Skip to main content
Ideas / Sustainability / 5.30.2024

Green Week 2024: A Week of Learning and Recommitment

Green Week 2024 hero image

Each year, Ayers Saint Gross honors our commitment to a more sustainable future with a celebration called Green Week. This year’s events expanded outside of one single week, including a documentary screening, presentations, and volunteering events across our three offices.

To kick off festivities, Ayers Saint Gross’ design documentary club and sustainability affinity group jointly hosted a screening of Koyaanisqatsi, a 1982 documentary about the relationships between humans, society, technology, and the environment. “It was a fascinating glimpse into 1982’s view on the impacts of humans on the environment which is (spoiler) very much like every feeling we have today. Katie McRury offered social and political facts ahead of the screening that gave great context. It was truly an art-piece — hypnotic and cutting-edge for that era. A perfect pick for Green Week,” said Mindy Dunn.

Our lunch and learn series began on Earth Day, April 22, with a presentation by Anne Hicks Harney, FAIA, LEED Fellow of Long Green Specs about material health and embodied carbon. As designers of the built environment, we have a responsibility to understand the impact of the materials that we select for our projects. Anne explained the importance of contributing towards a circular economy. Materials with low embodied carbon and non-toxic ingredients is the recipe to get there, and we have the tools to find these products.

On Tuesday, Courtney Wolff and Shelly Johnson, PLA, SITES AP, led a presentation on waterfront design and resiliency. Courtney recently earned her WEDG (Waterfront Edge Design Guidelines) certification. Courtney and Shelly talked about Ayers Saint Gross’ ongoing work with the City of Charleston Peninsula Plan and the National Aquarium’s floating wetlands project (pictured below). Courtney and Shelly emphasized the importance of resilient plans leading to sustainable futures as the overarching theme throughout the presentation. “Sustainability attempts to prevent climate change, while resiliency defends from climate change,” said Courtney. Designing on the waterfront means integrating three strategies: defend, adapt, or retreat.

A birds-eye view rendering of the Harbor Wetland exhibit, which will be built at the Inner Harbor...
A birds-eye view rendering of the Harbor Wetland exhibit, which will be built at the Inner Harbor in 2024.

On Wednesday, Mike Talbott shared how Autodesk Forma can be leveraged to create early data-oriented massing studies with an emphasis on sustainability metrics. Forma’s toolkit includes visualizations of sun hours, daylight potential, wind, climate, noise, and embodied carbon. These tools allow us to make quick, informed decisions as we iterate through design options. The tools in Forma also open more opportunities for collaboration across our architecture, landscape architecture, and planning studios without working between different softwares. This is huge for maximizing the time we spend designing and refining.

Sustainability Director Allison Wilson, AIA, LEED AP, WELL AP, shared our performance metrics from our most recent report to the AIA2030 Commitment during Thursday’s session. Ayers Saint Gross has been reporting data for 13 years now, and we’ve seen progress towards our goals. But the architecture industry as a whole, Ayers Saint Gross included, is falling short. So what have we done? This past year, Ayers Saint Gross formed the Sustainability Affinity Group to help bridge the gap between our full-time sustainability staff and project teams. What still must be done by 2030? We have to do better on energy modeling our projects. Here’s where we stood in our 2023 report to AIA2030:

Ayers Saint Gross sustainability data

Friday marked the return of last year’s fan favorite, five-minute sustainability wisdom. Members from all practice areas at Ayers Saint Gross shared short presentations on sustainability topics of their choosing:

  • Graphic Designer Charlie Francis talked about his personal commitment to cruelty-free products.
  • Architect Hans Graf spoke about overconsumption of electricity in our office and how the little things add up to lead to large reductions.
  • Landscape Architect Shelly Johnson shared a construction update on the National Aquarium’s floating wetlands project, set to open this summer.
  • Architect and Planner Carolyn Krall spoke about our sustainability-centric project at California Polytechnic University and California Berkeley.
  • Graphic Designer Kirby Long shared his experience staying in an off-grid community in southern Utah for the 2023 annular eclipse.
  • Architect Stephen Pasquerello spoke about the flat rooftop PV array, dubbed the “fifth elevation” by Renzo Piano, at Johns Hopkins SNF Agora Institute.
  • Architect Stephen Wright talked about district energy.
  • Architect Eric Zobrist spoke about hiking the vast natural landscapes in Arizona.

Green Week 2024 was a fantastic week filled with knowledge-sharing, collaboration, and calls to action. 135 members of the firm attended sessions, earning more than 350 hours of continuing education over the course of the week. In the weeks to follow, groups of employees put their sustainable values into practice by volunteering in Baltimore’s Patterson Park and the National Arboretum’s Washington Youth Garden.

A group of Ayers Saint Gross volunteers at Patterson Park in Baltimore
Ayers Saint Gross volunteers at Baltimore's Patterson Park
A group of Ayers Saint Gross volunteers at the National Arboretum's Washington Youth Garden
Ayers Saint Gross volunteers at the National Arboretum's Washington Youth Garden
Volunteers harvest romaine lettuce at the National Arboretum's Washington Youth Garden.
Green Week volunteers at the National Arboretum's Washington Youth Garden

With our 2030 deadline for achieving carbon neutrality only a short six years away, we know that our work is cut out for us as a firm, industry, and society to achieve our sustainability goals. We hope that these weeks of programming and events provided an inspiring jolt of energy to keep us working together toward making those goals a reality.

Your browser is out-of-date!

Update your browser to view this website correctly. Update my browser now