does not ensure wellness, designing for networks of wellness can positively influence healthy human behavior. Efforts toward understanding how the built environment can foster wellness should be focused on identifying applicable study areas for project sites, evaluating what components within the study area are most important and prioritizing concrete metrics to determine how best to intervene.

There are several directions that future research could lead, many of which involve testing and evaluating the efficacy of the WellMap tool, as well as its connections to wellness and health care at large. Viable options for exploration include improving user observational methodology through testing for inter-rater reliability, recommending ideal study area sizes and cross referencing WellMap scores with contextual health data to determine associations between urban design and health outcomes.

As the rise in population in urbanized areas worldwide increases, so should our efforts in designing our cities and communities to support health and wellness. This is our call as designers to respond with knowledge through designs and strategies that maintain positive health long before anyone steps foot in a hospital. The built environment and the design of the everyday will become a first line of defense and a major influencer of population health at large.

Figure above | original graphic. Health care delivery models in communities.