Back to Better

This month, our team began transitioning back to the office environment, spending our first days in our new NoMa headquarters. Despite the new environment, commute, and routine, we couldn’t help but reflect on how quickly we’re adapting to our so-called return to normal. But after a year and a half spent collectively reflecting on our values and how we spend our time, we know a return to normal isn’t exactly what we want – or what our world and industry need. The truth is that normal was never good enough and it’s up to us to define what’s next.

We challenged our leaders to reflect on the lessons they’ve learned, the changes they’ve made personally and professionally, and their hopes for the future of our industry moving forward. And they didn’t disappoint. Our return to normal is anything but, and we’re ready to leave the pre-pandemic status quo behind and leverage what we’ve learned in pursuit of a better tomorrow.

Holistic Health is Paramount

“Health and wellbeing as a function of the built environment, specifically in office design, is a bigger priority than ever. New office building design concepts now start with the assumption that biophilic or wellness-centric strategies and amenities are a must in the marketplace. That means the expectation for more access to natural light, views of nature, private outdoor spaces, and fitness studios are here to stay. As tenants become more environmentally conscious, innovative sustainable materials that take a holistic approach to health, like mass timber, are becoming high-end differentiators in the marketplace. It’s a movement we’re excited and ready for.”
Rob Holzbach, AIA, LEED AP, Director of Commercial Office

“We’ve placed greater emphasis on wellness and mental health in our personal lives. As a result, I think there’s a greater movement on the horizon to normalize the blur between work and home. People know they can work successfully from a remote environment and will want to maintain that benefit for the foreseeable future. Faced with a competitive job market, companies will need to make the workplace more accommodating if they want people to return – whether that’s through rebranding to appeal to an enhanced set of values, reevaluating company policies and culture, or consolidating desks to carve out more space for amenities. Things like fitness centers, in-building daycare, or even dry-cleaning services offer professionals a similar level of convenience to what they’ve experienced at home and will make a huge difference as they continue seeking ways to maximize time outside of work.”
Melissa Brewer, NCIDQ, IIDA, Co-Director of Interiors

“I’d like to see more application of scientific findings and research about the effects of nature and personal relationships contrasted with technology and productivity in design culture. Science and research show that more time in nature, and with loved ones, boosts happiness, expands creativity, and improves health outcomes while extended amounts of time with technology, coupled with loneliness and overwork, show extreme declines in health. As designers, we say our goal is to push the boundaries to create a better world. I can only hope that our industry has the courage to look in the mirror and apply what we’ve learned during these past 18 months to champion the changes necessary to improve health and wellbeing for ourselves, buildings, and the planet.”
Rhea Vaflor, IIDA, LEED AP ID+C, Director of Trendcasting

Tech is on Our Side

“Resiliency is more important than ever. Beyond designing spaces that support flexibility and technology, we must be proactive in preparing buildings and infrastructure for future emergencies, be they health crises or natural disasters. Especially crucial is finding a way to lessen climate-related impact altogether. We’ve discovered that we can have a lighter environmental footprint just by spending less time commuting in our cars. Leveraging the technologies we have available to maximize our resources instead of wasting them and generally making a collective effort to reduce our consumption levels altogether are paramount for securing the health and longevity of our planet for future generations.”
Guilherme Almeida, AIA, LEED Green Assoc., Director of Sustainable + High-Performance Design

“It’s all in the details. The virtual aspect of real estate changed how tenants or residents tour and experience a space for the first time. Pivoting to digital experiences versus in-person tours meant we had to be creative in bringing the brand and our client’s stories to life. For a number of projects, we worked with videographers, film, production crews, and talent to help sell the tenant experiences and capture unique attributes. Using renderings, combined with neighborhood and building footage, as well as graphics and animation, we’re now able to storyboard and produce some really nice pieces that translate into an accurate property marketing story that helps tenants and owners connect in new and meaningful ways. We can’t wait to see where it goes from here.”
Sarah Barr, Creative Director

“Embracing technology leveled the playing field in some ways. It’s made the world a little bit smaller. The ability to partake in virtual interviews allowed firms like us to expand our reach and impact beyond what was possible before the pandemic. It also created an opportunity for designers to take advantage of programs at our disposal that provide valuable visual aids to clients to bring them into the design process and help develop ideas on a small but realistic scale.”
Melissa Brewer, NCIDQ, IIDA, Co-Director of Interiors

Committed to Community

“The pandemic exposed major inefficiencies and inequalities in how we live. Spending so much time in my community has made me appreciate the accessibility and convenience it provides more than ever. It’s a privilege to work from home and not one everyone has that opportunity. That said, I believe cities, developers, and designers can work together to address this. Diversifying our neighborhoods and designing cities to prioritize walkability and affordability will improve the quality of life for all. The more diversified the developments and communities we design are, the more likely they are to thrive and remain viable over time.”
Laurence Caudle, AIA, Director of Housing

The spotlight on the BLM movement ignited more conversations around diversity, equity, and inclusion – components we see as essential to a forward-thinking design firm – and inspired us to reflect on how we can make greater strides in these areas as well. We realize there’s still a long road ahead but the profession is shifting to ensure all perspectives are represented in the future of architecture and design. I hope we maintain the same momentum and level of passion moving forward. This is not a zero-sum profession, I believe that when we all win, we all win.”
Rob Holzbach, AIA, LEED AP, Director of Commercial Office

“When it comes to marketing, the show must go on – but with more of a conscience. We’ve seen clients truly focus on benefits to their target audiences and customer experience. Social media calls for authenticity and stakeholders of any kind – whether they be consumers, investors, or employees – are placing a greater emphasis on transparency. It’s not just about positioning a brand; it’s about communicating your values and resonating with your audience through action. In general, there’s more of a concerted effort for businesses to walk the walk and really live their mission. I know it’s something we’re focused on for our firm, and am inspired seeing a similar response from our clients.”
Sarah Barr, Creative Director

What does back to better mean to you?

Hickok Cole Announces 2021 Promotions

Washington, DC—September 9th, 2021—Today we recognize the hard work and dedication of our colleagues by announcing our 2021 promotions and celebrating the expansion of our leadership team. As we begin the next era as a firm in our new NoMa headquarters, these new roles and responsibilities will provide a more focused avenue to further develop the most crucial elements of our practice—our culture of design, our commitment to research, and our ability to ensure all team members and projects have the support they need to flourish.

Please join us in celebrating our 2021 promotions. Congratulations to all!

Principal Promotions

Mark Ramirez, AIA has been promoted to Principal and Managing Director where he will play a robust role in managing project efficiencies and resources. In addition to his client development and financial management responsibilities, Mark will continue his work leading projects as a member of the Commercial Office team and join the Principal group in broader strategic planning conversations in pursuit of the firm’s overall vision.

“Mark has been a loyal member of the firm for decades, having shown initiative and investment in the performance of the firm, his project teams, and the staff as a whole,” says Senior Principal Mike Hickok. “He is a strong voice among the Principal group and will be an invaluable asset in guiding us towards our future goals.”

Associate Principal Promotions

Amy Shavelson, NCIDQ, IIDA, LEED AP ID+C, Co-Director of Interiors, has been promoted to Associate Principal. In her new position, Amy will continue her work to strengthen client and broker relationships in the commercial interiors market while supporting team growth and development as they tackle new project typologies and geographies.

Melissa Brewer, NCIDQ, IIDA, Co-Director of Interiors has been promoted to Associate Principal. Melissa will continue her role in spearheading the interiors group’s corporate headquarters and build-to-suit projects while using her creativity and design management experience to steer the firm towards large-scale campus opportunities.

“Amy and Melissa have leveraged their complementary talents to steer the interiors group into the well-oiled machine it is today,” says Senior Principal Yolanda Cole. “They’ve displayed an impressive ability to pivot and evolve during a time when the state of the office market has been disrupted by unprecedented circumstances.”

Director Promotions

Rob Holzbach, AIA, LEED AP, Principal, was named Director of Commercial Office where he will lead and manage the sector’s project strategy and client relationships. As former Director of Staff Operations, Rob will also continue to play a leading role in the firm’s recruiting, retention, and DEI efforts.

Elba Morales, LEED AP, Assoc. AIA, Associate Principal, and Stefano Sani, LEED AP BD+C, Associate Principal, were named Director(s) of Design where they will serve to champion the firm’s design culture and fuel innovation. They will engage and nurture the talents of up-and-coming designers through the management of our internal Think Tank and Peer Review programs.

Rhea Vaflor, IIDA, LEED AP ID+C, Associate Principal, will serve as Director of Trendcasting. Having launched and built the firm’s lifestyle and hospitality service, Rhea will continue to provide guidance over visioning and concept work while focusing on industry-wide trends and data tracking to help guide the firm’s research and design goals. 

Guilherme Almeida, AIA, NCARB, LEED Green Assoc., Fitwell Amb., Senior Associate, has been promoted to Director of Sustainability and High-Performance Design. As the Senior Designer on the American Geophysical Union’s new net zero energy headquarters, Gui will leverage his passion and expertise to advocate for the continued application of high-performance design strategies on future projects and pave the way for meaningful change within the industry.

Senior Associate + Associate Promotions

We are also proud to announce several promotions to Senior Associate and Associate levels, including Abigail Brown, AIA, LEED AP BD+C, Johanna Lofstrom, AIA, LEED AP BD+C, Laura Ewan, CPSM, Laura Roth, Patrick Gegen, Quy Nguyen, and Siobhan Steen, AIA to Senior Associate as well as Kerry Putnam, Assoc. AIA, LEED AP, and Susan Sweazen to Associate. These firm leaders are recognized for their individual and collective efforts to strengthen the firm across our three tenants of Great Design, Great Management, and Great Place to Work.

About Hickok Cole
Hickok Cole is a forward-focused design practice connecting bold ideas, diverse expertise, and partners with vision to do work that matters. Informed by research and fueled by creative rigor, we look beyond today’s trends to help our clients embrace tomorrow’s opportunities. We’ve called DC home for more than 30 years, and are proud to have designed homes for some of the area’s leading organizations, including National Geographic, the International Spy Museum, and American Geophysical Union’s net-zero headquarters renovation.

Our New World of Work

At Hickok Cole, we believe in the power of the office to unite, motivate, and inspire. Beginning this month, we’re initiating our phased transition back to the physical workplace—this time in our new NoMa headquarters near Union Market. The irony of designing and constructing our new workplace while working remotely is not lost on us. But it did present a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to reimagine how we work while incorporating WFH lessons learned in real-time. Through discovery sessions with leadership, team workshops, and staff surveys, our designers created an environment that represents who we are and serves where we’re going. With a fresh perspective and a renewed appreciation for our firm culture, we look forward to exploring our new world of work and a return to togetherness. Welcome to the new Hickok Cole HQ.

How we focus

As challenging as the pandemic was, remote work taught us a lot about how we work and in what conditions we thrive. While we missed being surrounded by colleagues, for some of us, the ability to tackle focus work without interruption proved highly conducive for our productivity. In consolidating staff from across three floors into one open studio, we knew acoustics would be a major concern. This drove the incorporation of reservable and impromptu focus rooms of all shapes and sizes to accommodate heads down and group work without disrupting the rest of the office. In our studio space, the sawtooth ceiling features acoustical panels designed to absorb sound (in addition to show-stopping skylights). Combined with soft surfaces on our workstations, flexible soft seating, and white noise throughout, the space is well-equipped to maximize creativity while minimizing distractions.

How we collaborate

As designers, we know how crucial the support and expertise of our peers can be. Our new open studio blends service and market expertise across the floor to expose staff to a variety of people, projects, and experiences to keep them inspired. Along the perimeter, several touch-down spaces provide teams the flexibility to discuss and observe project work away from the restrictions of their desks. These spaces are designed to encourage impromptu conversation and provide a visual representation of the collaboration we craved during the pandemic. Through a combination of digital and physical display boards, project work can be prominently featured or pinned up for review—increasing the cross-pollination of ideas, exposing teams to new techniques, and showcasing how each individual team contributes to our mission to do work that matters.

How we connect

The office is a platform for ideas to collide and a place to learn and grow, but it’s also a community. In response to our new hybrid work policies, we amplified our creative, home-grown culture through intentional touchpoints that support bringing people together both in the office and from home. With the thoughtful integration of video conferencing technologies, wifi, and charging stations throughout the office, hybrid teams of all sizes have what they need to work seamlessly. And for the in-person gatherings we love—like our annual Art Night, lunches with colleagues, and weekly staff happy hours—the design team incorporated a platform stage inspired by our old space, a flexible cafe with bar and banquet seating, and a new private terrace. While we’ll miss the memories of our Georgetown stoop, we know the opportunity to forge new ones in NoMa are tenfold.

Come see for yourself.

Connect with Director of Business Development Laura Roth to schedule your tour. Can’t wait to host you in our new home!

Certifiably Green: Sustainable certifications for high-performance housing

High-performance housing is on the rise and, with it, an overwhelming number of green building certification programs designed to target specific standards and sustainability measures. In addition to the obvious environmental benefits, for the real estate community, the strategies outlined in these programs have more tangible advantages too. Commitments to green practices can differentiate properties from a design perspective and establish a market edge, resulting in less long-term investor risk. Beyond fulfilling code requirements, pursuing certification status substantiates mission and brand values, communicating an authentic culture to stakeholders. Finally, they deliver residents and tenants with a healthy interior environment, one that positively impacts their overall happiness and wellbeing – essential qualities in the post-pandemic marketplace.

So, whether it’s meeting local sustainability guidelines, reducing energy consumption (and cost), or prioritizing the health of occupants, there’s a program to meet your building’s needs. Here’s a rundown of the basics to get you started.

Run by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and U.S. Department of Energy, the Energy Star certification program focuses on energy efficiency and reducing waste in buildings. The government-backed program offers consumers and building-owners a catalog of information on cost-effective products, services, and tools that help measure and improve building performance. Energy Star certified buildings feature high-efficiency heating and cooling systems, complete thermal enclosures, water protection systems, and efficient lighting and appliances that provide cost savings to building owners and residents alike.

Originally created by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and Prevention and U.S. General Services Administration, Fitwel is a leading certification system that integrates scientific and sustainable solutions into the design process to promote health and wellbeing in buildings and communities. The Fitwel Standard is a tailored scorecard that provides a path towards certification status for existing and new buildings and sites. Projects can achieve three levels of Fitwel status based on a point system addressing Fitwel’s Seven Health Impact Categories—including, Impacts Surrounding Community Health, Supports Social Equity for Vulnerable Populations, Enhances Access to Health Foods, etc. Points are awarded according to which Fitwel strategies are applied. Strategies coincide with the Health Impact Categories and are categorized into 12 sections from location and outdoor space to water supply and vending machines/snack bars. The program is designed to be user-friendly and customizable with all strategies voluntary and no prerequisites required for eligibility. 

Recognized worldwide, LEED is one of the most commonly used programs, providing a comprehensive framework for achieving healthy, highly efficient, and cost-saving green buildings. LEED places emphasis on the end-user and urges the building community to focus on their health and safety as much as improving construction practices, efficiency, and material use. A flexible set of metrics allow all building types and phases, including interior fit outs and core and shell, to target various levels of certification status depending on energy and water usage, waste, maintenance, air quality, and comfort. Additionally, LEED engages occupants to contribute and decrease consumption. For example, encouraging they take the stairs over using the elevator by placing them in a convenient location or accommodating bikers with storage options to reduce the number of residents commuting by car. Each LEED level – from certified to platinum – makes greater improvements to promote building, occupant, and environmental health.

The RELi rating system and leadership standard takes a proactive and holistic approach to resilient design, specifically in relation to the increased frequency of natural disasters and changes in weather as a result of climate change. Used by companies, developers, city planners, architects, bond insurers and more, RELi involves the entire community to assess and adapt vulnerable structures, taking preventative measures to ensure building’s can physically withstand natural disasters. In addition to mitigating hazards to buildings, the RELi system takes the preparedness of entire communities into account. Success is measured according to how quickly they can recover following unplanned events (including economic disruption and resource depletion). From preparing emergency supplies and acquiring back-up renewable-powered generators to thoughtful site selection and durability, RELi outlines the necessary steps building owners and leaders can take to future-proof communities and improve quality of life in a changing world.

WELL is a globally recognized performance-based system for measuring, certifying, and monitoring features of the built environment that impact human health and well-being. WELL identifies 100 performance metrics, design strategies, and policies that can be implemented by owners, designers, engineers, contractors, users, and operators of a building. Consisting of eight categories—air, water, nourishment, light, fitness, comfort, and mind—the WELL Building Standard bridges the gap between human and environmental health, recognizing that a strategy benefiting one will likely benefit the other. For example, increasing access to natural sunlight reduces energy consumption while improving productivity, mood levels, and circadian rhythm. While similar to FitWel, WELL places greater emphasis on the built environment and how it impacts human quality of life. Unlike Fitwel, to be eligible for WELL certification, projects must fulfill a set of prerequisites including several addressing air quality and filtration, water quality, ergonomics, and accessibility. Additionally, the documentation process is more rigorous with several strategies requiring applicants meet target measurements and produce data to support claims. Finally, to achieve WELL certification, the space must undergo an on-site assessment and performance testing by a third party.

The Passive House Institute US., Inc. (PHIUS) is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization committed to making high-performance passive building the mainstream market standard. Its certification program, PHIUS+ is the leading program in North America and the only one that combines a thorough passive house design verification protocol with a stringent Quality Assurance/Quality Control program performed onsite. The high-performance building standard challenges the industry to construct buildings that can maintain a comfortable indoor environment with very low operating energy. Certification indicates an energy efficient building design modeled using location-specific climate data and occupant behavior based on three pillars: limits on heating/cooling loads, limits on source energy use, required air-tightness and other prescriptive requirements. The latest version accounts for how occupant density and envelope-to-floor-area-ratio influence heating and cooling load limits. While the program is stringent and requires precertification review as well as third-party on-site quality assurance checks, PHIUS+ is considered a legitimate path to achieving net zero energy and offers tremendous long-term benefits to the occupant and owner.  Its air-tight construction reduces moisture and mold issues, while heat recovery ventilation systems improve indoor air quality, while no thermal bridges make for a comfortable interior environment.

Developed by the International Living Future Institute, the Living Building Challenge is a performance standard for buildings that uses a regenerative design framework focused on maximizing positive impacts specific to a project’s place, community, and culture. Described as regenerative and self-sufficient, the ideal living building is informed by its bioregion’s characteristics, generates all of its own energy through renewable sources, captures and treats all of its water, and operates efficiently while being aesthetically beautiful. The Living Building Standard is continuously informed by current realities and project work as Institute staff monitor and make adjustments based on changes in the field and market. The Challenge assumes typical best practices are currently instituted for a project to begin the certification process. To achieve certification, projects must address aspects of all seven performance categories, known as Petals, which are subdivided into twenty Imperatives, including energy and carbon reduction, net positive waste, education and inspiration, access to nature, etc. Alternatively, projects can achieve Petal Certification for completing all imperatives under a specific Petal or category. 

Developed by the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC), LEED Zero moves beyond LEED certification to provide a framework for high-performance buildings and spaces and reduced greenhouse gas emissions through a comprehensive set of strategies impacting land, waste, materials, and more. There are four categories of LEED Zero including Carbon, Energy, Water, and Waste. To pursue certification, projects must be LEED certified under a BD+C or O+M rating system. Under USGBC, LEED Zero Carbon certification recognizes buildings operating with net zero carbon emissions over the course of the past year. LEED Zero Energy recognizes buildings or spaces that achieve a source energy use balance of zero over a period of 12 months. LEED Zero Water recognizes buildings that achieve a potable water use balance of zero over a period of 12 months.LEED Zero Waste recognizes buildings that achieve GBCI’s TRUE Zero Waste certification at the Platinum level.

Interested in pursuing green building certification for your space? Contact Laura Roth, Director of Business Development to speak with our high performance design experts.

Hickok Cole Celebrates Second DOEE Grant as Director of Sustainable Design is Appointed to HUB Board

In partnership with Redbrick LMD, Arup, and DPR, this grant will support the study of embodied carbon for a new office building in Washington, DC.

WASHINGTON, D.C. (May 20, 2021) – Today, Hickok Cole announced it received a $10,000 Building Innovation Design Assistance Grant towards the Embodied Carbon Lifecycle Analysis of an office building at the Saint Elizabeths Campus in Washington, DC. Funding was provided from the Green Building Fund through the District of Columbia’s Department of Energy and Environment (DOEE).

Set to begin immediately and completed by September 30, 2021, the grant will facilitate early design assistance supporting the analysis of embodied carbon for Building Number 2 on Parcel 17 at Saint Elizabeths. Embodied carbon will be tracked and priced in three structural systems and building envelope details, thereby providing Redbrick LMD with sufficient data to minimize embodied carbon in the project at hand. Long-term, these insights will offer members in the local development community a model for assessing embodied carbon in their own projects. The ultimate goal is to establish a broader framework for future building valuation, including the development of carbon neutrality resources, policies, and code.

“We’re honored to be the recipients of this grant and to have the support of the DOEE once again. It’s a privilege to be selected to contribute our research and insights towards achieving DC’s progressive climate goals,” said Holly Lennihan, RA, LEED AP, Senior Associate and Director of Sustainable Design at Hickok Cole. “We’re especially thankful for forward-focused partners like Redbrick who are committed to promoting sustainable development and pursuing decarbonization strategies to secure a bright future for this historic campus.”

The project team includes structural engineers from Arup and high-performance construction experts from DPR. Arup will take the lead on documenting the structure with low embodied carbon concrete and cross-laminated timber; Hickok Cole will generate building façade details with similar criteria. Data will be managed using modeling software, One Click LCA. Following this study, DPR will conduct a cost comparison of the three structural assemblies. Final project deliverables include a report summarizing the activities undertaken in pursuit of reducing embodied carbon, a copy of the Life Cycle Analysis, and standard information contribution towards an official case study.

The announcement comes following Holly Lennihan’s appointment to the Advisory Board at the DC Building Innovation Hub, where she will act as one of the primary high-performance design experts. Under her leadership, Holly and her team have won a series of state and federal grants focused on sustainability, resilience, and urban ecological systems including a $20,000 grant to explore net-zero energy potential for 800 9th Street in July of last year.

About Hickok Cole
Hickok Cole is a forward-focused design practice connecting bold ideas, diverse expertise, and partners with vision to do work that matters. Informed by research and fueled by creative rigor, we look beyond today’s trends to help our clients embrace tomorrow’s opportunities. We’ve called DC home for more than 30 years and are proud to have designed some of the area’s leading sustainable projects, including the American Geophysical Union’s net zero energy renovation and 80 M Street SE, the first mass timber commercial renovation in the District.

Small Towns, Big Ideas: Coworking Trends for Post-Pandemic Success

Much like the rest of the world, the coworking industry had a tumultuous 2020. Coming off the heels of WeWork’s collapse in 2019, it entered straight into a pandemic that didn’t exactly welcome strangers working in close quarters. But, over a year later, with vaccine rollouts moving at warp speed, coworking’s future is bright once again. The pillars that make up the original model – community, flexibility, and convenience – are exactly what the workforce is seeking in their return to the physical. In fact, according to CBRE, 82% of companies will favor buildings that offer flexible office space and shared meeting space, especially as they test out long-term hybrid work policies.

That’s not to say coworking won’t look different upon our return. The original model provided tenants a standard set of amenities designed to appeal to a wide audience, a catch-all strategy that didn’t consider industries requiring more tailored solutions. This next generation addresses what the modern workforce craved throughout the pandemic and accelerates the trends driving coworking well before: hyper-niche, hyper-curated spaces that attract and cater to targeted tenant types.

Communities seeing some of the most exciting new offerings are smaller markets like Richmond responding to the ongoing influx of mobile workers and creative talent migrating out of major cities. Our local team of coworking experts – Studio Director, Jessica Zullo, NCIDQ, IIDA, Senior Designer, Patrick Gegen, and Interior Designer, Jordan Camp, IIDA – share some of the trends and providers helping shape the post-pandemic flexible office landscape in RVA.

The Home Grown Hero

Beyond serving as office space, coworking is leaning hard into its ability to foster a sense of belonging within communities, seeking to expand opportunities for member bonding outside of the 9-5 window – especially for those new to the area. Convenience, inspirational design, and dynamic programming that serve member interests are key. At Gather, the Richmond-based coworking platform, each location pays homage to the city with design details specific to the individual neighborhood and its history. Programming caters to their membership of start-ups and entrepreneurs while engaging with the community through cross-promotion of local brands or Richmond-based services. Some examples include headshots by a local photographer or pop-up gallery events that feature local artists and provide a unique venue for members to meet with clients.

The Social Club

Following a year (or what feels like decades) in near isolation, many are anxious to make up for lost time. Richmond’s Common House, a local gathering and social hub, offers a coworking model emphasizing exclusivity on top of convenience and shared interests. Their members-only cultural experiences are designed for entertainment – spa and fitness services, wine tastings, live music, fine dining – all offered under one roof. These curated environments act as third places for both business and social pursuits, injecting creativity and lifestyle into the work experience to expose clients and colleagues to an additional layer of brand identity, status, and personality.

The Test Kitchen

Though essential to a typical coworking environment, the standard combo of open office, private huddle rooms, and shared conference amenities overlook the needs of entire industries – industries whose membership would benefit from specialty tools, technology, and spaces they don’t bear the brunt to finance and maintain. One of our favorite new examples is food hall, Hatch Local at The Current, a Richmond-based residency program catering to a rotation of food and beverage startups under one roof. Off the heels of a pandemic that made the restaurant industry particularly vulnerable, this coworking concept allows up-and-coming chefs and entrepreneurs to conduct market research and gather intel from consumers in a high-traffic area before committing to a retail front of their own. Members also have access to a commercial kitchen, office, and storage space as well as mentorship and advisory opportunities.

The Impact Incubator 

Beyond physical resources, the networking and mentorship opportunities available in a coworking environment grow ten-fold when offered among like-minded professionals. At the Collaboratory of Virginia (CVA), nonprofit organizations work alongside each other in a neutral shared space designed to facilitate innovation and collaboration among members and prioritize efficient use of networks and resources. In addition to receiving consultation or mentorship, members benefit from the exchange of information and experiences of others within a shared community which helps build stronger platforms by uniting support around similar causes.

The Frequent Flier

Remote work has granted us an unprecedented level of flexibility – in our schedules, our furniture, and just about every inch of our lives. Untethered to our desks, we can work from anywhere, in our beds or at the beach. Even as we return to the physical workplace, that level of independence remains of paramount importance and some professionals will maintain the transient habits they’ve grown accustomed to. To accommodate those workers, we anticipate a greater need for coworking locations that offer daily or even hourly rates for drop-in guests.

On-demand services like LiquidSpace, connect professionals directly with a temporary desk or office space in the city of their choosing, including our fan favorite, Gather. This agile model serves mobile professionals with tasks that require focus like participating in an interview or when they need specific tools like photocopiers. Even workers who do have a designated office space may look for a third-space or touch-down location for off-site collaboration or retreats. Finally, short-term rentals allow coworking brands to capture unleashed space while exposing them to a new set of clientele, ones that could easily convert to long-term members down the line. Because now we know that so long as there’s Wi-Fi, nothing can stand in our way.

Mass Timber’s Moment: What’s Next for CLT?

The 80 M Street SE mass timber addition will be the first of its kind in Washington, DC.

Just last month, over 1,300 tons of mass timber arrived on site at 80 M Street in Washington, DC’s Capitol Riverfront district. Having completed its journey from the forests of the Pacific Northwest and Eastern Canada, the timber was hoisted atop the commercial office building and, over the course of a few short months, will result in 105,000-SF of additional leasable tenant and amenity space. The 80 M Street renovation, the District of Columbia’s first mass timber and glass vertical expansion project, is a triumph for a number of reasons, the most crucial of which is its signaling to the real estate industry the possibility for further development of its kind.

The culmination of extensive research and a lengthy entitlement process including the approval for code modifications and community review, 80 M Street came to fruition under the guidance of a client with vision and the collaboration of an invested project team who saw the sustainable material’s long-term potential. And the potential is endless, insists the senior designer behind 80 M Street, Tom Corrado, LEED AP, who, in partnership with John Lang, AIA, a senior associate at Hickok Cole, has been exploring the next opportunity for mass timber development in DC.

“We’re at a point where every conversation we have with a client begins with mass timber,” Tom stated. Having witnessed the rise in remote workers this past year, and well aware of the housing crisis in the District, Tom and John venture that timber could reconcile these issues.

Due to its pre-fabricated nature, timber construction takes approximately 25% less time to build, resulting in faster lead times and improved quality control.

“Residential construction is primed for timber, especially when you need housing fast,” comments John. Having specialized in residential design throughout his tenure at Hickok Cole, John is an advocate for affordable and attainable housing and sees it as timber’s next step. “The module for housing is smaller than office and timber construction excels on shorter structural systems. Better still, mass timber comes in pre-fabricated panels that speed up construction and reduce the amount of labor on-site. Consequently, that usually means improved quality control.” With labor costs skyrocketing and skilled labor dwindling, this could ultimately help drive down or at least steady rent prices, he pointed out.

“Not to mention the biophilic element and connection to nature these residences would provide,” adds Tom. “Humans are not meant to live in these 600-SF boxes. We need access to greenery and sunlight. And just being surrounded by wood accomplishes that – it’s definitely better for you than concrete and dry wall.”

With the increased attention to health and wellness due to the pandemic, John explains, it’s obvious that the housing industry will require a shift as well. “That includes everything from better HVAC systems and ventilation to availability of outdoor amenities and remote work accommodations. But, we’ve also seen how drastically our presence impacts the planet. With nowhere to go this past year, the roads were clearer and so were the skies – we can’t ignore that.”

Studies show exposed wood has resulted in improved mood and productivity levels for building occupants.

It’s true that our definition of a healthy lifestyle has expanded to include a focus on climate change and reducing our carbon footprint – and that of buildings. It’s especially true when you consider that the construction and building industry accounts for nearly 40% of global carbon emissions annually. Not only is wood the only building material that is 100% renewable but as they grow, forests actually sequester nearly 13% of total U.S. carbon dioxide emissions per year. As a result, buildings made from wood store that carbon throughout their lifespans.  

The case for timber is clear and has been made countless times. So, if it seems so obvious, then why has it been so challenging convincing developers and building owners to pursue mass timber construction? As is usual with the early stages of any new technology, the biggest hurdles are cost and the associated risks (including a decent learning curve in this case) with being the first. But, as Tom points out, we’re not the first. We’re not even close – at least not globally. In fact, most of Europe and Canada, and even parts of Asia, including China despite its robust steel economy, have been investing in the material for some time now. In West Coast states like California and Washington, where timber is easily accessible and often cheaper, experimenting with timber in a variety of project types including schools, hotels, and even entertainment venues began almost a decade ago.

“We’re looking into medical office buildings as well,” Tom added. “There’s been a shift in the medical community away from single practitioners occupying a portion of a larger building towards several providing care under one roof. We predict folks will be going to a single location for all their health and wellness needs in the future so why not create a better environment and improve the user experience holistically?” Mass timber can improve air quality and acoustics, and has been proven to elicit a positive human response from occupants.

The current premium on mass timber is driven by a lack of readily available resources on the East Coast and subsequent low demand. One solution is for jurisdictions to alleviate costs by offering incentives like tax credits.

Now that timber has made it to the nation’s capital, the question remains: how can we propel the timber movement forward? Cutting down costs is one way – but that comes with increased supply. One of the biggest factors contributing to the premium on wood is limited resources on the East Coast. “We need to make the case for forests on this side of the country. Areas in the northeast like Maine and Vermont are well suited for it,” says John.

The next step is understanding the International Building Code and navigating jurisdictional zoning laws and safety regulations. “Form your project team early on, involve local representatives and jurisdictions right away, and educate the community,” Tom suggests. “Every project is different, but it only takes a few early adopters to remove uncertainty from the equation.” From there, he says, the knowledge is public, and you now have a pool of experts who can take the lead on the entitlement process or negotiating code modifications, as needed.

“It’s true that sustainability alone isn’t enough of a motive for development to occur, especially if the dollars don’t lean in your favor,” says John. “And developers shouldn’t have to bear the brunt of these costs. That’s why it’s crucial to have an open dialogue with your jurisdiction.”  Putting your cards on the table and seeing how your goals align can prompt the introduction of sustainable incentive programs, tax credits, grants, and other forms of government support.

“The results are in on timber. We should no longer be concerned with early adoption,” Tom contended. “In fact, our biggest risk is being last to get on board.”

80 M is scheduled to deliver in the fall of 2021, just a few months after construction launched in March.

Want to explore mass timber for your next project? Contact Laura Roth, Director of Business Development, to schedule a conversation with the team.

Express Yourself: Communicating Purpose with Experiential Graphic Design

The American Gas Association’s headquarters uses clever interpretations of industry symbols to connect with members, including pipeline-inspired aerial moss and burner grate artwork.

From visioning with clients and designers to coordinating with fabricators and artists, Rebecca Kelly, Art Director for Hickok Cole Creative, and our resident Experiential Graphic Design (EGD) expert, orchestrates a team of creatives to bring delightful, educational, and emotionally compelling content to every project. Today, Rebecca shares her insights on the value of thoughtful EGD strategies and why right now is an excellent time to reevaluate how brand is expressed throughout your space.

Understanding Experiential Graphic Design

Simply put, Experiential Graphic Design is the intersection of graphic design and the built environment. By communicating through a variety of static and digital graphics and content solutions including signage, wayfinding systems, and artwork, EGD brings environments to life with engaging and memorable experiences.

Express Yourself

Whether it’s through a welcoming reception experience, interactive exhibits, or a colorful mural, the main driver behind EGD is to improve day-to-day experiences for the end-user. In a corporate environment, EGD contributes to overall satisfaction and improves retention by reminding employees of their value and the many ways they contribute to their organization’s overall mission and culture.

The National Association of Broadcasters’ headquarters prominently displays photos and messaging in high-traffic areas meant to inspire employees with their mission and vision.

As employers look towards a return to the physical office, Rebecca recommends they reflect on their evolution over the past year working remotely and whether the incorporation of EGD strategies could make the transition back more comfortable for their team. “Think: How has this time away changed our culture and what can we do to re-unify and motivate employees?” she suggests. “This is an opportunity to generate excitement and give them something to look forward to. Something that makes them proud when they step back into the workplace environment. Being back will feel like a luxury.” She adds that it’s okay to start small like, “procuring new art that supports your company culture or prominently displaying your mission statement in a high-traffic area.” However subtle, what’s important is that these visual cues connect to the brand and evoke a sense of place and community.

Likewise, EGD can help distinguish multi-family properties. A branded lobby is an expression of the residence and provides a glimpse at a potential lifestyle. “There’s definitely a cool-factor associated with certain design concepts,” Rebecca adds. “You’re signifying a brand and creating a place that resonates so that by the third or fourth apartment tour, prospective residents can easily recall the details that made your property special.”

The Altaire Apartments logo is subtly woven into various interior design elements, alluding to the community’s elevated lifestyle.

Going Beyond Signage

A common misconception is that EGD focuses solely on graphics and signage but it’s really the whole experiential package and can extend to the subtlest of details. Often, the EGD team seeks elements from the interior design they can respond to in their marketing materials and collateral. Sourcing inspiration from the texture and materiality of a design concept and re-interpreting them for graphic assets creates another touch point that reinforces or complements the brand.

In some instances, uncommon materials can be woven into experiential design. Patterns, tactile elements, and origin all have a story to tell. Rebecca recalls working with a GSA client to source fabrics from the various countries that they serve as a way to layer authenticity into the project. These colorful textiles became featured elements in an exhibit design, creating an emotional connection for teams to their shared purpose. Other examples of expressing your brand include using sustainably sourced, recycled, or local materials. “These small details combine to tell a cohesive story and a tangible articulation of your brand. It’s about practicing what you preach,” she adds. 

While EGD is an effective storytelling tool, sometimes it’s a matter of bringing beauty into a space, making it a cooler and more enjoyable experience. A parking garage is the perfect blank slate and often-missed opportunity to bring a brand to life. To complement the multifamily marketing package for Kingston McLean Crossing, hand-painted botanical murals were located at each level for wayfinding and improved resident experience.

A parking garage at Kingston McLean Crossing takes advantage of ample wall space with a botanical mural that reinforces branding and brings life the underground environment.

A Cohesive Story: From Start to Finish

For maximum impact, plan to engage a creative team early in the design process. “When we work together with the design teams early on, we’re able to weave storytelling opportunities into the design in a more integral way,” explains Rebecca. “Each decision informs another and through collaboration, we’re able to trigger creative innovation and expose opportunities to strengthen the entire experience.”

Each touch point serves a purpose. Throughout the design process, think about the end-user and envision their perception of the environment. Consider how they might interact with it and how each touchpoint might make them feel. The most effective EGD projects are human-centric. Whether attracting a future resident, communicating with an employee, or welcoming a guest, EGD serves to immerse people in an engaging and custom environment designed to educate, orient, inspire, and entertain.

Art + Progress

The virtual adaptation of this year’s Art Month allowed us to shine a spotlight on the talented individuals shaping the District’s art scene and expand the dialogue around the art community beyond Hickok Cole’s doors. Through a three-part webinar series, we invited key stakeholders in the art world – from curators and artists to developers and more – with diverse backgrounds and perspectives to comment on art’s unification qualities and identify the ways in which it impacts our society on a daily basis.

Our final Art Month panel, Art + Progress, examined how a renewed focus on social equity and justice in the arts is impacting creative communities in our region. Host Peter Nesbett, Executive Director at Washington Project for the Arts was joined by Cara Ober, Founding Editor at BeMore Art, Sandy Bellamy, Director of the General Services Administration’s Percent for Art, and Charles Jean-Pierre, a Washington, DC-based artist.

If you missed the conversation, don’t worry. You can revisit the recording, or read on for our top three takeaways from Art + Progress.

Our definition of progress is changing

“Today, progress is increasingly about issues of inclusion, accessibility, social equity, and justice,” says Peter Nesbett, Executive Director and Keeper of Imaginative Futures at Washington Project for the Arts,“which puts the attention on the context of art, and the biography and experience of the artist, as much as on the object.” Technology and social media have increased access to the artist themselves, carrying the artist’s voice and the messages behind their work further and than ever before. A recent example of this phenomenon is the reach and impact of the street mural at Black Lives Matter Plaza here in DC. Sandy Bellamy, Director of the General Services Administration’s Percent for Art program touched on the project’s virality, noting “it inspired people to emulate that particular work of art and express its simple yet complicated notion that Black lives matter.” 

Artwork, within the context of current events, politics, and today’s human rights issues, helps to tell a more holistic story by increasing exposure to a diverse set of voices and experiences. So as these experiences influence the artist, so does it influence their work, making it impossible to appreciate art without appreciating what’s happening in the world around us. “I’m finally at an age where I can recognize patterns in my work,” commented Charles Jean-Pierre, AKA JP, a DC-based artist. “And I feel like we’re in the same position as we were four years ago, heading into the 2016 news cycle. I feel like our Black bodies are politicized. But I think globally, darker people have been suffering and it’s not just an American problem. People are dying everywhere at the hands of people that look like them so I think this climate is based on racism but also on power dynamics. And that’s where I use my works to try to understand.” Today’s definition of progress calls on everyone to share in the burden because of how frequently we witness it’s presence – or lack thereof.

The message behind art can withstand the test of time

Governments have long commissioned artwork to reflect the ideals of the people in power. Sandy makes the argument that because of the lifespan of most public art, it’s important to commission culturally diverse artists and promote culturally diverse perspectives within our society. “When you look at neoclassical architecture and artwork in DC, there’s a lot of white men on horses, very few women and even fewer works commissioned by artists of color,” she adds. “But that doesn’t reflect who we are as a people today.” 

This is an opportunity for artists to break through the noise of divisiveness and realize the true definition of America. “Artists have always had the ability to speak directly to the soul and that will reveal the truth and the underlying humanity that we all have,” she says. “The more perspectives we have and the more artists of color at the table, the faster our journey towards embodying the true sense of freedom and democracy will be.”

Cara Ober, Editor at BeMore Art agreed, adding “By their nature, artists are comfortable saying things others are not capable of and they’re able to do it in a way that resonates.” She shares that the magazine’s community based and community accountable approach to local art has lent more people a voice when they want to express themselves while highlighting diverse talents and raising their profiles. 

How to create more equity within the art world

Working as an artist in a region with no shortage of established museums is an incredible privilege and undoubtedly provides inspiration to many. But Peter notes that they’re also seen as a point of contention in that they “embody the structural biases of the nation that gave birth to them.” “Museums have the most power of any entity in the art world,” Cara explains. “They have the power to legitimize careers. They have the money and the resources to invest in them and therefore it’s the job of museums to provide context and education and explain to people what they are seeing.” She pointed to declining attendance and membership as proof that these institutions are losing sight of their audience and the types of works today’s museum-goers hope to see. 

The hierarchy of decision-makers in the art world, including museums, elite galleries, and private curators, can create a barrier for contemporary artists seeking to broaden their reach. One solution to create a more democratic landscape is by expanding our approach to public art programs to increase representation and participation. “I’m currently working on a project with the Haitian Embassy where we’re commissioning Haitian artists to come to DC to create a public art installation,” JP shared. “I operate from a global perspective and from a place of privilege as an artist with an American passport. When I’m abroad, I’m constantly told how lucky I am to be an American so I leverage my privilege and access to help more people to create.”

Sandy adds that she’s working on a project that enlists the community’s perspective to make sure the work that’s installed reflects their lives and individual experiences. “I see it as a pragmatic decision. It’s important to meet people where they are instead of just plopping a work of art in their community selected by people who are not members of that community,” she explains. “Each property we commission art for has its own group of stakeholders made up of teachers, principals, architects, members of the ANC’s, and even high-schoolers. They select artists from a very diverse database of every demographic you could think of. And to me, they are perfectly capable of selecting outstanding works of art for their own community enjoyment.” 

Buying Art, Demystified

The virtual adaptation of this year’s Art Month allowed us to shine a spotlight on the talented individuals shaping the District’s art scene and expand the dialogue around the art community beyond Hickok Cole’s doors. Through a three-part webinar series, we invited key stakeholders in the art world – from curators and artists to developers and more – with diverse backgrounds and perspectives to comment on art’s unification qualities and identify the ways in which it impacts our society on a daily basis.

Our second Art Month panel, Buying Art: Demystified, focused on making the art buying process more approachable for novel collectors. From assessing quality and determining your style to spotting up-and-coming artists, DC creatives and art experts shared insight on building your collection while reflecting on the value of art beyond the physical object. Host Laura Ewan, Marketing and Communications Director at Hickok Cole was joined by Schwanda Rountree, Founder of Rountree Art Consulting, Philippa Hughes, Founder of Curiosity Connects Us, Angie Shah, Director of Marketing at Shah & Shah Jewelers, and Regan Billingsley, Founder of Regan Billingsley Interiors.

If you missed the conversation, don’t worry. You can revisit the recording, or read on for our top three takeaways from Art Buying, Demystified.

Understand what value means to you

Like with most big purchases, you have to do your research before pulling the trigger. Whether through Instagram or by visiting galleries, increased exposure to a wide variety of art is the best way to identify what style and mediums you’re most attracted to–and what you’re willing to spend. 

“For some of my more novel collectors, the decision making factor is definitely budget driven,” says Schwanda Rountree, Founder of Rountree Art Consulting. “But, as a consultant, my primary role is to educate the client on what it is they’re purchasing, especially when justifying a larger price tag.” Apart from aesthetic, Schwanda says one thing to consider is sustainability. “It’s important for me to know that this artist is dedicated to their craft and their success isn’t fleeting,” she reflects, adding that if artists have shown in institutions, museums, or certain private collections, that up-ticks the value of their work.

Angie Shah, Director of Marketing at Shah & Shah Jewelers approaches her art collecting with a long-term perspective. “The longevity factor is important to me,” she shares. “I ask myself, is this going to continue to inspire me and challenge me? Can I live with this for the rest of my life?” She advises that new collectors look for artists with a distinct point of view and one that matches their own. “Every piece should be a reflection of someone’s taste, likes, and how they live.”

The bottom line is art buying is a personal process and ultimately we determine the value of having art in our homes. “We all have limited budgets but I chose to put my disposable income towards buying art,” says Philippa Hughes, Founder of Curiosity Connects Us. “You have to decide for yourself, How much of a priority are you going to put on this in your life? How much is it worth to you outside of the monetary value?”

Investing in art goes beyond the physical object

Buying a piece of art is an investment. But you’re not just investing in your happiness or the decor in your home. Your purchase has a direct impact and is a reflection of your values. “It’s bigger than just buying something. I’m an advocate for artists and believe in supporting their livelihood,” says Schwanda. “I have a pretty diverse collection in terms of medium but the common thread throughout is that all the works are made by Black artists and that’s important for me because Black artists are underrepresented in the collecting realm as well as in institutions.”

When you purchase a work of art, you’re investing in that artist, their profession, and the community they’re a part of. “Maybe your investment actually helped pay their rent that month,” Philippa says. “Even buying art at a lower level helps allow that artist to continue creating.” And while art is everywhere these days, rather than purchasing a commercial print, buying locally has an authenticity component to it as well as a higher level of transparency. “I see a lot of cultural appropriation in design and in art. When looking to add a new work to your collection, it’s important that you understand where it’s coming from and are sure the artist is being compensated appropriately,” adds Regan Billingsley, owner of Regan Billingsley Interiors.  

Resist the urge to impulse-fill your white space 

What comes first, the art or the interior design? According to Regan, both can be true. A piece that holds a lot of value for a client might determine how a particular space is designed. “I recently had a client who had a bunch of old charcoal drawings of New York that we transformed into panels as custom wallpaper in her elevator.” At the opposite end of the spectrum, Angie shared her husband’s recent experience. “Having moved into an office space where the walls were dark grey, he commissioned two large charcoal works of clouds specifically to contrast the office design.”

Whether or not you’re remodeling or just moving into a new space, Regan said to embrace the white space and be patient until you find something that you love to fill it. “I might sit with a dining room table without chairs for six months before I find the right fit. And that’s the same way I approach art.” She emphasized how possible it is to make an impact with just one special piece. “Back up in the space, look at your focal points and really work with that. You can have an entire room centered around just one piece if it elicits joy, especially if you’re working from home. Everything in your space should feel meaningful.”