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Ideas / Sustainability / 5.5.2022

Green Week 2022: A Ten-Year Retrospective

Green Week 2020

This year marks the 10th annual celebration of Green Week at Ayers Saint Gross, a week-long event that elevates sustainability literacy within our staff, advances high-performance design for our clients, and recognizes our sustainability achievements. This year also marks our 10th consecutive year of reporting data to the American Institute of Architect’s 2030 Commitment.

Ten years ago, in 2012, Ayers Saint Gross formalized its sustainability program into Take Action, the firm’s first ever sustainability action plan. We had certified 14 projects through the LEED rating systems, which at that point were using LEEDv2.2 and LEED 2009. We were in the process of integrating composting into our Baltimore headquarters to reduce the impact of our waste stream. Looking back, introducing composting was a significant evolution in both culture and behavior; now it’s our habit.

The next year, our firm put into practice for ourselves many of the strategies we were and are still advocating for our clients to pursue, including low-emitting materials and access to daylight and views. In 2014, we earned LEED Gold on the fit out of the new Ayers Saint Gross office space in Washington, DC.

View at night of the John and Frances Angelos Law Center at University of Baltimore

Both the University of Baltimore John and Frances Angelos Law Center and the George Washington University Milken Institute of Public Health earned LEED Platinum in 2014, becoming the first projects in our firm’s portfolio to do so. As a firm, we celebrated our clients’ commitments to reduce environmental impact while simultaneously stewarding landmark designs.

Communal space in Ida Ryan and Isaac Hawkins Halls at Georgetown University featuring study space...

In 2016, Ayers Saint Gross reached an important and exciting milestone–when the LEED Silver certification of Georgetown University’s Ida Ryan and Isaac Hawkins Hall pushed our firm over the billion-dollar mark; we had officially produced $1 billion in LEED certified construction. It only took another three years for Ayers Saint Gross to cross the $2 billion threshold in LEED certified construction–a testament to the rapid increase in interest in third-party verified, high-performance buildings across higher education.

2017 witnessed transitions in our sustainability leadership as our firm’s specifications writer and first sustainability director, Anne Hicks Harney, transitioned out of the firm to begin an independent practice in specifications and Allison Wilson rose to fill her role. We continue to plan for the growth and resilience of our sustainability team, with team members Risihika Shrivastava and Sung, Di growing the breadth and depth of support can offer clients.

Texas A&M University Sustainability Master Plan Report 1

Our long-term collaboration with Texas A&M University grew to include both the 2018 Sustainability Master Plan and the 2018 Residence Life Sustainability Plan – significant projects that accelerated the visibility of sustainability in our planning work. Those efforts have led to additional opportunities for sustainability-specific planning efforts at Montclair State University, the University of California, Los Angeles, and Tarrant County College as well as greater integration of sustainability into physical campus planning.

Simultaneously, the market for green building rating systems evolved to include not only LEEDv4/LEEDv4.1 and greater visibility for the Living Building Challenge, but also new rating systems such as the Sustainable Sites Initiative and the WELL Building Standard, among others. The Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education’s Sustainability Tracking, Assessment and Rating System (AASHE STARS) and the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals became and continue to be increasingly common shared language for defining sustainability successes and opportunities for improvement.

Washington College’s Semans-Griswold Environmental Hall south elevation showcases the building’s...

The investments made by Ayers Saint Gross in Green Week and other continuing education endeavors positioned the firm well to embrace these opportunities–our first Living Building Challenge Petal Certification project, Semans-Griswold Environmental Hall–is approximately halfway through its performance verification period and our first building pursuing the WELL Building Standard, The Catholic University of America’s Conway School of Nursing, is beginning construction.

Reflecting on the growth of our sustainability expertise over the last decade spurs us on to the net-zero energy design portfolio we are working to achieve by 2030. Thank you to all the clients and collaborators who have been advocates and allies in this work with us to date. While looking back is instructive, we enthusiastically look forward to the future successes of the next decade.

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